University Press Week: Behind the Scenes with Sara Lerner

#UpWeek

In honor of University Press Week, we have featured interviews with members of the Princeton University Press community for the past five days. Last but not least, Sara Lerner, Senior Production Editor, talks about the production department, “the power behind the throne”, and how she got her foot in the door at the Press.

How did you get your start in publishing?

I was working in a Borders bookstore as inventory manager.  In that position, I sometimes received letters from publishers and I got one from the inimitable Steve Ballinger, long-time sales rep here at PUP.  For years I’d been a huge fan of the (now defunct) Mythos series so I was familiar with and already fond of PUP, and I ended up writing, basically, a job-begging letter to Steve.  He was kind enough to pass my letter and resume on to the publicity director, who was hiring.  She called me for an interview…and I got in!

Often I’ve heard people say that production is the one department that remains shrouded in mystery for them.  As a production editor, can you shed some light on the day to day work you do?

Everyone in production works very much behind the scenes, so I’m not surprised!  Plus, production is a large department including production editors, production coordinators, and also the digital production group; we all do different things. In a very general sense, what a production editor does is keep everything on schedule, keep track of bits-and-bobs, and keep turning pages (electronically or in hardcopy).  When a project arrives in our in-boxes from the acquisitions department, it’s in many pieces – there are text files of course, and probably also image or table files.  If something is missing – say, the acknowledgments section, or 5 photos, etc. – we need to track it down and make sure it’s in our hot little hands in good time, so that the book will come out as scheduled.  We code, for design purposes, literally every single paragraph of text in every single manuscript before sending the project off to a freelance copyeditor we’ve hand-picked for that manuscript; and we turn all the pages again, at every stage down the road, just checking things over.  We don’t actually read every word, but we need to keep our eyes open for errors as we glance over each page.  Is “Nietzsche” spelt correctly?  Does a photo look too dark in the page proofs?  We keep checking and turning pages until everything (hopefully!) is in place and correct…and then at last the files are sent to the printer.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

The variety of material.  I love working on a collection of Roman love poems one day, and later a book about how the brain works, or Turkish history.  Even though the mechanics of the job might be the same for each project, each project has its own stimulating “issues” (do you have to make sure the Ethiopic script comes through correctly, or make sure the math equations are formatted right?) and, let’s be honest, we publish some really fascinating topics!

In your many years of engaging closely with manuscripts, have you had a favorite project?

That’s very difficult to say.  I’ve worked in production editorial for 16 years, so yes, that’s a long list to choose from.  I might enjoy a project because the author is so lovely to work with, or the subject is particularly enthralling, or the manuscript presents some intriguing difficulties to work through.  Still, one of my favourite projects is Jack Zipes’s Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.  I’ve been reading fairy tales forever, and I remember reading collections by Jack Zipes when I was in high school, so working with him (as I have several times, now) has been a tremendous highlight.  He’s such a pleasure!  Besides which, the book offers exciting never-before-published-in English stories; and we commissioned some magnificent illustrations specifically for our volume, so the physical book itself is gorgeous.  I feel proud to have been involved with it.

What would you have been if not a production editor?

Well, I started at PUP in publicity but, frankly, that wasn’t a great fit, so I can’t say I would have been a publicist!  I really do prefer quiet, behind-the-scenes work…the power behind the throne!  I’m interested in book composition; I could see myself having gone in that direction.

Sara Lerner on the job

Sara Lerner peeks out from behind The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing

 

University Press Week: Behind the scenes with Maria Lindenfeldar

#UpWeek

In honor of University Press Week, we’ve been featuring interviews and posts with members of the Princeton University Press community. Today, Maria Lindenfeldar, Creative Director, shares some thoughts on the tension between the personal element of creative work and the practical requirements of a job in design:

Maria LindenfeldarHow long have you worked in design and how did you enter publishing?

I have worked in some form of art and design since college. My explorations have included: painting, architecture, art history, and interior design. I finally honed in on graphic design in my late twenties while working as a writer in the marketing department of a benefits consulting firm—our proposals were great to read but needed help with how they looked! From there, I discovered the subfield of book design and have been in love with it ever since.

How is working in design for a publishing company unique from other industries?

In my experience, publishing attracts smart, engaged, and idealistic people in a proportion greater than other industries.

Your title is creative director. Can you describe what your work encompasses?

