#WeAreUP: A Mark Saunders-inspired salute to sales reps

As I write, I am returning from four days in the incredible and inspiring company of the AUPresses community.  The spirit of our collective is working to rebuild itself around the chasm created by the loss of one of its finest craftsmen, Mark Saunders.  Mark knew how to create a compelling book, as a publisher, and as an author.  And he knew how to make those books impactful, from their content and form, to building the bridges they needed to travel to the book reader and buyer.  As the beloved and poignant #WeAreUP tributes this week have shared, Mark’s early craft was in bookselling, and he carried with him (along with catalogs and advance reading copies) a beautifully honed recognition of the importance of authentic and generous collaboration.

The art and science of bookselling at PUP is defined by such collaborations, and their energy and passions are fueled by consortial teams of sales representatives that we support with peer presses.  If you visit Seminary Coop Bookstore, and encounter a Princeton University Press title on its coveted front table, it’s because Lanora Haradon has visited the Chicago store to enjoy incredible conversations with Jeff Deutsch or Adam Sonderberg about the PUP list. And if you strolled past the Harvard Book Store recently, you might have delighted in the Princeton Publisher Focus window, thanks to Karen Corvello’s ingenuity.  Patricia Nelson’s passion for bookselling put her on the finalist list for sales representative of the year in 2019;  thanks to her, readers in Los Angeles can learn How to Win an Argument at Skylight Books.  In addition to the knowledge and joy these rep rapports generate for PUP, they also represent our peer presses @mitpress and @YaleBooks, comprising a consortial partnership (University Press Associates) managed deftly by our three @aupresses sales directors, including Timothy Wilkins at Princeton University Press. 

Just as these collaborations inspire and impact the Press and our books in North America, so too does a multi-press sales partnership in Europe, the University Press Group.  Jointly supported by @MITpress, @ColumbiaUP, @UCPress, and @PrincetonUPress, this UPG team, now managed by former Thames and Hudson and Ivy Publisher Simon Gwynn, is expanding the European reach of each of our presses, and expanding sales horizons for our books.  Working with our international sales director Andrew Brewer, Simon and a team of three full-time sales representatives have cultivated robust relationships with UK and European booksellers.  The Ancient Wisdom books greet those who seek classic “how to” advice books at Blackwell’s in Oxford thanks to Ben Mitchell’s bookselling wisdom.   In Barcelona, one can venture to La Central and find Lina Bo Bardi: Drawings, placed in that store by Dominique Bartshukoff, who travels from the Netherlands to Portugal in search of bookstores.  Near the Sorbonne, Peter Jacques has ensured that PUP titles like The House of Government  still resides in the specialist history bookstore Libraire des Belles Lettres, and in Belgium that The Lives of Bees created a buzz at ACCO booksellers. 

With each of these consortia, PUP books and their authors travel in minds, hearts, and suitcases of an incredible team of colleagues.  Their enthusiasm and expertise provide a bridge much like those that Mark Saunders crossed so ably, from creator to consumer, from passionate publisher to enthralled reader.  And, like Mark, they do so as beloved colleagues whose intelligence and expertise (and powers of persuasion) animate life and reading the world over.    

—Christie Henry, Director

 

Sales conference, Autumn 2019

Christie Henry on Shaping History–Through Books

The founder of the antecedent of Black History Month, Carter Woodson, astutely noted that “the mere imparting of information is not education.”  Adapting these profound words to the realm of publishing, publishers recognize that the mere imparting of information is not publishing.  In an era of an abundance of information, of words on the print and digital page, it is ever more vital for us to curate, with intention, a list of publications that educates and inspires.  As a University Press publisher, the education we commit to for our readers (and audio book listeners) is a publishing grounded in information that is transformed—through author intelligence and curiosity, the insights of peer review, and the art and science of book making, publicity and marketing, and sales—and, ideally, transformative in its impact and endurance. 

The books we are celebrating this month embody that transformative impact, and in doing so also contribute in meaningful and enduring ways to one of the key tenets of Black History month, to teach the history of Black America.  As books remain a vital component of teaching, and learning, this month is a critical time for publishers to reflect on our responsibility as partners in the pedagogical endeavor, and the narrative we shape with the books we publish.  We join our many peers in the university press, #ReadUP community, in a shared commitment to enrich knowledge about race, identity, society, history, politics and the arts—inspired by our authors and the university communities in which we thrive.

