Meet Louise O'Leary, George Robertson award recipient


Meet Louise O’Leary, the General Sales Manager at Penguin Random House and a recipient of the 2023 George Robertson Award for distinguished service. She shares how the publishing industry has evolved and some of her most memorable moments over the years. 

Over the course of a long career, when it comes to what she's selling Louise O’Leary’s philosophy is, 'as the French say "plus ca change"'! From Penguin classics, Peter Rabbit and Jamie Oliver through to newer releases like Bluey, Louise’s has seen and sold it all, and her devotion to her craft and unparalleled work ethic remains strong. 

Louise was first employed by Penguin Random House as an account manager, but was very quickly promoted to state sales manager, and then National Sales Manager for Time Warner, Virgin and Penguin Agencies. Of this time she says: 

'My first sell-ins were to Mark Rubbo at Readings and Chris Redfern at The Avenue, both still very much cornerstones of the Melbourne bookselling fraternity today. Good retailers have survived whereas the imported behemoth Borders imploded not understanding the nuances of the Melbourne book-buying public.'

She has served in many roles over the years, each time bringing her unique skills, insights, and expertise to the table. Whether it has been managing complex projects, providing invaluable guidance to her colleagues, or going above and beyond to ensure that our clients received the best possible service, she has always exceeded expectations.

Bringing an unrivalled versatility to all her roles, Penguin Random House credits Louise for bringing together their much needed backend systems at the time. From creating Point of Sales systems, to implementing processes to produce stocklists, and then leading the design team – Louise's wide scope of knowledge saw her constantly adding more responsibilities to her role before settling into the Product Department. 

It is working in this space which created one of Louise’s proudest moments, being involved with the birth of Popular Penguins, of which she says:

'the initial list of titles was scribbled on a napkin with Peter Blake and Dan Ruffino at a beer garden in the United Kingdom. The very same list has now sold millions.' 

Looking back on her career, Louise says the same principles still apply from 30 years ago. Some of the best advice she received, and offers to others, is to stay calm in moments of crisis or stress: 

'There is generally a solution to whether the "emergency" is, you just have to think it through calmly. I have worked with great calm thinkers and wise mentors – and maybe, it has finally rubbed off.'

Always going above and beyond to manage complex projects and ensure clients receive the best possible service, Louise continually exceeds expectations. But what really sets Louise apart according to colleagues, aside from her impressive track record, is her genuine kindness, humour and generosity of spirit. A mentor to many and friend to all, after 30 years of publishing events, Louise is always the life of the party. 

Learn more about other George Robertson award recipients here.