A joke among designers is that the higher you rise on the creative ladder, the narrower your toolkit becomes, ultimately requiring just one tool: email. There’s some truth to that. I no longer design books on a regular basis and most of my day is spent keeping multiple balls in the air. On its most basic level, I see my job as that of a facilitator. I am lucky to work with incredibly talented artists who are able to bring physical form to an idea. My role is to make sure that they have the information they need to do that to the best of their abilities. This requires an open forum for discussing ideas and a firm commitment to the value of multiple opinions. Everyone involved in the creative process—editors, authors, designers, sales, marketing, publicity—has something to contribute, and my job is to sustain an environment where that can happen. I am proud of the award-winning results our collective efforts produce.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love looking at the finished catalog each season, admiring the beautiful book jackets, and thinking about how we can be even better next time.

What’s the most difficult aspect?

By far, the most difficult aspect is the inherent tension between the personal element of creative work and the practical requirements of the job. To make beautiful and original things, a designer has to invest herself or himself, drawing from a deep well of visual references and experience. In its best form, the alchemy of the design process is magical and surprising even to the maker. The hard reality (and the most difficult thing to explain to less-experienced designers) is that even great and innovative designs get rejected, sometimes for very good reasons. The design approval process is a real-life extension of the art school critique system; it requires sharing ideas and depersonalizing feedback. On the job, the never-ending challenge is to digest commentary, determine what is useful, and incorporate that into the final product. I think everyone should go to art school—it forces you to develop a thick skin!

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to break into the field?

Be honest with yourself. Don’t go into graphic design because you think it’s a “practical” career with more guarantees than say, life as an artist. It’s not—it’s competitive and difficult. On the flip side, if you are passionate about art and ideas and are willing to work hard, there will be a place for you. To find out more about the field, take a really good typography course at an art school. Many of the designers I admire have broad educations in disciplines as varied as philosophy, music, and film. What they all have in common is that they are good conceptual thinkers who love type.

Any career paths you’d have pursued in an alternate universe?

I was a government major who planned to be a lawyer. Go figure!

Bird Fact Friday — Resourceful Birds

From page 132 of Bird Brain:

A famous fable attributed to Aesop is “The Crow and the Pitcher.” A thirsty crow comes across a pitcher of water, but the water is so low that she cannot reach it with her beak. She comes up with the idea of adding stones to the pitcher to bring the water higher where she can reach it. In studies that recreate these conditions with crows, it has been found that they are intelligent enough to figure out how to do this in real life. In fact, they quickly figure out that adding large stones to the pitcher will bring the water up faster than small stones.

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
Nathan Emery
With a foreword by Frans de Waal
Introduction

EmeryBirds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Kenneth Rogoff: India’s Currency Exchange and The Curse of Cash

RogoffToday in our blog series by Kenneth Rogoff, author of The Curse of Cash, Rogoff discusses the controversy over India’s currency exchange. Read other posts in the series here.

On the same day that the United States was carrying out its 2016 presidential election, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced on national TV that the country’s two highest-denomination notes, the 500 and 1000 rupee (worth roughly $7.50 and $15.00) would no longer be legal tender by midnight that night, and that citizens would have until the end of the year to surrender their notes for new ones. His stated aim was to fight “black money”: cash used for tax evasion, crime, terror, and corruption. It was a bold, audacious move to radically alter the mindset of an economy where less than 2% of citizens pay income tax, and where official corruption is endemic.

MOTIVATION SAME AS IN THE CURSE OF CASH

Is India following the playbook in The Curse of Cash? On motivation, yes, absolutely. A central theme of the book is that whereas advanced country citizens still use cash extensively (amounting to about 10% of the value of all transactions in the United States), the vast bulk of physical currency is held in the underground economy, fueling tax evasion and crime of all sorts. Moreover, most of this cash is held in the form of large denomination notes such as the US $100 that are increasingly unimportant in legal, tax-compliant transactions. Ninety-five percent of Americans never hold $100s, yet for every man, woman and child there are 34 of them. Paper currency is also a key driver of illegal immigration and corruption. The European Central Bank recently began phasing out the 500 euro mega-note over these concerns, partly because of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