In December, NYU University Press author Safiya Umoja Noble visited Princeton University Press to talk about our role in offering a platform to as wide a population of scholarship as there are voices and minds, particularly in our responsibility as an interlocutor between the academy and the wider culture of reading and knowledge.  Peer review is the foundational element of this university press platform, and it shapes each of the books we publish, as does the editorial board that governs our peer review. 

We also commit to the tenets of peer review in assessing our own decisions as publishers.  Just as most authors take great pride (rightfully!) in the manuscripts they submit for peer review, so too are we incredibly proud of the list of nearly 10,000 titles Princeton University Press has published.  But we also know how critical it is to iterate, in the way every manuscript does, guided by a close and constructive scrutiny of that publications list.   When assessed against current cultural contexts and priorities, in the way that a manuscript’s references are held accountable to current scholarship, we recognize that we can grow from criticism, and benefit from revision, to bring more voices and perspectives to our list, and to broaden its intellectual impact and horizons.  I find myself incredibly inspired by another #ReadUP author, Hanif Abdurraqib, whose Go Ahead in the Rain is publishing this month at the University of Texas Press, “A big reason I write is rooted in the idea of building relationships”: the big reason we publish is rooted in the idea (and joy) of building relationships.

As we peer review our publications program, and celebrate in particular the ways in books about the African American experience have shaped that program, we are guided by Woodson’s enduring mantra that we need “a history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”  Our press is committed to books that shape that history, and inspire and educate through scholarship, creativity and collaboration.

–Christie Henry, Director

Christie Henry: Notes on a New Ecosystem, One Year Out

For just over a year now, I have had the inordinate fondness and pleasure of serving as Director of Princeton University Press. I have been fortunate to have generous companions and collaborators in this new ecosystem, from members of our Board and the Princeton University Press Association, to colleagues across the globe—these in addition to several outstanding field guides. Among the species and experiences I have brought with me from years of happy trails in the #ReadUP lands include a few (inanimate) octopuses, which now reside at our William Street building in Princeton, and can be seen propping up the latest Press catalog, now Spring 2019.

These octopuses have kept me company for many a year in publishing. And if there is an animal I most admire, with no offense to Princeton tigers, or the many birds of the Press’s resplendent natural history list, it is the octopus. I have envied their eight arms, (especially so in #makingmotherhoodwork). I am not alone in my enthrall for the octopus. In November another article of wonderment appeared in the New York Times, by Press author Carl Zimmer. He reminds us that  octopuses have nine brains, eight arms, three hearts, and a plan.  

And so do we at Princeton University Press.  Several excellent books of recent have revealed a great deal about octopus behavior and intelligence—and soul.  None of the books are published by Princeton University Press, but Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds was assigned in a course at Princeton in the fall, and Peter is a Press author. 

The octopus to me embodies our Press character—many hearts, big brains, publishing soul, and intelligent arms with an abundance of senses. The arms of an octopus function in stunning choreography, and are full of sensory nodes. Our Press team has been deploying all arms, heart, and brainpower in collaborations this year, and adapting as the octopus does to dynamic waters of publishing. The octopodean arms of the Press are in collaborative embrace around myriad new initiatives, and partnerships.  

Our Creative Media Lab, formed a year ago to cohere the strength of the Press’s brand and design aesthetic, collaborated with our Information Technology team and a cross departmental committee on a stunning new website which will launch in March, presenting a new face of the Press.  This partnership with design firm Area 17 has transformed us from the likeness of an octopus camouflaged in a sea of  grey and black—and a lot of type—to one inspired by a medium of white sand with orange pearls and many more diverse shells. The website includes a reimagination of our blog into “ideas”, curated to include new partnerships, such as those just launched with Public Books and The Conversation.  Our arms of Human Resources and Finance and Accounting have helped us embrace, and compensate, wonderful new colleagues this year, increasing Press inclusivity. And they have also paired their arms to ensure strength and functionality of a new payroll and HR system, Paycom, which went live this fall.  

Just as octopuses inhabit all of the worlds oceans, so too are we stretching the habitats of our books, with new partnerships emerging from our team in Beijing, China, and with other  new initiatives in international sales, including a collaboration with Penguin Random House in India.  We are currently exploring new seas of collaboration and markets in Australia and Central and South America. These initiatives all involve global development, production, sales, marketing, and an evolving intellectual property team. 

