Articles

2016 HWW Career Diversity Summer Workshop: Academic Publishing Panel Discussion


[applause] (Jones)
Hey. [laughter] (Christy)
Thanks for having us, yeah. You’re still
looking very lively. (Levi)
So you’re one week in, is that right? Okay, so you still look
fresh and happy. Happy to be inside today,
I have to say. Um, so Levi and I have
done a lot of these panels, it’s a pleasure for us. We bring people to the press
routinely to talk about careers and publishing, um,
I think all of us will probably give you a very biased opinion of what life is like in the university press world, so full disclosure at the start. Uh, we could start-we-we will
often do things in kind of chronological order
with the life cycle of a book. Do we want to do that,
or do we want to start at the most important end,
the kind of sales? Well. –and work backwards? I guess maybe, yeah,
we could do that, and talk a little bit
about what we do. Yeah. To start off
with that because we do so many different things and- We do. –full disclosure
in the university press world that means wearing
a lot of different hats, I think, so that’s something that should be pointed out. It’s an awesome business
and we work to keep books in print, so that is,
you know, one of the things that makes us stand out
within the publishing world. But I guess a little bit
about what each of us do? Right. (woman)
And how you got there, also, right? What-what was your trajectory
to get to the university press? That would be great. (Allison)
And if you could talk out, just because you’re being
recorded and all- Instead of to each other? (Allison)
Yeah. [laughter] Oh fine. It’s a community
of peers and friends. We should tell
you that from the start. We have a lot of fun doing this. Um, okay, you know,
I’ll-I’ll start. I, uh, as Allison said,
I am an editorial director at the
University of Chicago Press. We are among
the largest university presses, and university presses are
a sort of wonderful ecosystem of nonprofit publishers
that I will argue you are doing some
of the most innovative and original work
in publishing today, if not always. Um, we, uh, we publish
about 325 books a year at the University of Chicago and that is across
the discipline: sciences, humanities, social sciences, we do a lot
of professional writing guides, and we also have
a journalist division and an active distribution, uh, program as well, and that’s where we actually
have formal relationships with Northwestern
and have had for some time. Um, my job is sort of split
between acquiring books myself, so I acquire as Allison said,
in the life sciences and as Levi will tell you,
it’s writ pretty large, I like to traipse widely
and it’s one of the pleasures of being in a university press because there’s
a lot of interdisciplinarity to what we do,
and we’re encouraged to do that. The other half
of my job is spent, um, hiring and training
and supervising, acquiring editors
across a number of disciplines, uh, social sciences
and reference and sciences. And so I’ve had a chance
both to kind of grow up in the world
of university publishing myself, but also now in turn to teach other people how to do it. Um, I also teach an introduction
to acquisitions course for the Graham school publishing
certificate, uh, so have had a chance
to sort of see how the world of acquisitions can be, um,
templated in a way that gives other people the opportunity to think
about how to shift careers or enter the world
of acquisitions. Um, and I should also say
speaking for all of us, the world of publishing is
one of constant interruption, so do not hesitate
to raise your hand or shout something out
if anything is unclear. That’s how we spend
most of our days. (Levi)
It’s the same for the world of managing people. Yeah, absolutely,
the world of managing people. Um, I actually started, uh,
in the sort of world of books and letters, uh,
as, uh, trained in journalism and I worked
at the Chicago Tribune, uh, originally and I, at that point, was both working
for the editorial section and writing book reviews,
back in the heyday when the Tribune actually
had daily book reviews, which is now dating me
because I don’t think any of you seen
a daily book review in a long time, in print. Um, so I-I started from a kind of more
critical frame and decided it would be
really more interesting to look at how the books originate,
and how they’re made, and how ideas come to be
borne out on the page. And very happily to transition
to a nonprofit setting, and very much an atmosphere
of the kind of academy where we’re, uh,
trafficking in ideas and trying to get
people to share their ideas
in the widest, uh, possible way. Um, my days
as an acquisition editor are, um, spent, uh,
talking with authors which these days
is often by email and Skype; reading a lot, though, rarely at the office that happens
in every other free moment of the day and then some; um, and really trying
to anticipate what you will be interested-you’re really
the cohort that we’re focusing on because you’re
our next generation of readers, and so we are charged
with anticipating what it is you might want to read
in a year or 2, or 5, or 10, because some authors take
a really long time to gestate their works. It-it’s a job that is never dull
and that every manuscript is a new manuscript,
every idea is a potential for a different project. Uh, it really helps to be
somebody who likes to, uh, sort of move across terrains,
across different voices. I acquire books for specialists,
I acquire their books like “The History of Fly Fishing and Conservation,” which is a pretty specific area; um, books on animal rights,
this is a wonderful translation we acquired
and the story of Wattana, who is a famous orangutan
who can tie knots; um, and then I do books
that are unpredictable and, um, absolutely stunning
to work on as an editor, uh, this is one that,
um, actually got quite a bit of attention thanks to our
publicity department. Um, but Rachel Sussman is
a photographer by training, and she decided to go out
and find and create portraits of the oldest living things
in the world, as a way to tell a story
about endurance and evolution in the face of climate change. Um, so each of these books
has widely different audiences, very little overlap,
and it’s my job to sort of work with the authors
in these different, uh, in these different readerships and figure out how best
to bring their ideas forward to those groups. So you both have to know
what authors’ intentions are, or try to tease it out of them, and also what readers’ wishes are because I think, you know, we don’t want a tree
to fall silently in the woods, we want somebody
to actually work on something
that’s widely reviewed and received and-and read and engaged with. Um, that’s probably
a good enough start. I’ll stop talking now. [clears throat] So, eh,
I’m the promotions director and the social marketing director and-which doesn’t give you a lot of direction
on what I actually do, those are kind
of Orwellian titles. He directs. Um, what it really means is
that I work with the-or oversee about half
of our marketing department. We have a marking department
of I think 27 people at Chicago, which for university press
is pretty large, um, but they-as a group
we’re in charge of pretty much everything involved in taking the books from this point
to where they’ve been acquired, and we’ve shaped them,
and figure out what they’re going to be, getting them
from there to you, the reader. And that means things like, the half
of the marketing department I don’t oversee,
which is our sales department, which you’ll be able
to talk about, um, dealing with book stores,
but also the other part which is promotions, advertising, taking books
to scholarly conferences, like the one Christy was working
at in Madison last week where scholars and authors are. Um, making-doing, ‘scuse me, working with authors directly
on things like putting together the jacket copy,
getting-figuring out who to get blurbs from to praise the book so that when you pick it up in the bookstore
it looks interesting. Um, going out meeting
with media, pitching the books to media trying to get book reviews, and coverage of all sorts. Everything
from print book reviews in places like
the New York Times Book Review, to national NPR coverage. All of that in-involves various types of legwork and attention and working
with outside contacts and that’s all falls
to my people. I have a staff
of about of-I think eight publicists,
and an advertising manager, and exhibits manager, and two marketing designers,
and a social media coordinator. And together we all basically
put together a plan for how we’re going to get
the book out into the world, how we’re going to do
our best job to get to the most readers
and make sure that people see it, know it’s there. And then when they
find out about it, they’re able to go
get it at the store or Amazon
and Barnes and Noble, or wherever. We can go
into a lot more detail on that as we go,
but that’s the basics of it. It’s a job I came
to from bookstores myself, um. I worked-I came out
of university not really having a plan, uh,
there’s a parallel universe where I became one of you guys, um, but I wasn’t that ambitious or focused. But I knew I wanted to stay
with books in some way, um. 20 years ago, b-a bookstore
was a great option for that. It’s a little tougher nowadays,
but it’s still an option for-for people. And it’s a wonderful way
to get to know how the book industry works
and get to know books period and what readers
are looking for and how they interact
with books. I did a couple years
at a store in Evanston where Northwestern University Press is, um, and a little stint in the bookstore in London,
and then came to Chicago, started an entry level job
as writing direct mail copy and moved up. I’ve done
pretty much everything in marketing now. I’ve been advertising manager, I’ve been a publicist, uh, now in my current job
I do some publicity myself, some for top-some of our
top tier trade books that are aimed
at general readers, but then they also oversee
all of the other people doing all the other
market work in the departments. So, like Christy,
my time is split probably, I don’t know,
50/50 between actually doing work that is specifically mine on the books I’m working on, and working
with my staff or working with other people
to press on larger issues of management
or long term planning or project management,
things like that. So, um, I came into this, uh,
I’ll take you back to, uh, 21-22, I was supposed to be
a pre-med major and realized that I did not like the sight of blood, so, um, I switched to English
and creative writing and I told my parents
that I wanted to be a poet so, we’ll leave that over there. [laughter] Um, but I did
an internship at, um, I-I just knew I was interested
in books and literature, but I didn’t necessarily
want to teach, so I had to try to figure out
what the other options were, and an internship
came up at, um, a publishing house
here in Chicago called Third World Press. Um, so, yes I did
an internship there and, um, discovered publishing. That’s where
I discovered publishing and just, you know,
was in love with being able to be surrounded
by books and authors and poets and playwrights
and fiction writers and all of that, so I went from an internship
there and then started as a marketing assistant,
right before I graduated from college
at Northwestern University, and I’ve been there
for the last thirteen years. So, I have gone
from marketing and sales and now my position
is kind of a hybrid as, um, sales and subsidiary rights,
which means I get the books translated