BUT SETTING AND IMPLEMENTATION IS VASTLY DIFFERENT

On implementation, however, India’s approach is radically different, in two fundamental ways. First, I argue for a very gradual phase-out, in which citizens would have up to seven years to exchange their currency, but with the exchange made less convenient over time. This is the standard approach in currency exchanges. For example this is how the European swapped out legacy national currencies (e.g the deutschmark and the French franc) during the introduction of the physical euro fifteen years ago. India has given people 50 days, and the notes are of very limited use in the meantime. The idea of taking big notes out of circulation at short notice is hardly new, it was done in Europe after World War II for example, but as a peacetime move it is extremely radical. Back in the 1970s, James Henry suggested an idea like this for the United States (see my October 26 new blog on his early approach to the big bills problem). Here is what I say there about doing a fast swap for the United States instead of the very gradual one I recommend:

 “(A very fast) swap plan absolutely merits serious discussion, but there might be significant problems even if the government only handed out small bills for the old big bills. First, there are formidable logistical problems to doing anything quickly, since at least 40% of U.S. currency is held overseas. Moreover, there is a fine line between a snap currency exchange and a debt default, especially for a highly developed economy in peacetime. Foreign dollar holders especially would feel this way. Finally, any exchange at short notice would be extremely unfair to people who acquired their big bills completely legally but might not keep tabs on the news.

In general, a slow gradual currency swap would be far less disruptive in an advanced economy, and would leave room for dealing with unanticipated and unintended consequences. One idea, detailed in The Curse of Cash, is to allow people to exchange their expiring large bills relatively conveniently for the first few years (still subject to standard anti-money-laundering reporting requirements), then over time make it more inconvenient by accepting the big notes at ever fewer locations and with ever stronger reporting requirements.

Second, my approach eliminates large notes entirely. Instead of eliminating the large notes, India is exchanging them for new ones, and also introducing a larger, 2000-rupee note, which are also being given in exchange for the old notes.

MY PLAN IS EXPLICITLY TAILORED TO ADVANCED ECONOMIES

The idea in The Curse of Cash of eliminating large notes and not replacing them is not aimed at developing countries, where the share of people without effective access to banking is just too large. In the book I explain how a major part of any plan to phase out large notes must include a significant component for financial inclusion. In the United States, the poor do not really rely heavily on $100 bills (virtually no one in the legal economy does) and as long as smaller bills are around, the phase out of large notes should not be too much of a problem, However, the phaseout of large notes is golden opportunity to advance financial inclusion, in the first instance by giving low income individuals access to free basic debt accounts. The government could use these accounts to make transfers, which would in turn be a major cost saving measure. But in the US, only 8% of the population is unbanked. In Colombia, the number is closer to 50% and, by some accounts, it is near 90% in India. Indeed, the 500 rupee note in India is like the $10 or $20 bill in the US and is widely used by all classes, so India’s maneuver is radically different than my plan. (That said, I appreciate that the challenges are both different and greater, and the long-run potential upside also much higher.)

Indeed, developing countries share some of the same problems and the corruption and counterfeiting problem is often worse. Simply replacing old notes with new ones does have a lot of beneficial effects similar to eliminating large notes. Anyone turning in large amounts of cash still becomes very vulnerable to legal and tax authorities. Indeed that is Modi’s idea. And criminals have to worry that if the government has done this once, it can do it again, making large notes less desirable and less liquid. And replacing notes is also a good way to fight counterfeiting—as The Curse of Cash explains, it is a constant struggle for governments to stay ahead of counterfeiters, as for example in the case of the infamous North Korean $100 supernote.

Will Modi’s plan work? Despite apparent huge holes in the planning (for example, the new notes India is printing are a different size and do not fit the ATM machines), many economists feel it could still have large positive effects in the long-run, shaking up the corruption, tax evasion, and crime that has long crippled the country. But the long-run gains depend on implementation, and it could take years to know how history will view this unprecedented move.

THE GOAL IS A LESS-CASH SOCIETY NOT A CASHLESS ONE

In The Curse of Cash, I argue that it will likely be necessary to have a physical currency into the far distant future, but that society should try to better calibrate the use of cash. What is happening in India is an extremely ambitious step in that direction, of a staggering scale that is immediately affecting 1.2 billion people. The short run costs are unfolding, but the long-run effects on India may well prove more than worth them, but it is very hard to know for sure at this stage.

Kenneth S. Rogoff, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (Princeton). He appears frequently in the national media and writes a monthly newspaper column that is syndicated in more than fifty countries. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Find Kenneth Rogoff on Twitter: @krogoff

 

 

 

 

 

University Press Week: Thoughts on Cultural Mission

Ingram Academic Services is celebrating University Press Week with a series of videos on the cultural obligation university presses fulfill in our society. Hear some thoughts from Associate Publishing Director Al Bertrand on Princeton University Press’s role in informing public discourse, along with reflections from others in our publishing community.