When tested in the Lab, octopuses have been shown to be good puzzlers, though, I quote Godfrey-Smith,  “without showing themselves to be Einsteins”. Well, we have the Einstein’s. Further quoting,
“But they have a great ability to adapt to new an unusual circumstances, and turn the apparatus around to their own octopodean purposes. “
This might describe our adventure with a new publishing information system, Biblio, which has touched all of our senses, and has had its moments of the unusual as we learn new publishing systems and determine how best to deploy technology in support of our publishing endeavors. 

Some recent studies have shown that octopuses can hear. Humans respond even more favorably to audio signals, so much so that it’s possible to imagine our next evolutionary leap including built-in earbuds. This summer we launched our own audio imprint, PUP Audio, which is amplifying our list and bringing new book admirers and narrators into our reach. I encourage you all to sample our first titles on Audible or Hoopla or Storytel. Our pairing of narrators and topics was referred to as “brilliant matchmaking” in the Times Literary Supplement.  Like many other new Press initiatives, audio entails the full collaborative embrace of multiple minds- intellectual property, digital and audio publishing, creative media, distribution, marketing, and sales. 

Furthering the senses, Octopuses have exceptionally good eyes—as do our editors, for great authors, who in turn inspire some of the finest armed and brained collaborations, with our Editorial Board and across our outstanding publishing departments. We have welcomed new editors this year, and promoted several others.  As the end of 2018 deftly curated lists of best books came online, we enjoyed the synergies among our authors, books, editors, and the strength of our publicity brain. Among recent highlights,  Timefulness, published this fall, has been long listed for the PEN/Wilson award; it’s a poignant reminder of the temporal scales of evolutionary change. 

YouTube is host to a sea of videos of octopuses escaping tanks, some of which have garnered over 14 million views.  We have just uploaded a few new amazing videos of our own, born out of an experiment to escape traditional confines of marketing. I highly encourage you to watch (and like, and share) videos about Jane Austen’s Beautifull Cassandra, our author David Hu touring his kids through animal biomechanics at the Atlanta Zoo, and an original illustrated explainer video about Gods and Robots, a wonderful tour of the early classical origins of AI. 

In 2017, off the eastern coast of Australia, scientists found an octopus colony, which they are calling Octlantis. Godfrey-Smith writes about Octopolis, which is also off of Australia. Octopuses know the value of community, as do we. And we thrive in a particularly fortunate one in Princeton University. In addition to all that we learn from the minds and souls of our Princeton Board members, this year we have enjoyed having our title Speak Freely selected as a campus pre-read, we have welcomed our first University Administrative Fellows form the graduate school, we enjoyed the first special sale of Press titles at Labyrinth books in November. We partnered with the Brazil Lab, the Library, and the anthropology department to rebuild the collections of the National Museum of Rio. 

Within the publishing community, in addition to the incredible guidance we enjoy from our Board and Association members, we are partnering with Bookselling Without Borders, to build new partnerships between publishers and booksellers, in global seas. With AUPresses, we have hosted two visiting fellows, we embraced a chance to participate in University Press week with staff blogs and photos, and we are leading this year’s Task Force on Gender, Equity, and Cultures of Respect.  This aligns with our own Board supported Press strategic investment in equity and inclusion, which occupies many hearts and arms. 

Octopuses in Octatlantis have observed in play behavior, interacting with objects just for the sake of it. We too have been enjoying more play, all as part of learning, from film screenings and author talks in our William Street Lobby, now named Dougherty Hall, to group travel to exhibit openings at the Smithsonian, to volunteer outings like a recent repair of bridges and trails with Friends of Princeton Open Spaces in Mountain Lakes Reserve. 

Among the most enviable attributes of an octopus is an ability to regenerate a limb. It has also been shown that limbs that are removed continue to operate with great energy, because of the extent of sensory nodes. While we have lost a few limbs to retirements, and with them many nodes of knowledge, history, and collaboration, we are embracing new colleagues and collaborations, with authors, advisors, Board members, media, partners, and readers and listeners the world over.  

The many tentacles and senses involved in collaboration at Princeton University Press, coupled with multiple hearts and brains, really give us soul. And we thank you for being in our embrace.  The cephalopods that joined me in relocating from Chicago to Princeton are proud to be holding up the Princeton University Press catalog, and to be living within sensory range of salt water. As am I. 

