THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
As head of WME's huge lit department, Walsh felt a great sense of relief when the digital book biz finally took shape this year. "This was the year we landed on shore," says Walsh, who helped guide more than 200 books into the market in 2011. "We spent the 18 months prior to this year feeling like Christopher Columbus: We were on the boat and had our supplies, which is our content, our stories, but we weren't exactly sure where we would be landing in terms of how that content was going to be delivered to the reader."
Among the clients who prompted surges were Ann Brashares (Sisterhood Everlasting), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Cold Vengeance) and Stacy Schiff (Cleopatra: A Life), as well as books by actors Portia de Rossi (Unbearable Lightness) and Rob Lowe (Stories I Only Tell My Friends).
WME's newly launched lecture unit, which has recently featured Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and ex-FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair, also has helped feed book sales. "I find readers where they live," says Walsh, who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and now lives in Chelsea with her husband and three children, ages 17, 13 and 9.
"There've been times in my life when I've passed out books at a train station. There's nothing I won't do to get a book into the hands of the readers." Walsh, 44, also was instrumental in organizing WME's first women's summit in October, which assembled 120 female execs from the agency's offices around the world.
As the only woman on WME's 12-person board, Walsh is equally passionate about her advocacy for women inside and outside of the business. "I take it as a sacred responsibility to make sure that the female perspective is always being represented," she says. "You'll know I've done my job if in the next few years I'm not the only one on the board."
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