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.

UPress Week Blog Tour #TurnItUp History

The UPress Week blog tour continues today and we are ready to crank up the volume on History. Here’s what’s on the lineup: In the WLU Press blog post, Nil Santiáñez, author of the recently-published Wittgenstein’s Ethics and Modern Warfare, explores how the Great War impacted Wittgenstein’s philosophy. A post from The University of California Press celebrates the centenary of the Armistice of 1918 and focuses on the book’s main topics: The Western Woman Voter: The Women’s Suffrage Movement, Through the Perspective of the West – an excerpt taken from Shaped by the West, Volume 2: A History of North America from 1850 by William Deverell & Anne F. Hyde. For University of Nebraska Press, Jon K. Lauck, adjunct professor of history and political science at the University of South Dakota and the author of numerous books, will discuss the importance of Midwestern history. University of Alabama Press has published a roundup of new and forthcoming history books celebrating Alabama’s bicentennial in 2019. Rutgers University Press focuses on the recently-published history/memoir by acclaimed cultural historian H. Bruce Franklin titled Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War. University of Rochester Press has an interview with the author of their new book An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South, which uncovers the role of African American women in the design and construction of schools in the post-Reconstruction South. Beacon Press will be looking at their ReVisioning Amerian History and ReVisioning American History for Young Readers Series. University of Kansas Press will discuss (and celebrate!) the passion of military history readers by interviewing authors, critics and customers. At Harvard University Press, Executive Editor Lindsay Waters looks back on HUP’s hisory of publishing Bruno Latour. University of Georgia Press puts the spotlight on one of their newest series, Gender and Slavery, and its inaugural book, Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas. The series seeks to shed light on the gendered experience of enslavement including and beyond that of the United States, and the book takes on a new approach of sexuality, including discussions of sexuality as a means of resistance, that can help inform our present day. At University of Toronto Press, Editor Stephen Shapiro reflects on the vast range and the staying power of UTP’s publishing program in history. MIT Press has a Q&A with  longtime editor Roger Conover (who is retiring next year) and one of his authors Craig Dworkin, about his history at the MIT Press.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on the future of science publishing by our own Christie Henry!

UPress Week Blog Tour: #TurnItUp – The Neighborhood

Today’s blog tour focuses on “The Neighborhood” with a collection of insights from our esteemed colleagues on publishing in the field of regional studies, a key mission for many university presses. Over at the University of Manitoba Press, the coauthor of Rooster Town writes about how a Metis community living on the edge of Winnipeg was mapped-out by colonial powers, and his own effort to re-map the community over the six decades of its existence. Syracuse University Press features a post on publishing about central New York history, people, and culture. Over at Fordham University Press, Ron Howell, author of Boss of Black Brooklyn, discusses the changing neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. Northwestern University Press interviews Harvey Young, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Boston University about NU Press’s “Second to None” Chicago regional series, of which he is the founding series editor. University Press of Mississippi features a Q&A with Catherine Egley Waggoner and Laura Egley Taylor, the authors of Realizing Our Place: Real Southern Women in a Mythologized Land. Following Temple University Founder Russell Conwell’s ideas of Acres of Diamonds, Temple University Press mines riches in its backyard with a post on titles about Temple University, by Temple University Professors, and Temple University graduates. University of Alberta Press has a post on what it’s like to move into a neighborhood that was given a “zero” quality of life rating. University of Texas Press features an interview with Lance Scott Walker about his oral history of Houston Rap. University of Washington Press has a piece up on Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, by Ethan Hoffman and John McCoy, which won the Washington State Book Award in 1981 for its stark, sympathetic portrayal of life inside the maximum-security prison. Ohio State University Press has a behind-the-scenes look at Time and Change, a forthcoming book celebrating the University’s 150th year. University of Illinois Press is announcing their new regional trade imprint, Flame & Flight Books, which will tell the unknown stories of the heartland’s unique places, people, and culture. Rutgers University Press puts the focus on Walking Harlem by Karen Taborn, a book recently featured in a NYT’s roundup of walking tour books. Oregon State University Press has a post on The Columbus Day Storm of 1962, which remains the Pacific Northwest benchmark for severe windstorms in this era of climate change and weather uncertainty. Everyone who lived through it has a story, including journalist John Dodge, whose new book about the storm, A Deadly Wind, has sparked innumerable conversations. Columbia University Press discusses how presses can play a critical role in publishing books about the cities and regions in which they reside. Their post features excerpts from some of their newest and most popular publications about New York and its neighborhoods. University of Georgia Press is running a Q&A with Sandra Beasley, editor of Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Finally, University of Toronto Press has a post from Jane Kelly, Director of Sales and Marketing, who writes about connections to Toronto’s neighborhoods.