 -Christie Henry, January 2019

Christie Henry on the Evolution of University Press Science Publishing

In The Atlantic this month, science journalist Ed Yong writes about new studies on the evolution of mammals that convey how much humans have turned up evolutionary dynamics. Since the 16th century, we sapiens have wiped out 500 million years of phylogenetic evolutionary history, and we stand to lose a further 1.8 billion years within the next five decades, breaking twigs, branches, and core trunks of the mammalian evolutionary tree. It’s astonishing, and humbling, to contemplate the scale of impact, but some of the online commentary on the article is just as devastating. One reader stated that humans just do not care; some of our species don’t read about science, others are persuaded by the untruths of redactions of climate science, or denunciations of planetary temperature fluctuations. Is news about scientific discovery heard as much as a felled tree falling in uninhabited woods?

The evolution of science publishing at university presses tells a different narrative. The #ReadUP world knows how to #TurnItUp for science, and many new branches of editorial programs are generating stands of books that range in topic from altruism to zooplankton, from neuroscience to natural history. In a 2018 survey of university press areas of acquisition, 58 presses reported publishing in earth and environmental science, and 53 in the areas of ecology and conservation. The diversity of presses, and the morphology of their science lists, helps build resilience, and niches for a wide range of book types, from graphic science to popular narratives to graduate level course books. The #Readup editors foraging in these landscapes are resilient, and opportunistic, as books in these fields do not grow on trees, and rarely on the cvs of scientists.

This year, #ReadUPscience readers can swim in the pages of Drawn to the Deep to learn about the underwater explorations of Florida’s Wes Skiles, explore the richness of The Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas , have a trusted foraging companion in Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States, savor daily joys of A Year in Nature, chatter over the Tales that Teeth Tell, learn best practices of Communicating Climate Change, and how thinking like a geologist can help save the planet in Timefulness.

While there are a diversity of university presses working to amplify science, the evolution and long-term sustainability of these programs, Princeton University Press’s included, depend on the ability to create equitable and inclusive populations of authors, a particularly acute challenge in science publishing. The American Association of Science dedicated much of its annual meeting in 2018 to diversity and inclusion, but waiting for the waves of change to reach the shores of the UP world is akin to waiting for ocean acidification to naturally rebalance; we need intervention. University presses, like scientists we collaborate with, can be pioneers, innovators, and intrepid explorers, discovering new authors to change the world of science publishing. Just as we have found ways to evolve impactful science programs at presses with origins in the humanities and social sciences, so too can we create niches for a greater equity of authorial expertise and voice in these programs.

I turn to Ed Yong again, who spent two years working to fix the gender imbalance in his stories about science. As he notes, gender parity is just a start. We need to first quantify the problem, and provide data to track change. We are doing this research at PUP now, and while the science list here is amazing in its thematic diversity, we are keen to fix the imbalances of author voices.

Just as ecosystems of great biodiversity are more resilient, so too will presses of greater diversity be sustainable. Every microbe in our publishing guts tells us that if we can present the state of scientific understanding from as wide a perspective as possible, our chances of getting readers to tune in, and turn up their own understanding of science, exponentially amplify.

Check out #TurnItUp science posts from our colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Press, Rutgers University Press, University Press of Colorado, Columbia University Press, University of Toronto Press, and University of Georgia Press.

On Peers (and peer review) in UP Publishing

Next month, the university press community will we set aside a week to celebrate peer review. The constructivism and altruism of peer review binds university presses, and undergirds our membership in the AUPresses, a guild of like structured and like minded publishers. In a moment of great volatility in the cultural and political respect for endeavors of knowledge and the imaginative, it is particularly poignant to amplify the understanding of peer review.

But there are other vital elements that define the AUPresses world, and peer is an operative term for many of them. These past few weeks have been marked by a convergence of strength and generosity among peer presses. While each university press will actively compete for authors, projects, and prestige, running like a rhizome through our community is a spirit of meaningful collaboration. Our partnerships define our imprimaturs as much as our peer review does. Upon learning of the tragic destruction of the collections of the National Museum of Rio, an epicenter of scholarship and pedagogy in Latin America, over 70 university presses have come together to rebuild the collections lost in the fire; well over a thousand Readup titles will soon be en route to Rio.