 

Day 1 – University Presses share a cultural obligation to society. We are making voices heard.

Featuring Fordham University Press, University of Illinois Press, University of Michigan Press, and Georgetown University Press

Day 2 – University Presses influence and inform the intellectual conversation.

Featuring NYU Press, Duke University Press, Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Princeton University Press, and National Academies Press

Day 3 – University Presses support local communities and local culture, and likewise bridge scholarship globally.

Featuring Rutgers University Press, Columbia University Press, West Virginia University Press, Fordham University Press, Ooligan Press, University of Nebraska Press, University of Illinois Press, University Press of Mississippi, and Square Books

 

University Press Week: Behind the scenes with Stephanie Rojas

#UpWeek

In honor of University Press Week, we’re featuring interviews and posts with members of the Princeton University Press community all week. Next, Stephanie Rojas, Marketing & Social Media Associate, talks about her role at PUP:

Stephanie RojasAs the Marketing & Social Media Associate at Princeton University Press, I work in two departments: copywriting and social media. My duties for copywriting include requesting copy approval from authors, soliciting Author Promotion Forms, writing copy for our paperback titles, and aggregating our marketing plans for each book into a letter format to be sent to our authors. As a member of the social media department, I write blog posts and edit original content from our authors, contribute to our social media accounts, and help brainstorm social media campaigns.

For me, one of the most rewarding things so far has been building our new Instagram account from the ground up. Before we launched the account on September 1, I took hundreds of photographs of our books, the office, and Princeton University in preparation. I made lists of popular hashtags, ideas for how we could get the most out of the application, and accounts we could follow with the help of colleagues in publicity, design, editorial, and sales. Coming up with new ideas, executing them, and seeing how our followers respond has been a really fun part of my job. I can’t wait for everyone to see what we have planned later in the season!

I came to this position very deliberately. After studying history at Boston University and interning at Candlewick Press, I made the decision to earn an MA in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College. I took courses in all the departments in publishing and added two more internships to my résumé—one at Beacon Press and another at the New England Quarterly. I also spent some time working as an assistant at Kneerim, Williams & Bloom, a Boston-based literary agency. Graduate degree in hand, I knew that I wanted to work in marketing or publicity at an academic publisher. I started at PUP in April 2015, and when I had been working here for a few weeks I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I look forward to continuing to work in academic publishing and getting the word out about the great books we publish here!

UP Week blog tour: Staff Spotlights roundup

#UpWeek

All week on our blog we’ll be featuring profiles of some of our PUP colleagues in editorial, production, publicity, social media, design, and more. If you didn’t catch them earlier, check out posts from copywriter Theresa Liu and the head of our European office, Caroline Priday, from earlier this week. Today we’re pleased to feature a roundup of links to posts from our friends in the wider university press and bookselling community:

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Wayne State University Press

University of Washington Press

University Press of Mississippi

University of Wisconsin Press

Johns Hopkins University Press

University of Chicago Press

Purdue University Press

University Press Week: Behind the Scenes with Eric Henney

#UpWeek

In honor of University Press Week, we’re featuring interviews and posts from members of the Princeton University Press community all week. Today, Eric Henney, a new editor of physical, earth, and computer science, shares insight on succeeding in the publishing industry:

Eric HenneyPublishing is cool. Obviously it’s appealing to be able to work on the ideas that shape the future, and it also carries some caché. The competition for entry-level jobs in a cool industry is tough enough, but in publishing it’s tougher still, because publishing is a generally shrinking industry.

So getting your first job in publishing is really hard. Intensified competition has made all varieties of publishing houses pickier about their job requirements. (Most editorial assistants I know are overqualified in reality, but barely so on paper.) This has created an entry-level bootstrapping problem: entry-level jobs now require experience that applicants likely won’t have.

If you want a good chance at landing a job (this is certainly not a given), you can travel a prescribed path: intern at the best publishing companies you can while you’re in college, likely for free and preferably a few times. Network aggressively. Be willing to take dozens of people out for coffee. Travel to them if you can; talk by phone if you must. But make sure you’re doing it once or twice a week. Move to New York. Pretend you live there already, if you have to. Enroll in a publishing program that has ties to good publishing companies. Loans can help finance you. Your network takes time to cultivate, so begin this process by sophomore year of college.