in different languages, negotiate the film
and television rights, do permissions,
go to Frankfurt every year, London Book Fair,
and all of that kind of stuff. And then the sales manager
I am the one who basically fights with Amazon all day, um, deals
with the independent bookstores when the marketing department, they book events
and things like that, I just make sure
that all the logistics are in place. And then as a poetry editor, which kind of came
about six years ago, um, basically the people
in charge knew I was a poet and so we have
a very big poetry list at Northwestern, called TriQuarterly
Books Poetry. Also do poetry and translation,
and so they were looking to reshift some things
and they said, “Well you’re a poet.” [laughter] “So we kind of want to go
a different direction with this, so maybe you can
acquire poetry, too.” And because I love poetry
so much I didn’t see it as like, “oh my god, another thing.” So I went into poetry
and the first book I acquired won the National Book Award
for Poetry in 2011. Just like that? Just like that. [applause] But then you have
to top it, so- Kinda set the bar just a little- [laughter] So, it wasn’t-a-after that,
it was really an option, it was like,
“you are the poetry editor,” and we built from that. So I am kind
of this-that’s the wonderful thing about working
in a university press is that you do
get to kind of blend into other departments
in other areas, and so yeah, that’s what I do. Subwrites, sales, and poetry
and I absolutely love it. I’m interested
in a lot of things like film studies and fiction, and-and so I get to kind of have a lot of decisions, um, the sales
and marketing departments sit with the acquiring editors and we basically look at each other
for about 15 minutes, and-and, you know,
books get presented and so we’re kind of like
the ‘yay’s’ or the ‘nay’s’ or- (Christy)
Definitely the ‘yay’s’ all the time, right? [laughter] Absolutely, absolutely. So it’s-it’s great to work and, um, Northwestern publishes about 65-70 titles a year, we publish
in contemporary fiction, poetry, philosophy,
theatre and performance, um, and yeah. So-and these are our cousins
because the sales team, um, at, uh, University of Chicago helps distribute our books to the independent
and specialty shops, and we are also warehoused at the Chicago
distribution center. So you guys are a client,
I have to be nice. Yes. Be nice. So that’s it. Yeah. So I don’t know if we wanna… W-We can follow that up a bit, um, just to explain, uh, some of the sort of, uh, the layout
of the publishing houses, um, because we’re representing
only a sort of fraction of the range
of the staff that we have. Uh, so there-there is
an acquisitions department and usually when you hear
about editors, what people are referring
to are manuscript editors, which is a pretty robust area
of what we all do. Uh, and those
manuscript editors, uh, can either be working full-time
for the publishing house or a lot of them work
on a freelance basis because they like working independently and scheduling their own, um, hours. Uh, then there is
also a design department, uh, and the size
of that design department varies publishing house
to publishing house. Again many publishing houses use
freelance designers, as well. And the designers actually create the interior, uh, interiors of books,
how the words are going to appear on the page. They create
the jacket designs, um, sometimes they use original art, sometimes they’re sourcing art from many different places. Uh, then we have, um,
production departments that are kind
of the traffic cops; they keep the books moving
through the lifecycle and make sure
that none of us dawdles too much at various stages. Um, we have- And they also-they’re also
the ones who work with printers- Right. –to actua-to get
the physical book made, so they’ve got
a lot of outside contacts there, figuring out papers
and bindings, et cetera. Yeah, we-we’re not
printing houses, we’re publishing houses. So the printing is done
the world over, um, and-and it is up
to production controllers to- We were- –to contract that. We started-we had
a-in 1892 we had our own printer, but no longer. Well, a lot of it is convincing
people that publishing houses are not glorified- Yes. Like a keepers department. Yes. It’s-It’s totally different. Which some
of our faculty- [clears throat] -think of us as,
and I should be careful what I say on video but- [laughter] Yes, uh, we do get a lot
of-we get a lot of print requests, um, yes. And then so we have
the-Levi talked about the publicity department, and then we have, right, sales and marketing,
and then we have a whole other group
that actually works at the distribution center,
in the warehouse, that-that, um, that pick up the orders
and pack the books an-into boxes and ship them around the world. So there-this is just
to underscore that there are multiple points of entry
into the publishing world, uh, a lot of people transitioning
from the academy do, uh, focus-I find-on-on acquisitions
because a lot of what you’re doing has sort of similar,
um, similar approaches. Sort of curating ideas, travelling
to academic conferences, it’s a big part of the job
and talking with people about, uh, what they do, um. And reading
all the time, I think, because you’re obviously
readers it’s one of the reasons why you’re here, um. Within acquisitions, um,
because you’re training as humanists we should explain, too, that in the world of university publishing-and forgive us of some of this is known already, um,
and we can kind of pull up from the 101,
but acquisitions editors at university presses tend
to acquire by discipline. We don’t always acquire
in the disciplines in which we have expertise,
the-although, it clearly wins awards if you can set it up
that way, uh, but many editors, uh, my own undergrad was
in d-uh, environmental studies and geography,
but it’s just a kind of fraction of what I do
in terms of acquisition. We’re supposed to be constantly gaining more knowledge about fields. We do have some PhD’s who happen
to acquire in the area in which they hold their PhD, but they’ll often acquire in multiple disciplines, so, uh, we might have somebody acquiring in philosophy and anthropology. We d-we happened to have
that and he holds a PhD in philosophy,
not in anthropology, but he’s of course, uh, meant to converse
with them, too. I think one
of the most important things is just feeling comfortable talking with academics and that-that holds
for everybody in university press publishing: from those
who fulfill the orders at the distribution center, to any of us through the kind
of life cycle of a book that would need to come
into contact with an author or with advisors, um. Other things
I can tell you, uh, we are, uh, also in the university
press world, one of the things
that binds us all together is that we are grounded
in the peer review process in order to be
a member of the AUP, which is our big association
and not-it’s the other AUP. This is the American Association
of University Presses. We have
to demonstrate that you have a peer review process
in place, um. For us the peer review, uh,
is ultimately ends up, uh, being presented
to our board of publications, which is a group
of university faculty. They actually
assess the integrity of the peer review process
for us. They do not look
at any financials interesting, they’re supposed to be making
their decisions in the kind of pristine world
of ideas and peer review, and not in the finances. They leave
that part up to us, uh, which is probably
a good thing ultimately, um, uh. [pk] So-so a-any press
in this area, you would, uh, you’d be engaged in peer review
and building a review or network is also a really important part of the job. And it’s fascinating to kind
of get under the hood of how these decisions are made and to see how various faculty and readers
and experts assess a project at it’s embryonic state, and then as it kind
of arcs through the life into a complete manuscript. And we have to often serve
as kind of interlocutors because because authors sometimes really need help understanding what the reviewers are saying and how to kind of channel the-that reader feedback
into a tangible plan for revisions
or a kind of roadmap on what to do next. And what should
be taken on board or what should perhaps
be set aside as not germane. There’s yeah-there’s a lot
to negotiate in the process. Right. For– Yeah? Sorry,
I don’t mean to interrupt. But for me,
part of what’s interesting reading
the peer review materials, as someone who
did not get an advanced degree, is realizing just how much
the-the advance degree, in particular I suppose
the first three or four years of-of hard study on a subject, how much range
of reference it gives you. The amount
of information there’s-that is at the fingertips
of the scholars in their field a-astounds me,
as-as someone who works on the fringes of that world. It’s really amazing
to me what-what that-what value that process gives you. Right, right. Absolutely true. (female student)
What if an editor disagrees with the peer review? Like, how does that-what role
does the peeer review play in the actual publication? It-it’s a vital aspect,
but a peer review, uh, one of the reviewer’s voice is
just part of the overall mix, so we-we-will-and-and this
varies press to press. We need actually
two reviews of every project at a complete manuscript stage. So if you have
one negative and one positive, then we have sort
of room for negotiation and as the editor,
we also have to kind of carry through on the vision that the author has,
and then the one that we have as a publisher, so we can,
in politically sensitive ways, override
or kind of counter-weight a reviewer’s concerns. And that would be part
of the package that we would present to our board, but also to our
editorial committee-we have sort of two stages
of consideration and approval. Editorial committee is
an in-house group that is the acquisitions editors, the marketing department-the marketing heads, and our director and our CFO
are also on that committee. So we present initially
to that group, and then ultimately
to the board, um. So we-a negative review
does not mean that a project doesn’t move ahead. And-and often you know
the very best negative reviews are constructive in a way
that their advice can help shape a manuscript. And ultimately
the peer review process, which most authors appreciate, is-is a golden opportunity
to improve your work. I mean,
we’re sort of test driving it with potential readers
and if they come back not understanding
certain elements of it, or finding
that it’s not as original as that author might think, uh, it’s-it’s an occasion for us to step back and say,
okay, actually we can make some changes,
and course correct, and end
up with a great manuscript. I will say even for my-I edited
a book to be published and, um, and even
for my non-scholarly book, the peer review process
was incredibly helpful because I had sent
it out to two experts in crime fiction
who knew this author, and what they came back
with were suggestions that were really helpful
because once you’ve got your project to that stage, it’s hard for you
to see the shape of it. Right. Right. And having
these outside voices who have expertise is incredibly helpful. Right. I mean we do
the same thing at Northwestern. We present it to the authors as you’re getting
your own private workshop. So they really love that,
especially in the fact that, you know,
we have a lot of-we publish half scholarly,
half trade at Northwestern. And so whenever we present
it to them that way, they kind of really take
