I came to Tor via nepotism. I was working in Boston when my father, Tom Doherty, called and asked if I would like to give publishing a try. After a bit of back and forth, he eventually offered me $500 more per year than my then-current salary. I accepted the offer, moved back to NY, and immediately embarked on a year-long, cross-country expedition, opening special sales and educational accounts for the company. My father started in this business in sales and he knew the importance of getting out there—meeting with customers and learning first hand what the customer liked, wanted, and needed. This was the start of Tor’s special sales division, which eventually led to the creation of the children’s and young adult publishing division and, shortly thereafter, the educational marketing department. Today Tor Books boasts four children’s and young adult imprints including Starscape, Tor Teen, Tor Kids, and Tor Classics.
My father and mother, Barbara Doherty, started Tor Books in 1980 at our dining room table in Rockville Centre, Long Island. The staff consisted of my mother and my father. Dad shipped his first two books in November of that year. He had developed an outstanding reputation in the industry and was able to negotiate two King Features tie-ins, novelizations of major motion picture releases—Popeye and Flash Gordon. He released his first full list on his birthday, April 23, in 1981. I remember my father telling me of writing a contract with a major science fiction author on the back of a napkin during a lengthy dinner session– that is how trusted Tom Doherty was and still is.
Four years later when I joined Tor, the company had already taken small shared office space on West 36th Street. We were maybe 10 strong by then—working in makeshift office space created in the narrow hallways and shared half-walled cubicles. We all took turns as the receptionist. I remember, despite the cramped space and lack of amenities (though there always seemed to be a well stocked cabinet of Fig Newtons), it was a very happy and vibrant place to work. I remember, in particular, editor Wanda June Alexander singing in the hallways, “I love my job.”
A few years later, the move to West 24th Street was big—Tor now owned its own floor in NY. By then the staff had probably tripled and to this day many of those same editors are still with Tor. When my mom and dad first started this company they were told that it was impossible to compete with the big guys. Dad did not listen to the naysayers and with unwavering commitment he created the world’s largest and most respected science fiction and fantasy publishing house. As we celebrate our 30 year anniversary, Dad is still at the helm and continues to be the heart and soul of Tor. But he would more likely say, “Not so, it’s the people who continue to be the heart and soul of Tor.”
My father’s motto has always been “People First.” This has served our authors, the people who work at Tor, and Tom himself very well throughout the years. I still travel a great deal and am impressed with how many people come to me with wonderful stories about how they first met Dad, their fond memories of working with him, or of having a conversation with him at one of the many conventions he attended. I often hear, “Your dad is a legend,” and I am always thrilled to know of the great respect and admiration so many people have for my father and his extraordinary achievements.
More from our April newsletter:
- From Kathleen Doherty, a very proud daughter!
- Tor Memories: Traveling with Ralph Arnote
- Office Space…the final frontier
- Before Production Went Paperless…
- Tor Back Then
- The Sacred Rock of Tor
- History of Tor Panel