BiblioUniversity, a self created information exchange, is helping numerous presses endure the transitions of title management system changes to share best practices for the alignment of new scales and capacities of technology with our unique publishing sensibilities. A group of east coast Readup marketers and publicists shared creativity and conversations in a self-organized, day-long retreat in New York in September, and the energy radiated back to each of our presses.

At the Brooklyn Bookfest, visitors enjoyed a scavenger hunt among university presses, which took them booth to booth at the fair, and lead to a pot of university press gold- aka a tote bag with ReadUp books.

As I have traveled this month from Dartmouth College to advise on the future of their press, to Duke UP to learn about their aspirations for the coming decades, I have carried with me the generosity and inspiration of university press peers. If there is anything Darwinian about the university press world, it is not “red in tooth and claw”, but rather a living demonstration of the role of healthy communities in evolution and long-term sustainability. In every niche is a peer, and PUP is fortunate to be inspired by all of them.

Christie Henry on the Ecosystem of University Presses

 

Adapted from a presentation given at UGA by Christie Henry, Director, Princeton University Press

I have had the incredible fortune of living in the university press ecosystem for several decades, having moved in the fall of ‘17 to Princeton University Press, after twenty-four years with inspiring colleagues at the University of Chicago Press. University presses and the universities with which we partner are part of what I would describe as a metacommunity of ideas and knowledge—that is, a set of interacting communities linked by the dispersal of multiple, potentially interacting species.

Publishers do like to interact with species of students and academics; in fact we depend on these interactions. And it’s quite well known that each of our ecosystems draws resilience and sustainability from one another; most often our relationships are mutualisms.

As within ecosystems, there are vital nutrients that flow through our systems, among the most important of which is knowledge. Universities are the deep-sea thermal vents of knowledge, pumping it out in amazing quantities at highly concentrated sites. And university presses help create a pelagic zone for this knowledge, putting it into circulation across the globe.

Like organic nutrients, knowledge is created, consumed, processed, recycled. And we must be aware of its potential to get stuck in dead zones, or in massive clumps of plastic debris. As a vital nutrient, knowledge is also essential for us to conserve, ideally to grow.

Currently our ecosystems are facing unprecedented climate change—we can consider it our own Anthropocene. How we define “anthro” in this case varies. But we certainly don’t want to be having conversations years from now about how to clone an extinct idea or population of knowledge, much as we are now having conversations about cloning mammoths and other extinct fauna.

Strategic plans for conservation depend on an understanding of threats and challenges, and especially the climate disrupters. Those inhabiting our ecosystems will find this overview familiar terrain, I suspect, but I think it’s important to trace the contours of our current stressed landscape.

The worlds of research and knowledge are experiencing fluctuations in funding that are as erratic as global temperatures, though not trending on an increase as global temperatures are. Just as increased snowfall doesn’t negate the reality of global warming, we know that increases in the population in higher education don’t mean our system is showing signs of health and well-being. Reductions in funding, and university budgets, have run like a rhizome through our communities, have disrupted library budgets, and in the university press world have resulted in events such as the recent University Press of Kentucky battle for survival under proposed state government cuts.

We have seen massive influxes of what I could call invasive species—those that disrupt or harm our systems, the economy, and even human health. Email, many say, is one of these species. So is fake news. So too is the volume of information, which is impacting attention span, and certainly causing some concern among book publishers of all species.  Some of these influxes are leading to an extinction of time, and this has a ripple effect, with impacts on critical system operations like peer review. And even if altruism has been recognized in dolphins and scrub jays, we know there are limits. There is less time for writing, and for reading. Though some positive trends outside of the academy point to growth of reading time, it’s not necessarily time spent with books, or with long-form writing.

There are also arguably more predatory species in our communities, from rapacious journals to those attempting to extract nutrients from our systems: the tyrannical form of the assault on higher ed. And some of these predators are known to live in the Amazon, but this verdant jungle is also important to visit from time to time for all that it harbors.

We know that species diversity drives ecosystem health and stability, and another threat is the lack of diversity in our ecosystems. We are at risk of genetic bottlenecks, those major events that decrease diversity and the gene pool—immigration legislation is among the most acute recent examples.

There are pressures to grow the reach of our ecosystems, our nutrient output, while at the same time reducing incoming nutrients. Open access expectations in the book world pose one of these pressures for university presses. So does the tenure and credentialing process in those disciplines that quantify book output as a key metric.