Stay tuned for more posts in the blog tour on Thursday and Friday.

UPress Week Blog Tour: #TurnItUp Politics

The book world is groaning under the weight of books on political expose and opinion, but University Press press books bring expertise, data and serious analysis to bear on an array of complex issues. The University of Chicago Press highlights a group of recent books that, taken together, offer considerable insight into American politics.  A post from Teachers College Press features a list of books on politics and education. A Q&A with Michael Lazzarra, author of Civil Obedience (Critical Human Rights series) about how dictatorships are supported by civilian complicity is featured by the University of Wisconsin Press. Rutgers University Press highlights three recent politics books: The Politics of Fame by Eric Burns and the reissues of classics Democracy Ancient and Modern by M.I. Finley and Echoes of the Marseillaise by Eric Hobsbawn. UBC Press describes their new Women’s Suffrage and the Struggle for Democracy series. Over at LSU Press, there’s a post about their new list dealing with contemporary social justice issues, pegged to Jim Crow’s Last Stand and the recent state vote to ban non-unanimous criminal jury verdicts. An interview with Dick Simpson and Betty O’Shaughnessy, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century can be found courtesy of the University of Kansas Press. Harriet Kim provides a selection of interesting politics titles that she recently brought back into print as part of the Heritage Book Project at the University of Toronto Press. A spotlight on two recent additions to our Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South series that focus on defining the white southern identity through politics can be found at the University of Georgia Press. Last but not least, The University of Virginia Press is publishing an updated edition of Trump’s First Year and has published a post describing the creation of that book and the preparation of a new edition covering year two, up through the recent midterms.

Stay tuned for more in this lineup of #TurnItUP posts throughout the week.

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.

#ReadUP at the Brooklyn Book Festival

The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York City. Every year, national and international literary stars, publishers, booksellers, and many others gather to celebrate books and literature, attracting thousands of book lovers of all ages. This year, it takes place on Sunday, September 16, 2018 from 10am to 6pm. In honor of the festival, we are excited to announce a university press scavenger hunt in collaboration with some of our fellow UP’s in New York and New Jersey. Enter to win a book from each participating UP (listed below), a tote bag, and more! 

How It Works

Stop by the booth of any of the participating UPs to pick up your scavenger hunt worksheet. Make your way to all of the booths on the form, obtaining a stamp at each one. When you have collected all of your stamps and filled out the worksheet, turn it in at the Princeton University Press booth (217) to submit your entry for a chance to win! Winners will be selected and notified by 5pm on the day of the festival. When you’re finished, be sure to check out our map of our favorite independent bookstores in Brooklyn. And don’t forget to mark your calendar for University Press Week 2018—November 12th to November 17th—in celebration of the many ways university presses amplify the voices of scholars and communities, hosted by the Association of University Presses.

Sentimental Tales
Mikhail Zoshchenko
Columbia University Press
Booth #503

Walking Harlem: The Ultimate Guide to the Cultural Capital of Black America
Karen Taborn
Rutgers University Press
Booth #144

Boss of Black Brooklyn: The Life and Times of Bertram L. Baker
Ron Howell 
Fordham University Press
Booth #302

Brooklyn By Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges and More Got Their Names
Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss
New York University Press 
Booth #303

Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America
John Loughery
Cornell University Press
Booth #624

The Beautifull Cassandra
Jane Austen
Princeton University Press
Booth #217

#UPWeek Blog Tour: Selling the Facts

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We’re excited to be participating in AAUP’s annual University Press Week! Check this space every day this week for posts from our fellow university presses. Today, the theme is Selling the Facts.

The University of Minnesota Press interviewed booksellers about bookselling in the current political climate

University of Texas Press features Guerilla-style interviews with local booksellers on their experiences serving readers since the election.

From the University of Hawai’i Press, check out this round up of interesting and peer-reviewed facts by UH Press journals over the past year.

Johns Hopkins University Press invited their local independent bookstore, the Ivy Bookshop, to write about selling books in the Age of Trump.

Sales Manager Jennifer Schaper of Duke University Press reports on how Frankfurt Book Fair attendees were engaging with Trump and Brexit.

Northeast Sales Representative for the Columbia University Press Sales Consortium describes making sales calls during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The University Press of Kentucky brings us a guest post by the UK Libraries exploring the societal benefits in university presses continuing to publish so that readers continue to have well-researched, long-form content in an age of distraction, manufactured outrage, and hyper partisanship.

