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The publisher as protagonist

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Social skills remain central to his success. In an industry dominated by big, corporate publishing houses, Entrekin and Grove/Atlantic have cultivated a personal approach that makes the house something of a throwback, many observers say. Entrekin meets unorthodox author demands, accepts input from writers on everything from tour dates to jacket art, and offers unflagging devotion. And he provides a visible, accessible face in a time when book publishing doesn't have many faces or personalities.

"He's an old-fashioned publisher whose list is built around him and his particular tastes," says George Gibson, publisher of Walker & Company, a family-owned press whose authors include Gay Talese and Isaac Asimov. "And long may [his house] flourish, because he really does have a real skill at both picking books and bringing them to the public."

Entrekin sees his approach as essential. "The nature of this publishing house is such that it needs a personality," he says. "We need to be out there more than some of the people that have [the resources of] a giant corporate machine. What we depend on is more of the personal relationship, from literary agent to author to bookseller."

Entrekin himself has always read voraciously. However, his younger brother Hugh, an attorney in Nashville, Tenn., claims no one would have called him bookish growing up. Morgan, he says, was outgoing and athletic, a fleet short-distance runner and nimble soccer player. (In the '80s, he took up croquet and excelled at that as well, placing fourth in a national doubles event.)

Even after 26 years in New York, Entrekin thinks of himself as a Southerner. He still calls Nashville home and speaks with just the trace of an accent - the occasional "y'all" while leading a marketing meeting. He returns to the South often to visit friends and family.

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