Friday, July 13, 2007

When distant colleagues pass

I was hit hard today by the obituary I read in Publishers Weekly today for Perry Knowlton.

It's impossible to say that I knew him well, or that we were ever close. In fact, I don't think I've seen or heard of him in more than 15 years. Yet, today's news inspired feelings similar to what I felt when a close uncle recently passed away.

When I first started Quality Solutions in 1988, about the only mechanism I had for marketing our services was to attend BISAC meetings. After being involved with BISAC for about a year, Carol Mann approached the BISAC committee seeking a solution to the nagging problem that author royalty statements were all so dissimilar, and usually impossible to believe.

Having just spent the better part of the preceding four years building royalty systems for the likes of Random House, William Morrow, and Prentice Hall, this was an area where I thought I could help. So, the BISAC Royalty Statement Subcommittee was formed, and I was it's first chair.

It was through this work that I met Perry. Perry, and Curtis Brown were kind enough to host our meetings. While I was 'technically' the chair of the committee, there was no doubt who was in charge of the meetings. For a young man (at the time), Perry was larger than life. He inspired an incredible level of respect from everyone around him. I remember distinctly how it seemed like everyone who worked at Curtis Brown would stop what they were doing when he passed through a room. It was like something in a movie from the 1950's.

In the PW obituary, Perry's son, Timothy, was quoted, "To his family, friends and colleagues, he was always a dedicated mentor, advocate, enthusiast and enabler. He was one of the few true ‘renaissance men’ I've ever known." I've never met Timothy, but what he said here is more eloquent than anything I could ever come up with. Perry was all of these things - to me, personally - during that brief period of 2 or 3 years when the committee hammered out the first version of the standard royalty statement.

After that first version of the royalty statement standard was completed, I left the committee in the capable hands of Judy Appelbaum, and I had no further reason to be in contact with Perry or anyone else on that committee.

My sincerest condolences go out to all of Perry's family. I am sure that everyone who ever had the pleasure of working with him would agree that Perry was one of those individuals who make society stronger, just for being part of it. The world is a bit weaker today for his passing.

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