Finally, The University Press of Toronto posts on a day in the life of a Canadian higher education sales rep selling books on US campuses.

#AskAnEditor Twitter party to celebrate University Press week

Do you have questions about how to submit a manuscript, what our acquisitions editors look for, or what it’s like to work as an editor at Princeton University Press? This Wednesday, November 8, we’ll be throwing an #AskAnEditor Twitter party. If you have questions for our wonderful acquisitions team, this is your chance to ask them directly. Just tweet to @PrincetonUPress using the hashtag #AskAnEditor. Here’s who will be taking questions and a bit about each of their programs:

11 am-12 pm

Matt Rohal is a junior acquisitions editor at Princeton University Press, working in philosophy, political theory, and the ancient world. He is interested in publishing books that further the conversation in these fields, by presenting innovative insights that are both practical and theoretical, or shedding new light on age-old thinking. Matt has an honors degree in philosophy, a background in publishing political science textbooks, and a lifetime obsession with the ancient world.

12-1 pm

Eric Henney is a science editor, working in physics, astronomy, earth science, and computer science. He is looking for books that change how we see the physical world. Currently he is obsessed with biophysics, materials science, and the collision of computation and society. Eric’s authors include Robbert Dijkgraaf, Mark Serreze, Marcia Bjornerud, Skylar Tibbits, and Carl Landwehr. Though he’s not a scientist, he did have a rock collection when he was a kid.

1-2 pm

Michelle Komie is executive editor at Princeton University Press, and acquires titles in art, architectural, and urban history. Recent titles include On Weaving, by Anni Albers, Mariposas Nocturnas, by Emmet Gowin, Bosch and Bruegel, by Joseph Koerner, and Designing San Francisco, by Alison Isenberg.

2-3 pm

Vickie Kearn is executive editor of mathematics. She taught school in Virginia for 8 years before moving to NYC and taking a job as a Developmental Editor at Academic Press. After editing calculus textbooks and writing solution manuals for three years, she became an Acquisitions Editor. She worked for a commercial press and a mathematics society before coming to PUP. Some of her standout titles include The Seduction of Curves by Allan McRobie, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali by Lewis Carroll, and Magical Mathematics by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham.

3-4 pm

Fred Appel is executive editor at Princeton University Press. He acquires books in both the social sciences and humanities, focusing in particular on the areas of religion and religious studies (including Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, American religion and religious history) and cultural anthropology. Fred has worked as an acquisitions editor at Princeton for 16 years. Examples of books he has edited at Princeton include Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World; E. Gabriella Coleman’s Coding Freedom, James Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism, Noah Feldman’s The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Thomas Barfield’s Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, John C. Collins’ The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography, Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam?, and Bible Nation by Candida Moss and Joel Baden.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Wednesday and tweet your question to @PrincetonUPress with the hashtag #AskAnEditor. Hope to see you there!

 

 

University Press Week: Scholarship Makes a Difference

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Must scholarship be difficult and full of jargon? Are experts fated to be dismissed as out of touch because their writing is unintelligible?

Chief Justice Roberts seems to think so. Earlier this month, while hearing oral arguments in Gill v Whitford on gerrymandering, Roberts dismissed political science research on the effects of redistricting as “sociological gobbledygook.” Leaving aside for one moment Roberts’ conflation of sociology and political science, let’s look at Roberts’ reasoning.

In oral arguments he posed the “intelligent man on the street” test:

“. . . [If] you’re the intelligent man on the street and the court issues a decision, and let’s say, okay, the Democrats win, and that person will say: “Well, why did the Democrats win?” And the answer is going to be because EG was greater than 7 percent, where EG is the sigma of party X wasted votes minus the sigma of party Y wasted votes over the sigma of party X votes plus party Y votes. And the intelligent man on the street is going to say that’s a bunch of baloney.”

Implicit in Roberts’ view is the seemingly common sense notion that it would be absurd to expect the intelligent person on the street to read and understand the view of scholarly experts in the politics of gerrymandering.

In fact, Roberts poses a false choice between expert knowledge and intelligibility. We know this at Princeton University Press because we routinely publish the work of outstanding scholarship that contributes both to the advancement of discourse and influences the public on the most pressing issues facing the U.S. and the world.

Take Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels. Based on painstaking research conducted over many years, Achen and Bartels forcefully present the case that voters choose candidates based on deep social identities and loyalties, often adjusting their policy preferences to match those loyalties.