it like, oh, you know, I’m really getting
expert eyes on this. And you know-you know-I-we
say to them straight, you don’t wanna look crazy. [laughter] You have
a-there’s a question back there. Yeah. (female student)
Uh, two questions. So, I’m currently going
through an editing process myself right now
for the first time. (Christy)
Great. (female student)
And, how do you get people to agree to peer review for you? ‘Cause that’s one thing that
I’m having to- (Christy)
It’s not the money. (female student)
And, um, so is your peer review a blind peer review? Because that’s something else
that I find really difficult, is especially
in the academic world, like, I’ll send an article
to someone and they’re like, “Oh I know who this is,
can I review this anyway? Like,
I know this person’s work.” So how do
you n-nagivate that stuff? (Christy)
Really important questions. So, um, the-the question
of blind peer review. In the book world, it is
usually-in university presses it is singularly blinded in that the author
of the manuscript will not know who is reviewing. It is really hard, we find,
to pull off a double blind, which, you know,
journals have been negotiated successfully
and I think to-to great results in a lot of cases, certainly in the sciences,
and e-it-it helps to increase the kind of global, um, global diversity
of the articles that are being published, but it’s-it’s over the course
of a 300-page manuscript it’s really hard to mask
an author’s identity. Uh, but we do hold
the reviewers’ identities anonymous
and often up until the point that that book is, uh,
in page proofs when we might ask the reviewer
if they’re willing to have their name revealed
so that they can appear in the acknowledgements. And obviously that tends to be
the reviews that were positive and supported publication. Um, [pk] and, uh, so it-it’s
important-we feel-we have readers who will say-reviewers who will say-y feel free to share my identity
with the author, but I as an editor tend
to feel it’s really important for an author
to respond to commentary not knowing the provenance
of that commentary. Um, I just think
it’s important to process it as-as if that reader
is just representative of a sort
of generic reading group. Um, how we incentivize review. I mean honestly that’s one of the greatest challenges
all university presses face. We play into the kind
of ethos at the academy, um, that the degree of altruism
and that it’s also part of a professional responsibility and a professional commitment that one makes to the academy. There’s so much peer review
involved in the entire process, from, you know,
hiring committees, to tenure committees. And so we benefit
from the fact that it’s pretty well assimilated
in that kind of academic mindset. We pay modest honoraria, uh,
the-the best way to ensure, uh, review attention is to get
yourself a great proposal and a great manuscript. I mean I hate to say it, but the-th-the stronger
the potential of the work I find that I can find
readers within a couple of days. And we don’t-we don’t weigh
too heavily a manuscript f-for which we’ve asked
a dozen people all of whom have said “no”
because scheduling issues converge. There-many reasons
why reviews are declined, but it’s hard not to pay
attention to that, you know, I have had cases
where, you know, you give
the benefit of the doubt and you go
through a list of 20, 25 readers and if you can’t get
somebody interested either the pitch is-is off
and we need to rethink that, or people just might not be enthusiastic, um, so, yeah, I hope that helps. Yeah. Uh, I don’t know
how the-t-is there an order? (Levi)
You were up next, and then y’all are
in the middle. (Christy)
Thank you for paying attention Levi. Yeah. (male student)
So, my home institution hosted a-a-a-a acquisitions editor
from a-a different press, and the message
from her was very much, when you’re done
with your dissertation, you need to spend a lot of time on it before you send it to us because we don’t it to look
anything like a dissertation. (Levi)
I like that person. (male student)
So this is sort of a-a double sided question, both as a-someone
about to finish and as someone interested
in working in publishing, what does
that process look like when someone sends
you something that still has a lot of the markers
of a dissertation, (Christy)
Right. (male student)
y-what’s the back and forth like, you know,
at what point do you say, you really need to hang
on to this for another year or so and rework
it and then send it back? Or, do you kind
of take their hand early on and say
here’s how we’re gonna make this happen? (Christy)
So there’s no sort of singular archetype
as to how to approach that situation. One of the first things
we always do is recommend that you read a book
by William Germana called “From Dissertation to Book.” Um, which we had
the fortune of publishing, but I would recommend
that no matter who held the imprint, it’s incredibly
invaluable advice. Uh, we-so most
university presses, many will have
a kind of stated policy that they do
not publish dissertations, uh, and there-that’s
not just an arbitrary decision. The, um, dissertations
are written for a small band of people, um,
and the size of dissertation committees is not sustainable when it comes to the cost of publishing a book. I mean I wish it were,
it would make our jobs really easy
in a lot of ways, um. So we need to think
about scaling-you know scaling that group of three to five
up to a thousand, ideally, and what are the steps
that can help that manuscript take shape. One of the things
that we will often do with authors, uh, is rather
than spend too much time focusing on the dissertation,
is to put an author through the exercise
of creating a book proposal so park the dissertation, but think about the kind
of book that that might become and we would-we will often share that proposal with reviewers and not share
anything of the dissertation. So what-what-how-how can
we envision this as a book and really go
through the exercise of presenting it as a book. Uh, and then of course,
if those plans are approved you go back
and there are bits and pieces of the dissertation, in fact, sometimes enormous sections that can be pulled from it
and put into the plans for the new book, but the proposal exercise
is really important, I think, psychologically
in distancing the work from the dissertation, um. That’s the same thing that we do because one of the things in especially in the editorial, um, meetings that we do is we flag
if, you know, any editor tries to kind of slip it in. We-we flag that,
and we talk about it, and we-we do talk
about if it’s worth something to pursue. So we do flag
and identify if something is a dissertation,
and then we-if we feel esspecially
in sales and marketing, like something
like maybe this could grow into something we have
to-this has to go back in and be reworked, um, the editors are
usually willing to do that, so. (Christy)
Right And I guess-I guess that actually
that’s a good segue to that the whole idea,
it’s not, right, it’s not
that your dissertation couldn’t become a viable book, it’s that it’s not right now, that’s not what it is,
but there might-we have had very successful books
for general audiences even, that started-had
their roots in dissertations, but the distance
from there to there is pretty vast. (Christy)
Right (Allison)
I-r-can I just jump in because I-Parneshia
you-you’d involked earlier, and you were kind
of coming back to that, um, in your last response
which is that when the, uh, marketing
and editors sit down in a room, look at each other,
and sort of thinking about, so how do you ma-decide, what are the books
that are gonna reach a thousand people. Can you talk a little bit more
about that process and what that-what that’s actually like? (Jones)
In terms of the meeting? (Allison)
Yeah, what the criteria are, so, like, how do you find-like what-what’s marketing thinking about versus
what an editor is thinking about? How do you kinda come
to common ground, what’s the framework? (Jones)
I think it’s-it is about coming to common ground, but it’s also about, um, you know,
we feel in terms of sales and marketing, it’s our job to be realistic. And it’s a-we-because we’re
gonna be dealing with-not that it’s not
the editors-the acquisition editors to-to do the same,
but we are-we are out in the field, in that sense, of dealing with the bookstores,
dealing with the libraries and all of these are
different accounts. And so what we try to do
is not necessarily say, oh this is-this is-you know, I mean we’ve had some projects come where I’m just like, so what you’re telling
me is…this is for a book
that’s going to-that basically you’ve identified six people
that may buy this book, so you’re asking me whether
or not we should publish this book
and so I kind of have to look at it for-in especially
in the university press world, for the good of, you know, humanities versus paying the light bill. So you kind
of-that’s a sales and marketing person’s mind,
is going back and forth between paying the bills,
meeting the bottom line, and something
that is for the good of a specialized area. We do
a lot of specialized areas, so these conversations can
be long an-and drawn out, but, um, I think
that for the most part, you know, our-our editorial meetings are kind of like a cleansing. It-It really is like
a cleansing in terms of, you know, trying to get
a sense of where the editors are going-the directions
that they’re headed, so that we can kind of say, okay, we can do
so many of these books, that are very, very specialized, that have
very limited audiences, versus when are you going
to give me a big tent pole book that I can use, you know,
that have that-you get me a tent pole book,
and then we can publish five of these specialized books. So we come
to that understanding, um, in terms of list planning, in terms of all the areas
that we publish in, we have to kind
of do that kind of pendulum type of thing going on. So that’s how we kind
of approach it in a healthy way. I don’t know
if you guys do-do- Well, n-no. I think that’s yeah- I think for-eh- [clearing throat] the role of the market
department is outward facing. And so when-when we’re looking at a project,
so often what I’m thinking of in the back of my head is, where I’m going
to go-have to go out, and our sales people are
gonna have to go out and I’m going have to go
out on the publicity side and ask someone
with limited resources, limited store budget
and shelf space on the one hand, limited page space on the other, to cover-to handle this book instead of another book. It’s always fighting for space, so I’m trying to think, is there a way
I can pitch this book, so that they will agree
with me that they should give that space
that they could easily give to any other book. And so you-you look
at the different components of the book: who is the author,
what’s the subject, how well written is it, how easily distilled
into a couple sentences is it because even a complicated book from a scholar, if you want it to reach
a general audience, you really do
need to be able to get it across quickly
because that’s the time you have,
that’s amount of attention that the people
you’re meeting with have. So all these things
come into play for it and that’s on the general interest side or on books
where we’re trying to decide whether it’s
a general interest book, whether there’s enough
of an audience in a way to pitch it. Um, but I always tend to think
of it-you mentioned realists, that we-we end
up being the hopeful realists because if we weren’t hopeful, we’d be working somewhere else, like there’s
