Random House just announced the hiring of Andy Ward, a longtime magazine editor who has spent the past six years at GQ. Mr. Ward, who will serve as an executive editor at Random House’s flagship imprint under editor-in-chief Susan Kamil, leaves behind Condé Nast at a time when the company is playing host to a team of consultants from McKinsey who are scrutinizing its operations and figuring out what costs can be cut and who can be made redundant.
Mr. Ward, who worked at Esquire before joining GQ, is the third editor Random House has hired recently; the other two, former Penguin Press editor Vanessa Mobley and former Ladies Home Journal books editor Lorraine Glennon, joined the Broadway Books imprint of RH’s Crown group earlier this month.
Mr. Ward follows in the footsteps of several other magazine editors who have made the leap into book publishing recently. According to the announcement from Random House, he will begin his new gig in mid-September.
UPDATE (3:08 p.m.): GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson sent his staff one of the gushiest memos we’ve ever seen this afternoon to announce Mr. Ward’s departure. In it, Mr. Nelson praised Mr. Ward’s “Olympian generosity of spirit, his warmth and openness” and concluded with this all-caps send off: “THANK YOU ANDY WARD, YOU’RE THE BEST, WE’RE NOT KIDDING, WE ARE GRATEFUL, WE ARE SAD, WE ARE HAPPY FOR YOU BUT THAT ISN’T HELPING US WITH THE SAD PART, GOOD LUCK, GODSPEED, AND GOD DAMN WE’RE GONNA MISS YOU.”
Mr. Nelson’s memo also said that Mr. Ward will be joining a “revamped non-fiction department” at Random House, a characterization that the imprint’s publicity director Carol Schneider said was erroneous, in that Random has no “non-fiction department” and no revamping of any sort is taking place.
Here’s the full memo from Mr. Nelson:
Subject: Andy Ward
From: Jim Nelson
Date: Mon, August 17, 2009 2:05 pm
To: GQ – Editorial
I do not like writing these words, and I am deeply sad to have to tell you or, if you’ve heard, repeat the news to you, but our beloved Andy Ward is leaving us.
He is going to become a book editor and more, heading a revamped non-fiction department as a vice president for Random House. It’s huge, and it’s a wonderful thing. Sad as I am, I know it is the job he has always wanted, that he deserves, and that will lead to many great books and much satisfying work for Andy. My bet — and I know you would all join me in this easy wager — is that he will become the best book editor in America.
Words fail. There are none that I can think of — even if I string a whole bunch of them together — that can capture my gratitude and respect for Andy, the level of either or the depth of either. When I look back at the past six years and think about the great pieces that have defined the magazine that we’ve been trying to make, that pushed us (and pushed us) to new heights, so many of them have Andy’s fingerprints, his sweat and — here’s a word he deserves — genius, all over them. I could do a Greatest Hits right now off the top of my head (just a few that come to mind: Buddha Boy, Coal Miners, Will You Be My Black Friend?, Saddam, Joe Darby, The Long Shadow Of War, The Garden, James Brown, Leave No Man Behind, Rummy, The Longest Night, Tent Cities (just last month!), Remember Me?, Cambodia, Long Day’s Journey Into Dinner, Football Brain (just this month!),… Did I say just a few? I could keep doing this all day, because the list truly goes on and on), or the crucial top-editing he’s done that proved invaluable — and always spot-on- – to editors and writers alike (think: pieces like The Wronged Man, Zimbabwe, Peak Oil; think: funny-ass packages involving America’s Dickheads and Douches; think: the entire, colossal 50th anniversary issue), and still it wouldn’t express one quarter of what Andy has done for GQ.
That’s because part of what Andy does has to do with the way he acts, which is to say as a model to us all. I am not just talking about The Way He Acts in the Office And To His Writers, his professionalism, his nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, his refreshing lack of drama, his coolness under fire or the fire under his coolness, his passion for great writing and loyalty to the writers who can bring it — all of which we’ve observed and been amazed by, all of which deserve their own email, their own going-away party.
I’m talking about that part that is harder to replicate and will be, if possible, even more sorely missed: his Olympian generosity of spirit, his warmth and openness and always-willing-to-help-anyone-at-anytime-fulness, his reflexive mentoring and nurturing of talent and assistants and assistant editors and anyone smart enough to get close enough to learn from him — his basic and undeniable decency — basically, his Andy Ward-ness. That generosity of spirit, that decency, reaches so far beyond the work he does on the page it isn’t funny and is the very definition of irreplaceable. And here’s the thing about decency: It’s infectious. It’s made us all better. I don’t think there’s a single person here who hasn’t been affected by it, who hasn’t felt like we could all learn to be a little more like Andy Ward.
I will miss him in ways I can’t even hope to articulate. When you come to trust someone implicitly over the course of six years, and they always come through for you, as Andy always did, it’s hard to imagine life or work without them. There will a good-bye party in which we will refuse to say good-bye, it will somehow fail to take the full measure of our mourning or our gratitude, but we will try, and there will be tears (left conveniently at home), but until then I want to say one thing very clear, and I know all the writers he’s worked with will join me in this, as will anyone who’s worked here at GQ for any stretch of the past 6 years, now known officially and irrevocably as The Ward Era:
THANK YOU ANDY WARD, YOU’RE THE BEST, WE’RE NOT KIDDING, WE ARE GRATEFUL, WE ARE SAD, WE ARE HAPPY FOR YOU BUT THAT ISN’T HELPING US WITH THE SAD PART, GOOD LUCK, GODSPEED, AND GOD DAMN WE’RE GONNA MISS YOU.