Okay, enough of the gloom and doom. Many historical moments of massive disruption are followed by a burst of evolutionary adaptations that lead to greater diversity. And I think there is a chance we are now in our own Cambrian Explosion, amidst great radiations of knowledge and books. We will need to be intentional about supporting and preserving these ecosystems.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribunewas titled “University Presses Deserve Protection,” much as ecosystems around the world need conservation and management.

Another recent publication from the science literature shifted the foci of biodiversity from mass of species to the diversity of functional traits of species in an ecosystem as a measure of resilience. This study focused on pufferfish, and one could argue we have some of these swimming in our collective waters. But universities are growing innumerable new functional traits, as are university presses. I’d argue we in the AUP world were preadapted to this need for an array of functional traits, as our lists of book species are diverse—we publish course books, textbooks, popular books, reference works, regional works, and monographs. And we as a community function much like a honeybee democracy, which in the face of threats takes the form of an incredible superorganism—without needing to sting.

New modes of communication have also increased outlets for knowledge sharing, and we just need to learn the best ways to research and curate these. Blogs have become a flagship species in our ecosystems, inspiring books, and have provided new platforms. There was a great article in Natureyesterday about the first science conference proceedings published in graphic form, a genre we all know could benefit from evolutionary change.

Libraries and publishers are working to coevolve, crafting aggregations of content, and partnering on joint publications and initiatives.

Some evolution is at a slower pace, in the best of ways. The price of university press books in real dollars, accounting for inflation, has not increased in measurable ways at all. The nonprofit mission and ethos have been in a state of equilibrium, only rarely punctuated.

Technology is leading not just to artificial intelligence, but to new and real knowledge. Open peer review is using technology to bring in a wider range of reviewers, particularly more global ones. A recent great example is Bit by Bit: Social Science Research in the Digital Age:author and sociologist Matt Salganik worked with the Sloan Foundation to create the Open Review Toolkit. This platform facilitated feedback from around the world, at various scales, and generated a database of interested readers.

Technology has also helped to grow our landscapes, to aid in bringing our content to readers the world over on new platforms. New digital initiatives, from digital humanities, sciences, and social sciences, are animating scholarship, and the book.

And publishers are also focusing on the diversity of species—of readers, of authors, of reviewers—and that will ultimately drive our resilience, as it will the university’s ecosystem.

There are many compelling reasons to be part of the circulation and exchange between our linked metacommunities.

As I think about a field guide for those of you coming new to the AUP land, there are a number of entries in the field guide index I would point you to:

  1. Find your niche. Know your audience, especially the difference between a dissertation committee and a book readership.
  2. Look for conspecifics. Identify those species of books that are like yours, as there is strength in being part of a family. And then see where those species tend to gather, under which imprints.
  3. Think about your plumage. This includes your proposal, a vital signaling tool, but also your platform. What type of author species are you? What are the novel traits you contribute to the ecosystem? We look for functional diversity on our lists. But we are increasingly looking for how well your plumage works in the world—what we call your platform. Social media, while causing a lot of information overflow, has also become a vital signaling tool in the world of publishing—for scholarly and trade alike. Many of the signaling forms of earlier geologic eras, like print advertising, are not resonating—they are being replaced with Altmetric badges and Twitter followers, and these new efforts depend on partnerships between presses and authors.
  4. Think like bowerbird. Look for the houses that are constructed and decorated in ways that sing to you. Each publisher has its own niche, and we usually do a pretty good job of signaling that ourselves. Visit websites; visit booths in exhibit halls. And your journey should explore not just the construct of our houses, but how we get our birdsong out into the world—are we visible? are our prices reasonable? do we appear on syllabi? are our books translated widely?
  5. Sensory ecology is a wonderfully exciting field. Embrace the ways in which you can adapt this to publishing. Listen to your peers; listen to yourselves as you teach, and the books you use. Listen for the authors and books that are being mentioned in your own niche.
  6. Circulate like plankton. Find ways to share your ideas. If at conferences, be sure to test them out with publishers on-site. Though also be mindful of the conservation of energy rule for publishers—try to make sure the engagement is focused and meaningful.
  7. Be active foragers—do your research. There is so much information on press websites about their own DNA. Their priorities, strengths, weaknesses. The more you can align your approach to these strengths, the better.
  8. Be clear signaler, not stealth like anglerfish. Communicate with publishers with clarity and transparency, from the proposal to the project’s main hook, to your aspirations as an author, to the way to engage your readers with story.
  9. Prepare to be challenged by your conspecifics and your competitors. Peer review is critical by nature, but it also evolves stronger life-forms of books.
  10. Be a patient species—we know the book world sometimes seems to move at geologic time scales, but the results can be structures as magnificent and multilayered as the Grand Canyon.
  11. You may also occasionally need the tenacity of a bulldog.
  12. And nothing ignites the senses better than reading or listening to books—please make time to do so. It’s the best way to find models for different forms of writing, and to support the ecosystem with which you are now coevolving as academics.

