Susan Kamil, an editor and publisher of celebrated authors whose effusive praise for her in their books’ acknowledgments made her name familiar to readers, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 69.
The cause was complications of lung cancer, her husband, Bob Kohn, said.
Ms. Kamil (pronounced like camel) was a writer’s editor, wielding her red pencil on nights and weekends and even by flashlight in movie theaters as she performed surgery on sentences, by all accounts conscientiously, constructively and considerately. Her writers would say she spilled minimal blood and left few visible scars.
“They trusted her honesty, her keen eye and her elegant sensitivity to language and story,” said Joni Evans, for whom Ms. Kamil worked at Simon & Schuster and who wooed her to Random House. “They were her family, and this loss will be deeply personal to all of them.”
Most recently, she was executive vice president and publisher of Random House, which includes the Random House, Dial Press, Spiegel & Grau, One World and Hogarth imprints.
The authors she worked with include Salman Rushdie (most recently on his novel “Quichotte,” which has been nominated for this year’s Booker Prize), Ta-Nehisi Coates (his debut novel, “The Water Dancer”), Prince (his posthumous memoir, “The Beautiful Ones”), Elizabeth Strout (“My Name Is Lucy Barton,” a New York Times best seller) and Allegra Goodman (“Kaaterskill Falls,” a finalist for the National Book Award in 1998). Others include Lena Dunham, Tom Rachman, Ruth Reichl and Gary Shteyngart.
Andy Ward, the editor in chief of Random House, said Ms. Kamil had a distinct ability to make writers feel that their work mattered and that they would ultimately succeed.
“It was like a magical transference of belief, and I’ve never seen anybody do it better,” Mr. Ward said in an email. “She made writers believe in themselves.”
Ms. Reichl, a former restaurant critic for The New York Times, said Ms. Kamil was distinctive in another way.
“Unlike so many editors, she genuinely did not want to be a writer herself,” Ms. Reichl said, also in an email. “So while she engaged with her authors in the fiercest way, she never put words in your mouth or on your pages.”
Susan Laurie Kamil was born on Sept. 16, 1949, in Manhattan to Charles and Sylvia (Etman) Kamil. Her father was a shoelace manufacturer, her mother a dress buyer in the garment industry.
After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, she majored in English and American literature at Vassar College and earned a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University.
She married Mr. Kohn, a copyright lawyer, in 2011 and lived in Manhattan. She died in a hospital there. In addition to her husband, her survivors include two stepchildren, Katie and Joseph Kohn; and two brothers, Neil and Evan Myles Kamil.
She began her publishing career in the children’s book division of Macmillan. In 1975, she joined Harcourt Brace Jovanovich under Kathy Robbins (who became a noted literary agent) and sold subsidiary rights. She was hired by Simon & Schuster in 1979 and became its director of subsidiary rights and a senior editor under Richard E. Snyder, the chief executive, and Ms. Evans, his wife, who was president and publisher.
When Ms. Evans left to become publisher of the Random House imprint in 1987 during a protracted divorce from Mr. Snyder, she hired away Ms. Kamil and made her executive editor.
Ms. Kamil was executive editor of Random House’s short-lived but critically acclaimed Turtle Bay imprint in the early 1990s; left Random House to join the Bertelsmann-owned Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she revived the Dial Press imprint; then returned to Random House in 1998 after it, too, was bought by Bertelsmann.
In 2008, Gina Centrello, the president of Random House Publishing Group, named Ms. Kamil editor in chief of the Random House imprint. Two years later she was promoted to executive vice president and publisher of all Random House imprints.
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