#UPWeek: Producing the Books that Matter

UPWeek2017

Have you ever wondered how publishers think about their books and the publishing process? Now is your chance to learn the answer to those questions and more with a video put together by Ingram in honor of University Press Week, featuring Christie Henry, director of Princeton University Press, Jennifer Crewe, director of Columbia University Press, and Taylor Dietrich of Cambridge University Press.

#AskAnEditor Twitter Round Up

To celebrate University Press Week, we invited the reading public to #AskAnEditor, and boy did you all have questions! For five hours, Twitter users had the opportunity to pepper our editors in a variety of disciplines with questions on everything from how to get into publishing, to open access, to illustration programs. In case you missed it, here’s a round-up of some of our favorites. Thanks to everyone who participated in the publishing community and beyond.

#UPWeek: #Twitterstorm

UPWeek2017

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 #Twitterstorm.

Harvard University Press provides a look at how social media has played a role in the publication of Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide

Editorial Director of Johns Hopkins University Press Greg Britton extols the virtues of Twitter in university press publishing

Athabasca University Press tells the remarkable story of how they used social media to create a citywide book club

Finally, Beacon Press describes how social media helped with the success of Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too

#UPWeek: Producing the books that matter

UPWeek2017

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 Producing the books that matter.

The University of Kansas Press shares a post on the relationship between the editorial and production departments, and how they interact to create books

University of California Press shares their thoughts on producing the books that matter.

The University of Michigan Press interviewed the author of Academic Ableism

On the Fordham University Press blog, David Goodwin talks about the production of his book, Left Bank of the Hudson

University of Washington Press director and AAUP president Nicole Mitchell writes on advocating for the value of university presses

Finally, Yale University Press features an episode from their podcast on the making of the Voynich Manuscript

#UPWeek Blog Tour: Selling the Facts

UPWeek2017

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!

 

 

#UPWeek Blog Tour: Scholarship Makes a Difference

UPWeek2017

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 Scholarship Makes a Difference

From Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Daniel Heath Justice highlights the importance of indigenous literature and scholarship

Temple University Press shows how scholarship can make a difference as we move toward a more diverse, equitable society

Wayne State University Press‘s post showcases one of their new books on slavery in the 21st century

From the University Press of Colorado, an essential reading list of books in a post-truth society

From us, Editor-in-Chief Al Bertrand makes the case for nonpartisan, rigorous peer reviewed social science in today’s political climate

George Mason University Press writes on the path to discovery of William Playfair, an overlooked and misunderstood historical figure

Last but not least, the history editor in higher education at the University of Toronto Press discusses the importance of making scholarship accessible to stuidents and the role that publishers play in helping to build better citizens

University Press Week: Scholarship Makes a Difference

UPWeek2017

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.

University Press Week: Behind the Scenes with Sara Lerner

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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

 

University Press Week: Behind the scenes with Theresa Liu

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In honor of University Press Week, we’re featuring interviews with members of the Princeton University Press community all week. Next, Theresa Liu, Senior Copywriter and Seasonal Catalog Editor, talks about the copywriting process.

Theresa LiuHow long have you worked as a copywriter, and what did you do before this both educationally and professionally?

I just reached my ninth anniversary as a copywriter here at PUP. Educationally, I concentrated on English lit at Rutgers and Stanford and was a Javits fellow in creative writing at Hunter College, CUNY. In publishing, I got my start at the Ecco Press and served as the program coordinator for the National Poetry Series. I then worked as the assistant to the editor in chief at Rutgers University Press. So I’ve worked in trade publishing and nonprofit arts administration, as well as academic publishing. I also had a stint as a sales clerk at Micawber Books in Princeton before it closed its doors, so I have some experience peddling books to customers.

What led you to your current position?

It was a matter of timing, I think. PUP had an opening after my last round of school was done, and with my lit and writing background and my publishing experiences, copywriting was a good fit.

What kinds of books do you most enjoy writing copy for? (Loaded question, I know).

Perhaps a more diplomatic way of answering that question is to say that the books I have the easiest time writing about are the ones that come with all the materials ready (complete editorial dossier, reader reports, detailed author promotion form and capsule, publishing plan, etc). It makes my job less difficult and I can get to the writing immediately.

Can you describe your process as a writer? Do you read all the books? Work in silence? Listen to music?

I liken writing copy to running a marathon. I have to pace myself and make sure I’m hitting my personal quotas week by week, in order to avoid a logjam at the end of the season. I enjoy listening to music when I work, but have discovered that for the writing I either need to work in silence or listen to music with no lyrics, so it’s a lot of classical and some bits of jazz and movie soundtracks. Sometimes, when I find one piece of music that gets me into the right frame of mind quickly, I’ll just set that on a repeating loop to play in the background while I’m pecking away at the computer.

I average about 45 books a season now and how much I dip into each book varies based on the density of the subject matter and what I need. If I have enough good materials to refer to outside of the book, looking at its table of contents and introduction may be enough to get me started. In other instances, I will read or skim portions of the manuscript in order to get a sense of the book’s tone and overall argument or to find some hidden nuggets of information that I can use for the copy.

Is there a formula for writing good catalog copy?