Another reference to a recent article in Nature:

“Ecological theory suggests that large-scale patterns such as community stability can be influenced by changes in interspecific interactions that arise from the behavioral and/or physiological responses of individual species varying over time.“ Please be those individual species that respond and behave in ways that will stabilize knowledge, and so too the evolution of the book.

 

Christie Henry talks with Hanna Gray for International Women’s Day

This post is a transcribed excerpt from a forthcoming Open Stacks podcast interview.

I couldn’t be more fortunate to be in the company of Hanna Gray, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago and Jeff Deutsch, director of the seminary co-op. As a proud member of the University of Chicago diaspora, I am in awe and admiration of these two individuals, whose integrity and erudition animate the scholarly culture. We meet on the occasion of the imminent publication of Professor Gray’s memoir, An Academic Life. Professor Gray and I overlapped briefly in 1993 as inhabitants of the 5801 Ellis Avenue Building, now Levi Hall. At the time, the University of Chicago Press occupied two floors of the building, and the University Administration was on the fifth floor. Two months after I joined the Press, Professor Gray stepped away from the presidency. But the resonance of her leadership endured for the entire 25 years I was on campus. She was the first European born and woman to lead the University of Chicago. As our paths intersect again, I now have the privilege of being the first woman to Direct Princeton University Press, and in that capacity, also to be the publisher of Professor Gray’s forthcoming memoir. I have savored reading the pages of this work and learning more about the fortitude and intelligence she used to shape experiences for so many of us at USC and throughout the world.

GrayChristie: We could use hours of conversation given that so many themes of our discussion—particularly the investment in thought and the benefits gained from communal thinking—are resonating beautifully. I wanted to ask you about on the privilege and responsibilities of being first. You were the first European born president of the University of Chicago as well as the first female provost at Yale and first female president at Chicago. You talk about these opportunities that you have had as you being in the right place at the right time. And I think that that’s often the way I have described my own narrative, as I too have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But if one of the responsibilities we carry is to try to create that right place and right time for others to enjoy these opportunities—and especially now as we’re thinking about how to intentionally diversify the demographics of publishing and of the university—what were some of your experiences of creating those right places and right times? Consider this my plea for advice as to how to be intentional and less serendipitous in creating opportunities for others.

Hanna: I’m the first European born president of the University of Chicago but we haven’t had a lot of presidents. So it’s not the biggest deal right? [laughs] I think my work at Yale was more complicated because it was a very early stage in the coeducation of Yale. Women wanted to be seen so much as integral parts of the university, but there were not a lot of women—to put it mildly—on the faculty.

The women surrounding the university wanted things to happen very quickly. And obviously my role was to be concerned for the whole university not only for those who were women.

And at the same time, I felt that I could understand the situation of women much more than my male colleagues had over the years, and obviously a lot needed to be done at Yale. And so there was always this tension between my knowing that and working to address it. And the sense on the part of many women was that not enough was being done because they hoped for almost overnight change, which is of course impossible. I mean, you know how appointments are made in institutions and obviously as provost or President, as I was briefly, you can only do so much. It’s not you who make the appointments. You could encourage appointments you can allocate appointments, but you shouldn’t have quota systems. Rather you have to wait until those opportunities come up and you have to prioritize and so on and so forth. It was very difficult for women who saw themselves as competent. Why was there not for them a position in the history of art, as an art historian so well-trained and so ready to be a member of a good department? But there were no places. There were no positions in that area. Those kinds of issues were there all the time. And so the question of pace was a very big question and I think I made a difference.

We made a slow difference, but that slow difference obviously was not satisfying to those who didn’t benefit from it. And that is an issue that one confronts as one hopes to make a difference. Institutions that move slowly move slowly in part because that’s their way. They don’t know how to run. But that moves slowly also because process is so important and people need to feel things have been done fairly and appropriately and according to policies and rules that everybody understands and has one hopes been a part of shaping. Now when I came back to the University of Chicago, the situation was very different.