just-because some-some of this is always going
to be hoping to push something that is-we’re never going
to have Stephen King or Danielle Steele on our list. We’re always gonna have someone who’s go-harder work than that, but there’s
so much potential there. And so we try
to balance being realistic with-with figuring
out how we can make the most of what we’ve got. Right, and we’re also always
thinking about you as readers, I mean, that’s another kind of through line
with university presses. When we talk
about whether or not we can publish for six. We all have
thresholds about a print run because we don’t want
to publish so few copies that we have to charge
you $300 for that book. I mean we’re very mindful
of the kind of budgets that-that people-that students and faculty have, and so we-each press makes
its own decisions about what those
pricing thresholds are, but it’s not to say
that that book intended for six wouldn’t contribute
in meaningful ways. It’s that it’s just really
unsustainable without breaking the kind of, uh,
mission that we’ve created about disseminating
works in an affordable way for all of you. And also not short-cutting
what we invest in them. So any one of us could do
many more books on the cheap, um, but I think
that’s another thing you’ll find with university presses,
and yes this is a big plug for university presses, uh, but we-we have
the staff that does the copy editing, we have staff
that designs the books, we have staff
that gets these books into the world, and it all costs
a lot of money, uh, which is something
that’s lost in a lot of the conversation
circling now about open access. Exactly. Right, um, there you know
somehow it’s been described that there’s a set fee
to make a book and as long as you can
cover that, um, they should all be free. Well, we can
certainly disabuse you of that. Repeatedly. (Levi)
At the back. (female student)
I’m, um, wondering how much the interest
of the department within the university, um, affects the types of books
that is output by it-put out by university press? And just speaking from my field which is
cinema and media studies, I’ve noticed over the years, predominately
the books that come out of University of Chicago presses in media studies
is early cinema history, history oriented, and that aligns
directly with the type of cinema studies department that is University of Chicago, right? Um, Duke University,
for example, puts out-the u-university press,
for example, puts out a lot of new media, digital cinema stuff because their department is heavily invested in-y’know-they have
a lab going on, and like, whatnot, right? So I’m trying to figure
out exactly where, um-like as much
as we wanna believe that unvis-you know, it’s a merit based,
um, it’s a meritocracy. I have a good book
there’s gonna be five, you know, university presses,
like, lining up for it. It doesn’t seem
to be the-you know, it doesn’t seem like,
as though it’s true. It seems like you have
to kind of tailor it, very, very specific
department specific. (Christy and Jones)
Right. (female student)
So I’m just wondering what that– (Levi)
I think any editor’s gonna have-every discipline
is too big to cover it all well, so I think anybody’s going
to be focusing in some way. And the-there is
certainly the influence. Right. I mean it’s an influence
and absolutely, you know, th-there are local resources
that benefit all of us, but most
university presses are divisions or departments
of their parent institution, but we also really
kind of thread a needle. We do not want to be seen
as the printing arm of the press and it- Or Vanity press. –or vanity press. It really behooves
us to be much more catholic in our acquisitions programs. Uh, and-and we work
quite purposefully not to, uh, have the entirety
of our list reflect what the university is strong
in because that’s dynamic and actually a lot
of what the university is very strong and investing in, doesn’t make sense when it comes
to publishing decisions. Uh, the publishing is a business and so we have
to think about that, too. We-you know certainly I use
campus faculty as advisors, I don’t publish
them exclusively, um, at all, and we actually cover about, uh,
10% of our list is written by University of Chicago faculty, so that’s a pretty small percentage overall, uh, and that’s kind of just
where we want it actually. Um, but it’s not to say
we don’t head to campus routinely to talk to people
and visit with scholars coming through campus. We’d be foolish not to use
the resources of the university to our-our benefit, um,
but I think we want to be seen as independent. We carry the imprint
of the university into the world and I think
the university-most universities really appreciate their presses because they expand the imprimatur
of the institution. And one way
of doing that is to publish authors who are not affiliated and disciplinary areas that don’t reflect
the institution, and it kind of broadens
the remit of the institution in a way. I think
it’s the same thing with us, I think it’s about 10%
of anyone who’s actually affiliated with Northwestern. The other thing I-I want
to say is that a lot of university presses do answer to their parent university, but they also answer
in very different ways. So you will have
some universities that are directly under the provost. Um, at Northwestern
we actually are under the lib’ary
so the Dean of Lib’aries is our boss. So it just really depends
on the university presses, it depends on how many, uh,
how much resources they’re getting
from their parent company, you know, some universities don’t really check in very much maybe
with their university presses or offer them
in, um, like endowments or, you know, things like that. So it varies depending there’s no one
particular answer. I think that in-in what you’re
talking about especially, you know, we do
look to, for instance, like, you know,
we have a big theatre list, well Northwestern has
one of the big theatre communications departments, so we do look
to a lot of the experts within that in terms
of sometimes in advisement, but in terms
of actual publications of books and things like that, we kind of are
very independent in our scouting and stuff like that so. [Russian accent]
I have question, uh-uh, particular
to Northwestern University. I think that, uh,
y-uh-y-uh, your publishers have the biggest publishers
from literature,[unintelligible] (Jones)
Yes. And, uh, and, how do
you make decision, uh, which book should
be translated or not, uh, or doing translations
immediately, so, uh, how this process of selection,
em, uh, is going on, uh, especially about fiction,
’cause the variety of fiction, ’cause I think
that it’s the-the-the best job in any of the terms
of humanities? (Jones)
It’s a-that’s a good question. It’s handled
in a couple of different ways, we actually meet
with a lot of the publishers, foreign publishers, um, we-our translation has gone in a lot of different directions and has evolved over,
um, the years. We did, um, a-a series called, um, “Writings
from an Unbound Europe.” And so we’ve had that. We’ve had Europeace-European
World Classics, which we’ve now opened
up to “World Classics,” as we-you know,
people’s-the readership is changing. We’ve been watching things
obviously that have gone on with the Nobel
I mean we’ve had about four nobles
in the last ten years, so we’ve-for a little house
it’s just kind of like a little house that could,
and it’s like all these. So the editors
at do it in a lot of different approaches, sometimes we go thr-deal directly with, um, translator, um, from start to finish,
and we actually never deal with the-the author. So it’s-it’s approached
in a lot of different ways. Frankfurt is
a very big, um, deal for us, the London Book Fair. And we do have
a lot of, um, a lot of stake in, you know, um,
the German publishing houses, um, but we also talked
to a lot of the commercial houses in New York,
so Penguin which has does a lot of translations, um, Norton we actually meet
with those editors and so sometimes what I do is
I will sit across from an editor at a New York house who says, “Well this is
only going to get me maybe about five to seven thousand copies, so I can’t take it.” And I’m like,
“I’ll take it, I’ll take it,” so we-we go
a lot of different, um, ways in terms
of securing translations. So I hope that answers your- (Levi)
Uh, back at the back, you’ve had
your hand up for a while. (female student)
I-yes, me? Okay, sorry. Hi. Um, so, I have
a question about representation and like,
professional prejudices in the fields, um,
and how, if you encounter that and how that might
be reflected in, like, publishing houses. Um, so, I’m in philosophy. Philosophy is like well known
for being very hostile towards women and people of color. Is that something
that you see happening? Does it just happen
at the level of publishing, too, in terms of like,
who the reviewers are, the opinions that they have about a particular text that get back to you? Do you do anything in particular
to try to counteract that? Or do you not see
that as something you’re responsible for? (Levi)
I’ll take this one. Just playing the white guy. [laughter] Um…I will-I will say
quickly that it is something that publishing
in general is well aware of,
and it gets talked about a lot, I don’t know
that that translates that much into action
at a-at a global level in publishing. Um, it seems from again
to this-to this middle-aged white guy,
that the-the gender question is I think a lot less problematic in publishing, especially
in scholarly publishing, than in a lot of industries. Um, for-just to take
us as an anecdotal example, three of our four heads
are women of departments. I’ve had-my boss has been
a woman on the-the whole time I’ve been there. It’s an environment
that’s about half male, half female, maybe? Maybe more m-women? Might be more women. And where power is, uh,
seems to be generally equally shared without respect
to gender. Beyond that, um, I know we’ve-we
makes-have made some efforts to diversify in a lot of ways. You probably can speak
more about that than I can. Right, I mean I think
that you know going back to the question
about the-the, uh, double blind peer review, I mean if we could find
a way to make that work for books, uh,
that-that could be a help. We do-we charge our-our editors
with really paying attention to that, and so when-when I go
to a meeting, for example, I’m very mindful of the, kind of, range
of diversity of conversations I can and should be having
and, um, and-and similarly the kind of age issues. If we want to future proof
a list we don’t want to just talk to the most senior
endowed chairs in any given area who’ve already authored
six or seven books. What we want
to be thinking about is who can we bring up
as that next wave of scholars. And frankly as-as certain
disciplines diversify more, I mean I’m seeing
it in the sciences finally, where the balance
at meetings is-is much more diverse, um, that-that should-should
grow out and be reflected in the publishing landscape,
too, over time. Uh, so we-we do, um,
I know-we-we look at the, uh, at the demographics of our authors, we have each
of our editors do that. Ultimately we’re still trying
to find the best books and I think that is our s-kind of guiding mantra, um,
but where we can take occasion to help an author be discovered who might not normally, that’s a great coup for a press, and something that we take a lot of pride in. So I-I-publishing
has not fixed the issue, but, um, I think we are-we’re very aware
of it, um, and are-and are working to do more. I would say more
in the university press world in-versus