Every book is different, so I’d say that the answer is no. But in general, I try to hone in on the book’s argument as quickly as I can in the first paragraph, and then delve into specific content. We try to sum up the book with a general conclusion that is wide reaching and still sounds fresh and original. The best copy is clean and succinct and stays under the word limit!

What do you like to do to decompress from putting together a new season of catalog copy?

I enjoy activities that exercise an entirely different side of my brain and body. Weather permitting, I try to spend a bit of time outside every day. In the evenings, I play music (mostly classical, some experimental) with friends. It’s socially interactive and doesn’t allow for ruminating, which is healthy. It’s also emotionally and physically demanding (rehearsals can run in three-hour blocks), and allows me to think more clearly afterwards.

What would you have been if not a copywriter?

That’s a difficult question to answer! It’s been my great fortune to have had many different experiences in my schooling, travels, and work (I’ve probably broken many a child labor law, as I’ve been working and earning since I was in early middle school). I could have gone down paths as varied as teaching English abroad to attending law school and becoming an attorney. My choices and where I’ve ended up remind me of the famous John Lennon quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

University Press Week: Behind the scenes with Caroline Priday

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In honor of University Press Week, we’ll be featuring interviews with members of the Princeton University Press community all week. First up, Caroline Priday, Head of the European Office and European Director of Publicity, talks about how publishing has changed over the years, publicity practices in Europe, and PUP’s path to becoming a global university press. 

Caroline PridayHow did you get your start in publishing?

I started back in 1979 working as a secretary for two Academic Marketing Managers at Oxford University Press. In those days, before email and computers, that was quite a common route into publishing. One of my bosses was Susan Boyd, wife of the now well-known author William Boyd. I remember how excited we all were when he had his first short story broadcast on the BBC. In those days, OUP still had its own printing press and one of the highlights of the induction day was getting a tour of the printing works! We used to have a tea lady too who wheeled her trolley down the corridor every afternoon. The Academic Department was down a long corridor with linoleum flooring and offices opening off the corridor – no open plan in those days. It was known to the occupants as Death Row!

You direct the European office’s publicity department as well as the European office. This sounds like vast responsibility! What is a typical day like for you?

One of the good things about the job is that there isn’t very often a typical day. However, that can have its downsides when you come in with a list of things you want to achieve, and are lucky if you’ve crossed just one thing off the list before the end of the day! I usually try to have a couple of hours of quiet time first thing in the morning so that I can focus on the preparation of a galley or review list. The rest of the day my door is open to any of my colleagues who have questions or concerns. If we have just released an important book the day is geared around handling media requests for interviews, review copies etc. At other times I can be focused on human resource issues for the office, such as making sure pension or health care provision meets latest government regulations.

Can you say a bit about PUP’s path to becoming a truly global university press?

I guess you could say that the path started back in 1999 when the European office was opened with the aim of better promoting our existing authors in the European market, and also broadening the European authorship of our list. In the nearly 12 years I have been with the press we have made huge strides in broadening the appeal of the list. However, I think it is probably fair to say that we are still international rather than truly global, in that our authors are still predominantly based in the USA. The opening of our office in China, and the work on pursuing publication of scholarship outside of the US and Europe, will go a long way to making us truly global.

Does book publicity in the UK differ from the US, and if so, in what way?

The fundamentals are the same, but I think there is a difference between being an American University Press in Europe and in the USA. Inevitably there are some American interest titles that don’t travel well outside of the US. There are probably fewer media outlets who will meet with us on a regular basis, though I am pleased to say we are expanding these all the time as we increase our name recognition. The changes in the nature of the list, with a greater proportion of accessible titles, have made a big difference here. Outside of the UK we are also seeking review coverage in non-English speaking markets, though it has to be said that there are many publications in Northern Europe that will write about books that we struggle to get reviewed in the UK. I think in Continental Europe they still think book review coverage is important in broadsheets in a way that is declining in US and UK. Coverage outside of the UK has been an area we have focussed on this year as I have undertaken trips into The Netherlands and Germany to meet with print media, something that has proved to be a positive experiment.

Tell me a bit about a particularly interesting campaign you worked on.

I guess promoting Bob Shiller’s books are some of the most fun, partly because Bob is such a delightful author to work with. His name also opens doors that we can otherwise struggle to access. The big highlight of my work with Bob was having breakfast at No 11 Downing Street with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. This was just after the financial crash in 2008. As we were leaving the breakfast we also shook hands with the Prime Minister. Bob is still waiting for me to arrange a meeting with The Queen! Another highlight of that trip was getting a behind the scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament, as Bob addressed a meeting within the building. Something that was completely different was working on Neil Downie’s The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science. We set up a launch event at Isaac Newton’s former home for a whole group of school children who had great fun playing with some of Neil’s inventions, carrot cannons, exploding balloons, and other such inventions.

In a parallel world, what career would you have chosen instead?

I think being paid to be around books is my idea of a perfect career! I never knew what I wanted to do, and was very lucky to have drifted into publishing as my first job. It has allowed me to travel the world, meet interesting people and spend time with my nose in a book. Who could want anything more!