Chicago, of course, has always been a coeducational institution that had women on the faculty from day one. But the extraordinary thing about the University of Chicago, which speaks to the larger history of women in higher education in America, was that the percentage of women on the faculty when I became president was no larger than it had been on the opening day of the university. That was an extraordinary fact and it was something I had seen in my own earlier time at the university where I was, I think, one of the first women to be appointed to her husband’s department.

There were some obstructions to women’s progress within the university. There were some women on the faculty, of course, but none of them were in the sciences except for medicine. But even there, there weren’t so many. And I think I was one of—I forget, how many—five, in the social sciences altogether. And then, one of only two tenured female faculty at some point. We did make steady progress because the institution had made, I think, an institutional determination that these figures were ridiculous and they did not represent “our” institution, which prides itself on going against the tide. Chicago recognizes merit where merit is due, and it should certainly be doing just that. It wasn’t always smooth progress and it certainly did not involve quotas of any kind, but we steadily did increase the number of women. And I think that having a woman president was a help in that respect. And I think once again, my responsibility was for the whole institution and for being sure that the appropriate appointments were made and other policies were followed. There was clearly some weight to the kind of encouragement. And you know, just the fact of being a woman made a difference.

Check this space later this month to listen to the complete interview on Open Stacks.

 

Christie Henry: Celebrating Black History Month

This month we celebrate the altruism and insights of the educator Carter Woodson, and his enduring legacy, which includes the creation of Black History Month. We are grateful for the opportunity as a publisher to underscore our commitment to promote work that informs and ignites conversations about the African American experience, and to honor PUP authors such as Edwidge Danticat, who encourages her readers to “Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously…. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.”

During this month’s reflection and celebration, we also take stock of our responsibility and aspirations as a publisher of a diverse and engaging library. We strive for inclusivity, as does the university community we inhabit. We can deploy, with intentionality, the power of books to encourage further growth and inquiry. Fellow publisher Chris Jackson eloquently remarked in an address to the Association of University Presses (and reprinted in What Editors Do):

“I believe in book publishing, in its capacity to help us all retrace our paths back into history, to see the present in all its complexity, and to imagine different futures. To do that we have to build a publishing industry—at all levels of publishing—that honors the potential, the complexity, and the fullness of the world itself.”

In sharing with you, our partners in this publishing endeavor, books of great pride and import that we have published in recent years about African and the African-American experience specifically, I also want to underscore, as PUP’s new director, born in the Cote D’Ivoire in a Baoule community, how vital it is to our mission to embrace this fullness of the world, and its every complexity. To further quote from Mr. Jackson, and in admiration of his publishing ethos,

“When we expand the range of the industry’s gatekeepers, we expand the range of our storytelling, which expands our ability to see each other, to talk and listen to each other, and to understand each other.”

This month, as we do throughout the year, we will invest our human and fiscal capital in cultivating books that lead to understanding and inspire smarter listening. We also invite your ideas; as Princeton University professor emerita Toni Morrison has elegantly challenged the writerly world,

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” 

Announcing Princeton University Press Scholarship Online in collaboration with Oxford University Press

October 19, 2017. Princeton University Press is delighted to launch Princeton University Press Scholarship Online (PRSO) in collaboration with Oxford University Press and the University Press Scholarship Online platform. Continuing our mission to advance and enrich global conversation, we join an esteemed group of our peer university presses in this evolving digital initiative that will increase the discoverability of and engagement with our titles by academic libraries and research institutions throughout the world.

Our initial launch includes over 400 new and backlist titles across disciplines including anthropology, biology, economics, history, mathematics, physics, political science, religion, and sociology. The extent of PUP offerings is expected to grow annually, with the ongoing addition of works from our diverse publication programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Oxford first launched University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) in 2011 in collaboration with five other presses with the goal of creating an intelligent online platform to house thousands of high-quality scholarly works from the best presses in the world. PUP will be the 25th press to join this exciting collaboration.

Princeton University Press, established in 1905, is an independent, not for profit publisher with close ties to Princeton University, including an Editorial Board appointed from the faculty of the University. Our publishing program includes works by more than 50 Nobel Prize winners and dozens of renowned series including the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson; Monographs in Population Biology; The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts; and the Princeton Science Library. Princeton University Press is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in Oxford and Beijing.