Ted Heinecken, who retired in 2015 after a 52-year career selling books as a publisher’s rep and was regarded as a legend by many in the publishing industry, died in Chicago at St. Joseph’s Hospital on February 3 from complications of cancer of the duodenum; his wife, Gisela, and son, Kim, were with him at the end. Arrangements for a memorial service are pending, but will likely take place in Chicago in mid-April.
Heinecken, who was a month short of his 85th birthday on March 7, received the PW Lifetime Achievement Award, which was given to him upon the occasion of his retirement three years ago this month. The award included a profile in the magazine’s pre-BEA issue that spring that amply demonstrated Heinecken’s stature as a living repository of the history of modern publishing in the U.S. as he witnessed publishing evolve from a “gentleman’s” business before the 1960s paperback revolution into the industry it is today.
Born in Nebraska in 1933 and armed with a Master’s degree in English literature from the University of Minnesota, Heinecken intended to teach, but quit academia in 1957 to launch his career in publishing as an editor at what is now Augsburg Fortress Press. He left that position five years later to work for Encyclopaedia Brittanica Press in Chicago, where he met another industry legend, Hank Fujii, who lured him into selling books telling him, “once you get into sales, you won’t be able to afford [being] an editor.”
Heinecken took Fujii’s advice and in 1963 joined Oxford University Press as its Midwest sales rep. His first call was on Chicago’s Barbara’s Books, he later recalled, “when it was still owned by Barbara.” Subsequent calls were made on other famous bookstores whose names are still familiar in the book world, although those stores are long gone: Kroch’s and Brentano’s and Stuart Brent.
After six years at OUP, Heinecken and another rep, Jay Ide, formed their own commission sales group; the partnership lasted for nine years, during which time Heinecken told PW, it picked up “this odd little publisher called Workman” that published three or four titles each season. After dissolving his partnership with Ide in 1978, Heinecken formed his own group with two employees; one of them was Charlie Boswell, PW’s 2005 Rep of the Year. Another PW Rep of the Year (2003), Wes Caliger, joined the group in 1981.
In 2008, pushing 75 years of age and “wanting to stay involved, without the hassles of running a business,” Heinecken’s group merged with Fujii Associates, which had been founded in 1967 by his old friend, and Heinecken worked for Fujii Associates until his retirement.
After announcing in an email to PW his retirement three years ago, Heinecken summed up his entire philosophy of repping and the secret to his success, stating, “I have always held the conviction that being a part of the book trade community is a special calling, requiring a love of the book and a belief in the printed (whether or not on paper) word as a keystone of our culture.”
This story has been updated: Heinecken died on Feb. 3 and would have turned 85 on March 7.