the global publishing industry, it is definitely
a shift I think is happening now. That being said, I mean,
I think I’m the first black editor that Northwestern has had in its hundred year history. (audience) Wow, yeah. So, you know, I know coming
in I’m dealing with a situation where, you know,
just by who I am and what I represent,
the list is gonna change. Um, yes it gets a little lonely
being-there’s not actually many black editors
in publishing, actually, so it’s not
just university publishing, it’s publishing, so. But I see that, you know,
w-the state that we’re in now as a reading world, we’re not given
much of a choice, everybody is now going
to have to like look around at who the audiences are
that are reading, what people want to read, and you know, in this goes
not just necessarily in race and-and gender,
I mean if you look at like
the-the-the Nobel Committee, one of their biggest complaints with American publishers, is that they’re
not global enough, that you know
they’re not something that people overseas
necessarily want to read the stuff that’s coming
out because it’s been kind of the same prototype. So we-if we want to be
a global leader in-in publishing and literature and humanities, we have to start actually taking these things into account and I think that we’re just at the point
where we’re not really given the choice anymore whether
you want to do this or not. It’s going to happen regardless. You see that happening
in independent presses, in big commercial houses,
and university presses, that the change is
just-it’s-it’s not necessarily being forced. but it’s just the way-the way
that the reading is happening. The ch-change in reading
and the change in acquiring. So, but I will say,
university presses are a-the leader in- I-I think
to some extent that comes back a little bit back to mission. It’s easier to conceive
of our-if our mission really is to represent the world,
then we’ve got to do better at presenting
a more diverse vision of the world, which means having
a more diverse staff, a more diverse process,
and all of those little bits. Um, publishing like all other culture industries does still suffer
from the-and again less with university press publishing, I think, the problem
of the internship path. They-the elite school,
to the internship, to the publishing house. All of those steps take
access to funds of some kind. That’s a problem
that publishing like other culture industries
is starting to struggle to understand and address,
but again it’s not done. Right, I will say just,
um, t-at the beginning of the summer, the AUP had its annual meeting and-and one of the big meeting themes was diversifying
the publishing landscape. And there was a very, um,
moving talk by Chris Jackson, whose Ta-Nehisi Coates’ editor, and that should
be posted online, the transcript is online,
I believe already, but the video
will also be available at some point soon. And it’s certainly something
to-to watch and listen to. Um, some really excellent points again about starting
at that intern level, think
about a wider pool of people, that we’re trying to bring
into the publishing world. Oup, oup. I’ve lost track. I’ve lost track, uh,
we’re starting over, okay go. (female student)
So, my question is about trajectory,
but equally about, um, understanding your strengths
and your skill set because I think, I mean, I’m gonna speak for myself,
but hopefully there’s somebody else in the room
that has this question. I’m trying to figure
out what I wanna do in my life. [laughter] (Levi)
Good luck. (Christy)
So am I. (female student)
And like, I-for example, I-I never knew
about an acquisition editor, so like,
how would I know if I would be good at something if, one,
I don’t know about it. So at what point
where you r-b-were you able to be like,
I’m good at doing this, and maybe I could find
a career in this area? Does that make sense? (male student)
Could I-could I add to that? So, um, what are,
you know, you mention that acquisitions editors’
a position that folks with maybe humanities PhDs can end up in, but obviously
you’re not going to just jump into that, so what-what is
the path to a postion like that? And what are
other places you see folks with these skill sets ending
up in academic publishing, I mean besides
maybe manuscript editing, and how do we end
up there without having an unpaid internship
making coffee for people ignoring them,
or something? (Christy)
I still make my own coffee. As we all should. (Levi)
Uh, you know, re-g- I have a coffee assis-do you not have
a coffee assistant? [laughter] It’s you, right? Sometimes? No. Um, so how do you find out,
uh, I mean I think there is no archetype
of an acquisitions editor anymore then there is
an archetype of a successful university press publisher. I think the way you expose
yourself to it is obviously participating
in opportunities like this, talking to people
at conferences if you happen to be at a conference,
every one of the booths in the exhibit hall is staffed by publishing representatives. We’re there to talk to you. Don’t hesitate to use
that opportunity to get a feel for the range of jobs. Publicity, sales,
acquisitions editors, um. People kind of like talking about their jobs. They do. As we’re-as we’re
demonstrating, right now. ‘Cause you go home,
and your spouse or whatever is just like,
yeah, I’ve heard that. They do not want
to hear about it, right? They’re so
tired of peer review. [laughter] Um, there are, uh, you know,
it is-I will say it’s difficult to just transition
immediately from a PhD to a senior acquiring editor, um, I’ll be honest. You know it, um,
because there’s a sort of-we-we look at things
like h-how well are you going to be able to handle
the multitasking, can you go
from a singular pursuit to seven hundred in a day? And that’s not an exaggeration, I probably have over
a thousand live book projects and have to be
able to transition from one to the next,
and make that author feel like, oh they are
on my mind all the time. And sometimes
I don’t do that very well. Um [pk] You know we’re like
the sales person who’s got a family on the road
and a family at home. Your authors never need to know about your other authors. No, you’re all-you’re
all very special and well taken care of. Um, there are-there are
certain character traits, I think, that we look
for and that help make the job more enjoyable based
on the position that you’re in. As an acquisitions editor
you really have to like talking with people, and I would say that’s the same in marketing and publicity and in sales. And in sales. Um, actually acquisitions
when I teach my acquisitions course,
I spend a lot of time focusing on the importance
of sales and acquisitions, and not just sales data, but you are selling
yourself in legal and positive, morally ethic, ways. Um, you’re selling
the imprint of the university; you’re selling
the imprint of the press. Um, so it’s-it’s really
not just all about ideas it’s about pitching
over and over and over again. It really helps
to like people and to be a little bit more extroverted. I won’t say
that introverts won’t like these jobs, but I-you know
and we’ve got some editors who are he-fairly, um,
they’re much more comfortable kind of in the pages
of a manuscript than talking with authors,
but it’s harder for them, um, you know, in terms
of kind of every day waking up and being excited
about what you’re doing. It’s a-it’s a bigger challenge. Uh, these are stereotypes
and so don’t take them as anything more
than kind of generalizations, but more
of our manuscript editors are happy sort of working
in their own space and not, uh, because you can, you’re working in a manuscript, you might interact
with an author by email, um, but you can kind of set the pace
of those interactions far more than you can control it if you’re in some
of these other departments. Uh, having just come
from an academic conference, uh, you’re basically on all day. You start at breakfast,
you go through the receptions in the evenings
and so it’s a, you know, 12 or 15 hour day talking
with people about ideas. I happen to love it;
it excites me. Um, but if it doesn’t then
it could be a-it could be a hard job. Internships, they-they-sometimes they’re unpaid,
but sometimes they’re paid. We work with
Metcalf interns, um, and sometimes they can be short, you know, it-we’ve hosted people for a week, um,
it doesn’t have to be six months or a year of your life
that you’re giving over. Uh, so that’s
a great way to get exposed. Um, most people
in University Press Publishing, even if you’re not
at a formal meeting, if you’re on a campus
that has a university press, we are all busy so I wouldn’t suggest just showing up at somebody’s office, uh, but send a query
and say I’d like an informational interview. I give them all the time. Many of our staff members do. Um, so you know, again,
if you’ve got access to a university press
close to home, take advantage
of that as a way to learn more. Um, I’m sure there’s more
that we can be saying. Yeah, well an-along those lines,
I was thinking about as far as jobs and marketing
and you can correct me if I hear you disagree, pretty sure-but I fight-for-feel almost all the jobs in marketing do reward
somebody who is a generalist, if you just are
interested in general, in books and culture
and you will enjoy keeping up on stuff,
and also if you can talk about it. Uh, in my interviews,
when I interview people I always try to do two things,
I always I’ll-I’ll just say, I always try to make
them a little bit uncomfortable because this should
be difficult, I also at some point
just ask them to tell me about their favorite book, or the best-best thing
they’ve read lately, and I don’t care
at all what it is I just want to hear you talk
about a book for a few minutes. ‘Cause if you can’t do
that in a slightly uncomfortable setting with a stranger,
then it’s not going to work, you’re not gonna-this
is not the job for you. I bet all of you can do that. I-I expect you could. We’d run around the room
and we’re going to put a list of the interesting books. I’d like to see
that list, actually. It’s absolutely true
because the way this-especially from a sales
and marketing perspective, I’m always pitching
a book as if I’m pitching it to a person
that is gonna give me every excuse
not to take this book. And I got 30-45
seconds to do it. So unless you can
think on your feet, and you can just grab-I mean
it’s a lot and it’s also a lot about building relationships. I mean one of the things
that I do in sales is I go to the Barnes and Noble headquarters twice a year and sit down
with the fiction buyer and the poetry
and philosophy buyer. And they’ll take
a look at the cover and they’ll be like,
oh god no. And I’m like, no, no, no,
wait, wait, wait, here we go. And then so it’s-it’s-it’s
a-it’s kind of a cross between a dog and pony show
and fighting for what, you know, a really good book
that you believe in. So there-in terms
of sales and marketing that’s-he’s absolutely right, you know, you have to show a great deal
of interest and multitasking. I mean acquisitions kind
of getting into that field, is a little bit more
diff-difficult I would say-most of the editors I would say,
you know, the internship, showing that you’ve had
some experience within working with acquisitions editors
and knowing how to cultivate lists and cultivate
authors’ manuscripts and stuff like that, that you’ve had
some hand on that, is absolutely vital I think
in getting into that particular area of publishing. (female student)
I was wondering if each of you could give
a 45 second pitch of a book, like what would