If you fail to accomplish any of this, you might feel that you’ve boxed yourself out of publishing. There’s some truth to that. When you send your applications into the vortex of a Big Five job portal, you shouldn’t expect a response if you don’t have a couple years of experience already.

This trend in entry-level hiring isn’t at all surprising, but it is suspect. Yes, networking is important. But there are good reasons that publishing doesn’t have an actual professional schooling system, like medicine. Being a good doctor is a matter of knowing enough to not kill a person once you’ve cut them open. Publishing is thankfully a little looser than that, and belonging in this world involves less obviously measurable qualifications, like creativity and curiosity.

I’ve been at PUP for four years. It’s the first formal publishing experience I have. I landed here after more than a year of office temping, substitute teaching, freelance writing for entertainment and parenting blogs (note: I am not a parent), and unsuccessful job hunting. My degree is in philosophy, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it after I graduated. All I really knew was that I needed to work with smart and interesting people and that I didn’t want to be an academic. I started as an assistant, working for then-political science editor Chuck Myers (now at Chicago) and then-physics editor Ingrid Gnerlich (now PUP’s publisher for the sciences in Europe). I think I landed the interview because I stayed in touch with the permissions coordinator, who had interviewed me a few months earlier, when I applied to be his assistant. I do not know why I got the job, and I do not think it wise to ask. But I know it came down to something other than years of experience in publishing, because I had none.

I worked really hard to get up to speed. But I knew it was not at all a given that I could do it. All I could really promise was that I really did like ideas and I really did like sharing them with other people. As it turns out, that, in combination with the modest administrative experience I actually did have, was enough. Over the last four years I’ve taken on the increasingly large responsibilities offered by the Press, and this year I was made a full editor in the sciences.
University presses maintain a unique publishing ethos, one which acknowledges that the typical path into publishing is anything but. I suspect that will endure regardless of what the rest of publishing looks like. And that’s one of the things that makes them special.

Cass Sunstein: A sneak peek at #Republic

Forthcoming in March 2017, Cass Sunstein’s new book, #Republic speaks to our heightened state of internet-driven polarization. Arguing that social media sorts us into like-minded groups, causing political fragmentation and even extremism, Sunstein proposes practical and legal changes to make the Internet friendlier to democratic deliberation. Today on Facebook, he shared a snapshot of a section of his page proofs addressing the 2016 presidential election:

Sunstein

Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School. His many books include the New York Times bestsellers Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler) and The World According to Star Wars. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Frankfurt Book Fair by the Numbers

As a global publisher actively expanding our international community, Princeton University Press was proud to send an entourage of 12 staff from the editorial, marketing, sales, and publicity teams to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair last month. A veritable grand dame of book fairs, Frankfurt lasts over a period of 5 days and this year received 227,000 visitors from the public and trade alike.

Frankfurt Book Fair

Jenny Redhead, Kim Williams, and Caroline Priday from PUP’s European office

Three plucky, courageous, some might say superhuman (I’ll stop there) colleagues from the International Rights team made the annual pilgrimage to the Buchmesse to share our latest and forthcoming titles with publishers and agents from around the world. The team presented forthcoming books from our Spring 2017 list in our beautifully designed rights guide by Heather Hansen from PUP’s design team.

IMG_0311

We exhausted our ability to speak while talking about our fabulous forthcoming books, so here is a Frankfurt by numbers for those of you who haven’t experienced the magic for yourselves:

  • 4 days of meetings
  • 90 appointments
  • 150 business cards
  • Publishers from 22 countries
  • 14: the highest number of people who turned up for one 30-minute meeting
  • 150 freshly printed rights guides
  • 30 new titles
  • 86 PUP books discussed
  • Umpteen coffees
  • 712: the number of pages in the longest book in the rights guide
  • 4: the number of cocktail parties we missed because we were in back to back appointments
  • 6: the number of copies of Welcome to the Universe that were stolen from the stand on the first day
  • Ten compliments on our fabulous cover designs
  • Three: the number of cheek kisses one is expected to offer to publishers in Europe, except in the UK where a firm handshake is quite friendly enough, thank you
  • One: the number of PUP rights professionals who got lost in the agent’s centre on the way to a meeting
  • 0: the number of times part of the stand fell on someone’s head (take that, Frankfurt 2014)
  • And 1 GLORIOUS lunch hour

What are your favourite book fair moments? We’d love to hear from you!

IMG_0309

–Kimberly Williams, International Rights Director