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Six years ago, Carol Bidnick--sales director at Scribners when it was bought by Macmillan--was unhappy but couldn't think of another company in New York to work for. "I'm sick of this. I'm sick of smelling garbage all the time. I'm sick of standing in long lines. I want to live in San Francisco," she would often say to herself, in a kind of mantra. "If I have to, I'll leave the business." Then she took a job with David Cohen and Rick Smollan, both just finding success with their popular Day in the Life series. One day, she announced to them, "I don't want to live in New York. I want to live in San Francisco." To her delight, they said, "So do we." Nowadays, Bidnick, currently sales director for Collins Publishers San Francisco, has become a kind of beneficent godmother, inspiring friends and encouraging them to leave New York for what she perceives as paradise.
In centers of publishing west of the Rockies--with the largest enclave in the Bay Area--a number of dissatisfied New Yorkers have taken up residence and embarked on successful careers. They represent every facet of the business--from editorial to marketing, from writing to distribution--and their number grows daily. For every person interviewed for this article, there are probably another five emigres in houses ranging from the smallest independent presses to major conglomerates like Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. In an effort to make sense of this trend, 15 transplants reveal to PW why they left New York, what they found when they got out west, and how they've adapted to new lifestyles and new ways of doing business.
Some of these emigrants were born and raised in New York; others went to the city with big dreams, convinced that if they wanted to be in publishing the Big Apple was the only choice. "I went to New York to be in the heart of publishing," recalls Allene Symons, former Bookselling editor of PW, now manager of a Rizzoli bookstore, "and I wasn't disappointed." "I thought New York was the center of the universe," adds Joanne O'Hare, formerly with the Feminist Press, now a senior editor at the University of Arizona Press. "The old New Yorker cartoon expressed my view of geography exactly," quips Pam Byers, formerly Simon & Schuster associate …