that sound like if you were pitching it to someone? [laughter] (Levi)
I’m pretty deep in my season now, I don’t know- [laughter] (Jones)
Should I take one for the team? (Christy)
Yeah. (Levi)
Go for it. So these are
some Northwestern catalogues, um, and so I’m gonna go
right into this, so this is our lead title
for the fall 2016 season. We are leading
with poetry, don’t stop-wait- [laughter] This is one
of the great slam poets in the United States of America, Patricia Smith, who has read on everything
from the Lib’ary of Congress floor to, uh, the Green Mill here in Chicago which started the poetry slam. Um, her-she’s been nominated
for a National Book Award. The last three books have
sold over ten thousand copies, this is a book dealing
with the state of the black male in the United States of America and the response to it. We are publishing
about two thousand copies of the first printing, 18.95, it’ll be in at in-av-available February
for, um, Black History Month and so there you go. (Christy)
Bravo. [applause] And you usually end
it with saying how many would you like to preorder for. And that’s-that’s
actually-that’s a difference of what you
and I do because we don’t talk numbers in my meetings
because I’ll be sitting down with an-with an editor
and my-my goal is to get the them to go, “oh, okay” and make a note
and then of what reviewers they’re gonna send the book to. (male student)
I have a question now. I’ve worked
for a-worked in higher ed. For a while I was teaching
at a community college I was working
as production coordinator at a pre-press house. So the edited manuscripts
would land on my desk and I work with the designers, the typesetters, everything to actually
convert it to, you know, the preflight stuff
we’d send out to the printers. (Christy)
Thank you. My pleasure,
I actually really liked it after I figured
out I wasn’t gonna drown on month one. Um, how would someone
with a PhD get into that line of work if they’re
masochistic enough? (Christy)
Right, I’ll tell you, I mean,
our-the head of our production department that’s one
of the hardest jobs to fill, so the fact that you would
have that experience and want to reenter, i-um,
it actually would be quite easy. [laughter] A-and that-and that you
like this genre of books. I mean it is-that is, um, I think
the production controller is sort of really
the most unsung role in University Press Publishing, you know, it’s-there’s no contact with the authors,
so it’s hard for those staff members to sort of feel like they’re that essential part of the book team-it’s our job
to make them feel that way, but, um, but absolutely
if you’ve got the experience and you liked it, and you can show
you how to keep a kind of schedule on track. Um, and then having
some disciplinary interest to actually
be interested in the content that’s a huge advantage. Uh, are- Yeah. Sorry, I was just gonna say,
it’s one of those jobs, uh, like-like exhibits manager
or something where you rarely get praise when things go well, it’s assumed
they’re gonna go well. You hear it when they go badly. So, yeah. I mean, just back
on the sort of entry points, most departments
in University Press Publishing, if an internship
is not available, and Northwestern has
a phenomenal internship program, um, but there are
editorial assistance is a kind of common job,
marketing assistance. And one of the things
with the PhD is we would expect you to be able
to rise more rapidly because you’re already comfortable and conversant with the material, and that’s a harder thing
to train-we can train in publishing. So you know if you’re willing, if you’re thinking about the transition
and are willing to take an entry level job,
it generally wouldn’t be assumed that it would take you kind
of three years to scon-scope up to that next level,
we would expect it to be a more rapid rise. And, um, I mean having started
as an editorial assistant, the-it’s a remarkable way
to get to know the publishing world before you’re in the position
of responsibility for finding those books. Um, you know,
with acquisitions editors we are measured by the number
of books we can acquire and by the amount of money
those books generate, even though we’re
nonprofit publishers. Our metrics are-are,
um, you know, we have performance assessments
that are absolutely based on financial metrics. And so much is the job
it’s really appealing, there’s also
a big responsibility and, uh, I tell a lot
of editors who are starting out, if I could do
it all over again I would still have that gradual rise
into a more senior acquisitions editor position, so I could kind of find
my way before all the pressure kicks in. I think it also helps
a lot when it comes to-a lot of-in a lot
of these higher level job, you end up managing
people as well, and it is so much easier
to manage people if you’ve been where they were,
and if you’ve done what they’ve done,
and even if you just are able to remember
what it was like to have the boss in that spot
and the kind of things you wondered about
and worried about with them. They-and I would
also say for entry level, um, marketing departments do tend
to have entry level jobs available,
there’s almost always something, you need some copying-you
need some-some copywriting, things that you would
be capable of doing. The other thing to think
about for-I’m sorry-I’m going to ask a question I should
know the answer to, some of you are still enrolled
or you all wrapped up? All of you are
still-nobody-nobody’s done with the PhD yet? Okay. Um, if you have
a university press, look
at the student job listings, we hire-my department relies
most-we don’t actually have interns,
we have student assistants. Right. We lean on them so hard
and if I find out you can do more,
I’ll lean on you even harder, and I will give you a lot to do and a lot
of autonomy to do it with. And we hire
from students assistants frequently, uh,
as into full time jobs. It’s a great way to get
a sense of what it’s like and to show that you are interested and capable. And we will look
for that experience when we’re hiring. Yeah, right exactly. Huge difference. Now you-even if you don’t
catch on the place you work, as a student,
you may catch on elsewhere because of it. I mean
that’s the other thing, too, is that we’ve actually sent
for people that we couldn’t hire within our house,
we’ve sent them everywhere from Macmillan, you know,
Random House. Just had an intern
that actually I just sent to Oxford University Press,
so it’s like-if we see some desire and some drive,
and you know, some potential e-even if it’s not at our house, we-we have contacts
at other publishers and so, if you’re planning
to go somewhere else or you have-if you’re saying
I want to work in publishing, but I’m moving to, you know, North Carolina or something like that, then we could call the good folks at Duke and say- We’ve got a guy. –we’ve got somebody. Right. We’ve got your people. You have a question. (female student)
Yeah, okay, so are-this is very similar to some
of the other questions that have been asked,
sort of a different angle, which is, um, what does
a PhD mean to you as potential employers? Like, not what skills are
you looking for in general, but what does a PhD already say? For example,
a friend of mine defended her dissertation in history
last year, and had two years of graduate assistant experience at a small topical journal, and that experience didn’t
seem to get her very far in the publishing house
job market. Um, she-she has found
something now, but, you know, for a while it was not,
and so what-what does it mean, like honestly, genuinely? (Christy)
We shouldn’t downplay it too much we gave
a round table talk a week ago, and one of our
current graduate students said should I even bother finishing? No, absolutely, keep going. Um, what it-what it signals
to us immediately is that you’re comfortable
in this milieu, and not everybody is. And we, um, it’s hard to take
somebody on board and kind of of train them,
which is a pretty big investment that we make,
only to have somebody decide that they really don’t like
the academic setting, that they’d rather
be working for a press like Norton or Random House,
if they like publishing. Um, so-so it shows us
that you’ve got a sort of sustained engagement with just the kind of material that we will be publishing. Uh, and- It also means
you’re not gonna leave and go to grad school. [laughter] It’s true. That-that’s the worst thing
when you’ve got a good staffer who decides that, yeah. I’m sorry. No, that’s so much
better, that’s good. It is an asset, look,
I mean, we-we have half of our acquisitions editors
have PhDs. Some of them came
in with preexisting networks that they can tap into, uh, which is a huge benefit to the press. Um, so they are valued. They just-it just doesn’t
guarantee that’d you come in at a senior level,
I think that’s where, um, one of the things you’ll find
and I think we represent this, people stay in these jobs
because they’re really-they’re wonderful positions. So the turnover is not high,
which means when we do have openings to have
more senior levels we have people who come
in with experience acquiring, and it’s just hard to say
that a PhD is equivalent to somebody who might
come in with five years of acquisitions
experience elsewhere. Those are there-those are
just the kind of positions that we face. It’s, yeah, it’s that-we’re not
credential based in the same way that say a library is. It-the credential
is a good thing and is-is something
that would affect our thinking, is looking at somebody, um,
but again it’s no-it’s not a key that opens
the door in the same way that say a master’s of library science is a requirement and also a way
to get in somewhere, in a different way. (female student)
Kind of related to Lizzie’s question. Um, she mentioned her friend
had some experience as a graduate assistantship,
I think one option that is somewhat available
to us as we work to complete, is positions
with academic journals. (Christy)
Right, absolutely. How you value
that sort of experience, which isn’t in your field
of publishing, but is adjacent? Absolutely, it’s-and still
absolutely in the ecosystem. We have-one of my more, uh, senior editors in my group, uh, was a managing editor
for a press journal before we brought
her over to books. And she had an understanding
of the kind of, the systems, the n-the way
that the review drives the process,
the basic vernacular which was really helpful. The-the, um, the finances
she understood more than she would have had
she not taken the tour after-she had her PhD, and then she worked
as a managing editor, and then came to books. So I think, you know,
publishing, yes, we’re here representing kind
of the book world, but, um, but we would look
at publishing as as-a sort of wider group
that would include journals. Yep, that would
be-if we were hiring somebody, that would be
publishing experience- Right. –of the sort
that we would certainly pay very close attention to. (female student)
Thank you. Okay, I’m not sure which one– (female student)
Um, I have two questions. One is about, um,
the changing world of publishing creative
with digital media and how the academic presses
specifically respond to that and whether or not, um, there-can’t remember, you know, University of Chicago
and Northwestern presses specifically have any kinds
of plans or ideas about even creating
new positions potentially in the future
for people who work in things, uh, like,
digital humanities type stuff, like infographics
and that kind of stuff. And the other question is,
um, about relationhips between academic university presses,
and obviously there’s a very nice relationship
