Mr. Mayer, though, didn’t like the distinction between new books and reprints.
“The real issue ought to be, is the book readable, is it valuable, is it good?” he said. “Who cares if it’s old or new? If you haven’t read the book and it’s an old book, it’s actually a new book. It’s a new book to anyone who hasn’t read it.”
Mr. Mayer married Mary Hall in 1980; they divorced in 1991. He was also the longtime partner of Judith Thurman, a writer for The New Yorker.
He is survived by his partner, Sophy Thompson; a daughter from his marriage, Liese Mayer; and a granddaughter.
Tracy Carns, associate publisher of Overlook, said Mr. Mayer’s wide-ranging interests served him well.
“He was a serious publisher who was also open to publishing, say, Sudoku books, and he sold millions of them,” she said.
She remembered his penchant for rule-bending, which would be evident at book fairs, where he paid no heed to the smoking bans.
“Peter would light up on our stand in Frankfurt,” she said, “and a friend would come by and ask if smoking was really allowed, and he’d say, straight-faced, ‘Yes, absolutely,’ and soon the stand would be full of smokers. That was heaven for him — being a bit bad, talking about books, and being surrounded by international publishing pals.”