Penguin Digital Director Molly Barton Leaves for Academia, Advising

Penguin global digital director Molly Barton is leaving the company to join the Wesleyan University faculty and to consult for publishing start-ups, according to a company spokesperson.

Barton was head of digital at Penguin and founded Book Country, the company’s genre fiction workshopping and self-publishing platform. At Book Country, Barton’s day-to-day duties will be assumed by the unit’s director Brandi Larsen, who joined the company a year ago. Barton’s position is being discontinued, according to a company spokesperson.

“Each of Penguin Random House’s territorial divisions [will be] responsible for their respective digital initiatives and their implementation,” the spokesperson said.

Barton has been global digital director since November 2011 when she replaced Dan Ruffino. In 2011, when Barton took over, Book Country was a relatively new business and hadn’t yet launched its self-publishing arm. In September 2013, it hit 10,000 members and now offers self-publishing services. In addition to working on Book Country, Barton was one of the executives at Penguin involved in Bookish, the bookselling joint venture from Penguin, Hachette and Simon & Schuster that was recently sold to competitor Zola.

When Penguin merged with competitor Random House, there was quiet speculation in publishing circles as to which corporate senior executives would join the new leadership team, which would stay within the smaller business units and which would depart the company.

Barton has a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan, her new employer, and completed a one-year fellowship there after college in 2001, according to her LinkedIn profile. She soon joined the publishing world as a marketing coordinator for Oxford University Press. After a year in marketing, she switched over to editorial at the same company.

In 2004, after two years at Oxford, she joined Penguin imprint Viking as an assistant editor. After a year working for Viking editor Carole DeSanti, Barton took a unique role at Penguin: publishing coordinator, reporting to Penguin USA president Susan Petersen Kennedy. In two years in the position, she shadowed Kennedy and learned all aspects of the business.

After her time as Kennedy’s “senate aide,” as Barton put it, she jumped into the digital side of the business, managing some of the company’s nascent digital publishing efforts in 2008. From there, she rose the business development and strategy ranks until she became global digital director in 2011.