going on right here, but- [murmuring crowd] -um, competition among presses
and, or, whether- saying like if you got
something in cinema studies that was, uh, uh, very new media would you say maybe you should try it through univeristy press? Is there that kind of-kind of-how d-does-what part of your job either relationship
building or competing with other univeristy presses? (Christy)
Alright, who wants to take the innovation and technology? I’ll take the competiton. [laughter] And I’ll negotiate for it. No. I feel like wi-on innovation
and technology, uh, and you guys speak
up if you disagree, but I-I think we are
always going to, as university presses,
be a little bit tentative there because those tend to be heavy investment areas and investment
without a necessary-necessarily confidence in the payoff
or necessarily a certainty that they’re going
to contribute to your mission. Um, so I think to some extent,
we’ll always be a little bit of a laggard. That said in applying technology
to what we already do, things like, for example,
with the shift to e-books, where our market
and our ecosystem is telling us this is the-this is
the thing you need to do, that’s what I think
that a good university president is always going
to be jumping to do. Did-did that- And hiring,
to-so now we, like, have
a digital publications manager, we have-we’ve added e-w-we’ve
added staff to make sure that we’re capitalizing
on the digital opportunities. You end up shifting your
responsibilities over time, and it tends to not be
a big, oh let’s get into this thing, it’s more that we’re doing
some of this and we’ve got somebody
who can do that. I mean that’s one of the things in terms of, you know, we-I think that we have
a-a leg up because we don’t have to necessarily be
the guinea pigs in all-what the big houses are doing. We can watch them do it,
watch them make a mess of it, and then we can
kind of- Spend lots of money. Spend lots of money,
and then we can kind of go and pick
and choose the things that are working
and actually kind of evolve our people
and the kind of outreach that we do. So- We’re not- in it. None of us has been
in the meeting this week about developing
a Pokemon Go product, for example. We-we’ll wait. (female student)
I guess I was thinking, um, a-acually academic presses
in some cases are maybe in a different position
than popular presses are in that, you have books like, um, say, ethnomusicologists, who often release CDs
with their books, and I guess I was-or,
for example, how great would it be if when you bought
your e-book of slam poetry you could also listen
to the person. Uh, and I don’t know whether
or not that kind of- (Christy and Jones)
Yes. Well, yes,
so we have done that work. And-and we have [pp] you know,
Mellon Foundation supports a lot of university presses
to-to experiment, um, you know, our resources are limited,
but sometimes going back to the relations
with the university, if the university is entering
a space like digital humanities and putting funds toward that, often a press can be part of that initiative
and actually get some kind of R. and D. money
from the university to do that. Uh, we enhanced e-books,
our ethnic musicology books have now embedded audio files
in some of them, we’ve put embedded videos. So that-we’re-we’re constantly talking about ways in which to bring
different content to readers. Uh, that doesn’t always entail a new, um, a kind
of new position, or a new staff. I mean we’re-a lot of it is
kind of reinventing what we do, or sort of we-we try
to focus a lot of professional development
to keep up with the kind of best practices
and so we might send somebody in design
out for a training session, or we get
a workshop or something. Um, I think that-we-we just sort
of be-we try to be kind of as adaptive as possible. (female student)
And to add to that, if I have a wildly popular blog,
say, translating that to a book, at what point do you say,
well, a lot of this material is already available online,
doesn’t make sense for us to publish a book, you know, like, what is the relationship where the availablity
of information in the digital world, and translating
that into a book. Right, well, we have,
um, we’ve actually, uh, we have a number
of successes where we’ve taken, uh, we’ve curated blog posts
and reproduce them in book form and the books have
done very well, uh. I think it’s a nice example
of how those two worlds are still different, they overlap
and there’s a connection, but the world of books
and of thing you can go down the street
and pick up and buy or get in a library, is still a different universe
from what online and the two
don’t necessarily have to, uh, cancel each other out,
they can actually complement each other. Because you may have
a whole new reading audience, that is not reading a blog,
that’s just discovering this material
for the first time. And-and some presses
are-are experimenting a lot with born
digital projects, uh, and you know MIT is one that’s a great space to watch, they’ve been really innovative, uh, in that realm. So it’s-there’s a lot going on
in the university press world. I think, uh, going back
I just didn’t want to leave the question
about kind of competition and niches unaddressed. Um, we-so one thing we have
to do as university presses is be really smart
with our resources, and so we all are
constantly looking for these kind
of new-new spaces and new niches that we can squeeze
ourselves into and find the authors-find
the new authors. Uh, we-each press also sort
of has its own identity and within the press are
a series of kind of embedded identities
of individual lists, so each acquisitions
that enter is overseeing a list
and there’s a certain personality to that list
and it’s synergistic with that editor
and also with the larger kind of history
of the press and where it wants to go in the future. So one
of the things that we do as acquisitions editors and actually
that the entire press does is you have to know
your competition, and you have
to know it quite well, so you can figure out
where the opportunities are to kind of wedge
yourself in there, disrupt what they’re doing. We’re all-it is
a wonderful community and we share resources,
but we also compete for a limited…commodity: authors and good authors. Um, so you know, uh,
p-for example, in the life science list,
I don’t publish medicine because there are a number
of other university presses that have done really well
in medicine for a longer period of time. I like to focus
on things like ecology and conservation
or marine sciences. And when we’re starting
and thinking about getting into a new area,
we talk with marketing, we talk with sales, and we’ll say you know
I’m thinking this area has gotten a little tired,
I’d like to redirect and kind
of course correct the list. This is what I’m thinking
of, do you feel like it’s a viable space? Here are the main competitors,
this is what they’re doing. Um, but we also do
like to think about, eh, one of the other
responsibilities we have is making sure
that the best books get published
and if those best books don’t fit our list you’ll hear
a lot-editors spend a lot of time talking
about list building, and this is
the shape of my list, and this is
where my list is headed, if something
doesn’t fit my list, but I think it’s a great project
the best thing I can do is put it
in the hands of an editor at another press
where it would fit, and we try to do
that, uh, all the time. And so the only way you can
do that is to know sort of what your peers
are looking for. And I spend a lot of time
on the phone with editors at other presses,
we sometimes talk about authors. We don’t talk
about deals and royalties because that would be collusion, um, but you know
we do-we share a lot and we-we occasionally
complain about authors. [laughter] There is-there’s a little bit
of a sibling relationship with your colleagues
at other presses if you’ve known them a long time,
as of-you just need somebody to talk to who understands
what you’re doing. And there’s-you can get
a lot out of that relationship, both for yourself,
just being able to talk to somebody,
but also learning things and sharing things
and it is a good community that way. And that’s how we make it,
I mean, in a lot of ways. I mean, you know,
in terms of acquiring poetry, well I know that you know
Pitt, University-Pittsburgh, Georgia, Iowa,
and then I kind of look at the more independents
like Graywolf, Milkweed Edition, and I say okay I have
to know what they’re doing, I have to know
what they’re publishing. Um, because I have
a great respect in what they’re doing,
but if I have all my slots filled up because in terms of-I don’t know how far
ahead that you work in, but I have work-I work
at least four seasons ahead, so if I got
all of those slots filled and I see this
incredible poetry manuscript, well then I’m going to call
the editor at Graywolf, or I’m gonna call
the editor at Pitt and say you really gotta take
a look at this, this is great. So there is
this help/competition kind of thing going on,
but it’s-I think it’s done in an extremely healthy, wonderful way, so. And I do-this is
just makes me think again of something I feel
like I always should mention we talk to people is,
the mission actually really does matter like the-the-and this is I think one of things
in publishing in general, but University Press
Publishing in particular, that we actually-when you’re
goin’ your day to day work it is just a job, in some sense, but also you really
do-at the back your mind everything you do
is informed by the sense that we have a role to play
to publish good books and spread scholarship,
et cetera. And it does make
everything better, it genuinely does actually like from the lowest level job,
up to the top, it makes
all of it a little more worthwhile, and that’s one of the real
rewards of working in this area. (male student)
So, obviously the-the pressures of the job would mean
that book projects are pretty much out of the question, but for an editor who came
in out of a humanities program, do many editors write
on their own and publish, you know? [laughter] I know we had-we had
at least one, um, panel member, but, just in general
is that a thing that’s with-with shorter pieces, essays, magazines, whatever,
is it something that editors can continue to do? I-uh, okay. Ha, ha, ha, you’re stuck. Yes. I-I think so,
and not just necessarily in poetry
because I think also, you know, over the years
I’ve been asked to write certain pieces, um,
whether it be for journals or you know
different publications, but it is-it’s difficult,
it’s very, very difficult. I mean, trying
to find-as a creative writer, the time to write is difficult. I actually just came
back early this year from-I had a residency at the Landon Foundation
and I was there for four weeks, and you know
that took a lot of stroking the people in the audience, to stroking myself
that I could actually be away from the office
for a four-week period, so I can actually,
just for the first time in a-in-in basically
a year and a half, be able to write
some new projects. So you know,
it used to bother me in the beginning a little bit, but now I just figure you know one of the things of being an-especially a poet and an artist is that, you know, this is part of my community,
this is part of being a writer, this is part of being an artist, and so if I don’t necessarily get to write that poem or that essay
or that chapter of, um, a novel, I’m putting somebody’s book
out in the world. So I kind
of have put myself in that kind of state of mind and
it-it for now it works out okay, but I-I will be honest with you, it’s very difficult to do