If true, their thesis both overturns much of academic democratic theory as well as common beliefs about democracy. But can anyone understand this stuff? Roberts’ “intelligent man on the street?” Perhaps I’m cheating by translating their academic gobbledygook into plain English?

Hardly. Yes, Achen and Bartels’ book has been reviewed in the Political Studies Review and Political Science Quarterly. But it has also been reviewed in the Washington Post and the Financial Times, as well as the Ottawa Citizen, Tulsa World, and New York Magazine.

Or look at another recent publication by PUP, this time in sociology, Rachel Sherman’s Uneasy Street. This book challenges a simple depiction of the wealthy as materialistic, arguing that the rich have deeply conflicting feelings about their wealth. Such research could have been presented as gobbledygook. But it wasn’t. Instead, Sherman tells 50 stories based on personal interviews. The result? A book that has been excerpted in the New York Times, garnering over 3,000 reader responses in the online edition.

Journalists and readers are drawn to such books by their rigor and the expertise of their authors. In a world of “alternative facts,” journalists and readers want real expertise, the kind which comes from career-long immersion in a subject. But journalists only write about such books—and readers only spend precious time on them—when authors present expertise clearly and compellingly.

As publishers, we work hard at helping our authors achieve this balance of rigor and accessibility. We believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Expertise is not shameful, an embarrassment to be hidden from the “intelligent man on the street.” As academic publishers, let’s promote expertise and help make it central to public discourse again.  If Justice Roberts were reading these books, he would understand how great social science books are far from gobbledygook. They are essential to creating an informed public and to the health of our democracy.

An interview with Pamela Schnitter, member of the Book, Jacket & Journal Committee

The Book, Jacket, and Journal Show is a juried design competition, open only to AAUP member publishers. Every fall the call-for-entries is distributed, and in January, the jurors gather in AAUP’s New York offices to examine hundreds of submissions and select the very best examples of book, journal, and cover designs. The Book, Jacket & Journal Committee comprises seven members who are charged with selecting judges for the AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show, soliciting donations of paper and printing for the call for entries, as well as the catalog and the award certificates. The committee members are also responsible for designing the call for entries, the web theme, the catalog, the signage, and the awards certificate itself. Chris Lapinski, Design Coordinator at PUP, interviewed Pamela Schnitter, a designer and member of the Book, Jacket & Journal Committee.

Pam Schnitter

Judges discussing submissions. From left to right: Kimberly Glyder, Henk van Assen, Daphne Geismar, Benjamin Shaykin

 

What inspired you to join the Committee?

I was determined to keep the show vibrant and current, especially in terms of publishing e-books and thinking of additional award categories, such as marketing and web design. It might be too early to implement a straight e-book design category — that seems to be out of our hands currently — but maybe in the future. As the publishing world evolves, I strongly believe there are other categories we need to think about in order to remain relevant and vibrant.

What was your most challenging responsibility?

The most challenging responsibility was also the most rewarding, and that was selecting the jurors. They had to be from outside the AAUP community, though they didn’t necessarily have to be designers. So I had to do a lot of research. I reviewed portfolios and websites, read letters of recommendation. It was very tricky because of the pressure to get the right people.

Did you have any preferences?

I felt that some of the jurors should be teachers because of their experience in assessing other designers’ work and giving good feedback. I also wanted individuals with a cutting edge and inspirational style. As it turned out, all except one were teachers. We tried to select a broad range of individuals from the East Coast and the West Coast, though we ended up with a significant number of jurors from RISD [Rhode Island School of Design]. Most had a background in trade publishing.

Did you notice that trade designers had a different outlook than university press designers?

No, I think the two worlds have really come together.

What was the most gratifying part of your experience?

Working with others in the AAUP community, and particularly with other designers, both within AAUP and outside. Learning from them, sharing new ideas about design — that was especially rewarding. And then seeing how it all came together — it was fun watching the jurors get along so well.

Were there any interesting lessons you learned?

When designers become judges, I realized how important it is to give them space to form their own opinions. I felt they should be unhindered in making the best and most honest assessment of other people’s work.

Do you recommend that others consider joining the committee?

Absolutely. It’s great to have contact with other designers and to share our experiences. It’s also a commitment: the committee requests that you stay on for a few years to learn the responsibilities of being a member and to make the transition easier. That’s something to take into consideration, but it’s worthwhile.

Snapping photos at dinner after panel discussion. From left to right: Daphne Geismar, Benjamin Shaykin, Kimberly Glyder, Henk van Assen

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: 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