your own work when working in this business
because I-I literally in my dining room table
right now, I have about fifteen
m-manuscripts that I need to get through
and know what I’m going to be pitching
in the next couple of seasons, so I can only read
them on the weekend because I’m in the office answering emails or in meetings
during the week, so. But, I will say,
it’s not dissimilar to other jobs in some sense
in that way, that it just-you’ve got
this chunk your day that’s gone,
and then you’ve got this chunk of your day
at each end where you have to let that go
and then you’ve got this tiny window,
but you know three members of my staff published
books last year. Um, it-it can totally be done. How much sleep do you need? [laughter] It’s probably
the vital question. (female student)
So that was a question that I had was,
it sounds like you have a lot of job duties
that take up a lot of your time, and a lot
of them are interpersonal, are you able
to actually read all of the books that you’re working on, and if you are, how? (Levi)
It’s amazing- (Christy)
We need to turn the camera off now. [laughter] As a marketing person,
like, I’ll confess to this, it’s astonishing
how much you can talk about a book you haven’t read. Just-just staggering
how deep you can go without- (male student)
That’s what we learn in grad school. Yeah, yeah, Actually that’s another area where you’re well-trained. Yeah. You, um, okay I will
s-I want to provide a little bit of a corrective. Yeah, that’s fair. So you’re working
with people who have poured themselves into these projects, um, I-I think that, uh,
it is really important to, at least read
around in every manuscript. Certain manuscripts
don’t need as much, so that’s where
the peer review process is really a buttress
for us because it’s my job to find for a specialist book, readers who are really going to engage in it. But I also will make sure, you know, I wouldn’t send
that book out unless the introduction
made sense to me. Any book introduction,
no matter how special, it should make sense
to an avid reader. Um, for trade books,
general interest books, we-I have read
most every-of every page of the book I acquire,
in fact several times over and have given
comments and feedback and-because it’s my job
to help that book find its voice. So you learn-you learn
with the kind of limited resources,
which books really need it, and you want
to make sure that your time and expertise
is going into the books where its-its benefits the book. Uh, but I-I feel
like it’s a really important thing to, uh, if you’re thinking about a job say
in acquisitions, that you think about a press
that allows you the time to read proposals and manuscripts,
uh, and not all do. There are publishing houses
where an editor might be overseeing 80 books a year,
and I can assure you that that is pushing paper across a desk. Uh, I think, you know,
a manageable load is sort of 20-25, uh,
if you really want to be able to-to engage in that text and have conversation-informed conversations with authors. So, it is important. But we, you know, yeah,
we learn how to read quickly and in every opportunity. I’ve got, you know,
three proposals in my bag, my dining room table looks
much like yours, at any moment, you know, having
a cup of coffee in the morning standing, reading, something. (female student)
So it-it’s finding times, like, on the weekends
and in your own times, not necessarily you have time
in-in your day you set aside and you do it. Ah, b-when I was
not managing editors, I could actually read-a lot of our editors are able to read proposals during the day. Uh, it just-so part
of what you’re hearing is skewed by the fact
that you’re I’ve got two jobs, and they’re not evenly split
50/50, they’re both kind of 100, just like Levi’s. I will say
after all these years, I do feel like
when I’m sitting in my office reading a galley
or reading a manuscript, I do kind of feel
like I’m cheating, like I should be working,
so yeah. Because– But also, I think
if you’re gonna-if you’re gonna particularly in marketing,
but I think in editorial as well, you also need
to be reading other stuff because you need
to know what the competition in the book world is like,
what-what is a general interest book read
like these days, what- Right. What level is it written at, what kind of voices are
from-are common and popular. Uh, if you are doing that,
then it’s way too easy to convince yourself
that what you’ve got here is great,
when it may just be so-so. (female student)
Yeah, sort of along those lines, I had a question
about the changing nature or landscape
of academic writing. And so you’ve sort
of been talking about specialist books
and general interest books, but it-it strikes me
and I think we’re all, you know, maybe at a moment where, um, kind of academic writing is losing some
of that, like, siloed appeal, and books
like Maggie Nelson’s are not so really popular. And so how you see
university presses maybe your presses
in particular responding to that, and also thinking
about kind of, the interest in hybrid works,
um, in poetry especially, so, I me-if you could just talk
about, um, trends you see, or kind of forcasting about where these categories
or genres might be. Kind of breaking
down your findings. I mean, I think for us because of the big-our
big primary market is course adoption market
and of course adoption and library marketing, so we’re watching
what’s happening in the courses. And you do see
on syllabuses hybrid lists, so that’s a big thing for us,
I’m-I can say within poetry, I do look
at the-the poetry collections of what-who these-who
the names are attached to it, how often they’re being,
you know, floated around within creative writing courses, and things
like that, where they’re teaching their-their academic, um, outreach because it matters just as much
as the-the trade appeal. So you know,
hybrid-we like hybrid, it works at Northwestern because we’d like to be able
to see a book, um, because a lot
of independent stores also I think have connections with universities, too. And so it’s nice to be able
to see that scholarly title on a bookshelf in a bookstore,
I mean that’s a big thing, you can fight
with Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all that stuff about it, but, I mean, even being in college, you know,
we-we that’s a separate pitch from, you know,
the B&N trade in New York and so,
for us a hybrid is I think that-I don’t know necessarily the scholars moving completely towards that,
but it seems to be something that is, um,
a very big thing for us to have wider outreach. (female student)
I think this is gonna be a followup question, is, you sort of talked
about your relationship, or academic presses
relationship to like, New York publishing scene, but, do you guys have relationships with, like, small press-the small press scene and what does that look like,
or what kinds of contacts happen there? Ah, I mean,
we-so-sort of-each-from an acquisitions perspective, each editor will have a sort of network based
on the kind of books they’re publishing, and who they’re competing
with, so that could range from big New York houses
to small independent publishers, and it’s-it’s considered part
of our responsibility to pay attention,
and to have a sort of network within that community. Um, I think
on the-on the issue of sort of hybrid
and maybe relaxing some of the sort
of the-the those intensely sort of specialized pursuits, uh,
we would like nothing more than to see
that happen across the Academy, it just makes-when
a book can speak to five different readerships, it’s going to have a more meaningful
contribution to make. I think we sort
of see the tenure process as the last bastion,
and until that changes, uh, we sort
of have to continue-we can push the boundaries,
just like you can as students
but there’s a whole system that needs to be kind
of disrupted and rethought, and I-we’re optimistic, but I don’t know if it’ll be
in my lifetime, I mean. Well, along those lines,
one of the questions-if I end up talking with an author about a book
that seems like it’s got real general interest potential, one of the first things I will ask them if they need
it for their career. Do you-do you need this to do
certain things for your career, or can we start
stripping out the times that you’re talking
to your colleagues? Right. And that’s a big question. And if they do need it,
then we’re going to back off because we have to come
to a middle ground that does
what they need as well as. (female student)
Can I add to that, uh, question and, um, just monograph
or edited collections and why? [laughter] (Levi)
There aren’t a lot of audiences
where that even works as a question. This is good. Like, ’cause we want
it to appeal to a large group of readers, but then asking for a monograph over an edited coll-and then there’s this impossibility-it, I mean, I’m not saying that people can’t do three or four-have
three or four interests and merge them in together, but it almost seems
like if we’re trying to appeal to a larger readership,
an edited collection would make sense,
but I know what it is-I’ve heard that a lot
of presses-academic presses shy away from edited collections and want monographs. And I’m just trying
to kind of, you know, just hear from the other side. Right, I mean there are many species of edited volume. Uh, in certain fields,
they absolutely cohere and coalesce lines
of inquiry in such exciting ways and you can see
them as foundational works, uh, we’ve been working
on a wonderful edited volume in animal studies, which is
genuinely going to bring people from different disciplines
into actual conversation. Uh, and throughout
my acquisitions career, edited volumes have
been real highlights. Um, they have terrible baggage, and-and not just within
the Academy, but with places, um, that actually help decide what libraries are going to purchase. Um, too many edited volumes
have reprints of papers and lack original contributions, um, many edited volumes
in earlier generations of publishing,
were Festschrifts, and so they kind
of hung a black cloud over edited volumes
for years that were we continue to work against. Uh, but the other thing is
that edited volumes are rarely taught, and so we have to adapt
to what is actually working in the marketplace,
and so if a lot of this comes back to you as t-as-as sort
of embryonic teaching faculty. What are you going to teach
and that will inform what we are actually able to publish. But I-I agree edited volumes
can be a great space and-and when done well,
they’re-they’re terrific. Um, what-what we try to make
sure of is that they’re not just a sort of journal
issue feel, right. That they really are
kind of conceived of as a collaboration
from the start. (female)
But still monograph or edited volumes, pick one. For all of you, actually. I don’t think- I don’t think you can. I don’t think I could pick one. It really depends on the field. Yeah, and the- Yeah. Yeah,
it absolutely depends on the field, and it depends
on what their goals are, you know. If you’re-if you’re
a-a-a work-I would take a book that sort of reflecting
on where a field has come, I would much prefer
that to be a single authored synthetic work. I tend to look to edited volumes as a way to kind
of launch a new area, or help coalesce it, um, so I think they serve
different purposes often, um. But it really is
dependent on the field. Yeah. Yeah. Um. (Allison)
We’ll have to wrap it up, at this point, (Christy)
That was a wonderful session. Thank you all. [applause]

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