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

 

University Press Week: Behind the scenes with Theresa Liu

#UpWeek

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!

Publishing for a digital age: A word from Peter Dougherty #UPWeek

UpWeek

Scholarly Kitchen ran a terrific article yesterday on the important contributions of university presses, and how many are redefining their role in the digital age. At Princeton University Press, the past year has brought the successful launch of a major intellectual, digital, and global undertaking. A word from our director, Peter Dougherty:

EinsteinProbably the most stunning development at Princeton University Press is the successful launch of our Digital Edition of The Collected Papers of Albert EinsteinThe Digital Einstein Papers has given scientists and historians alike all over the world free access to the first thirteen volumes of the Einstein Papers, one of the most important intellectual archives in all of scholarly publishing.  According to Kenneth Reed, PUP’s Digital Production Manager, usage statistics suggest that the Digital Einstein Papers has been a truly successful global project:

“Since its launch, there have have been 2.7 million page views from across the world. Outside the United States, Germany and India represent the second and third most visitors to the site. Visitors view an average of over nine pages per visit, and returning visitors are 75%. Mobile users account for over 30% of the site usage, which is not surprising given the global appeal of the site.”

The Digital Einstein Papers also represents a global success by way of being a great international and cross-institutional collaboration, drawing on the talents and effort of colleagues not only at PUP, but at our partner institutions, The Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, the Albert Einstein Archive at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the online platform firm, Tizra.  PUP will add new volumes as they appear roughly every eighteen months.

—Peter Dougherty

Read what these other university presses have to say on the future of scholarly publishing, from the value of acquisitions work and the meaning of gatekeeping in the digital era, to how university presses are picking up the slack left by trade publishers:

Indiana University Press

Oxford University Press

George Mason University Press

University Press of Colorado

University Press of Kansas

UNC Press

West Virginia University Press

Johns Hopkins University Press

University of Georgia Press

Get Ready for University Press Week! #UPWeek

UpWeek

This week we’re putting Bird Fact Friday on hold as we prepare for University Press Week, an annual event when we celebrate the many contributions that university presses make to academia and an informed society.

#UPWeek began in 1978 with President Jimmy Carter, “in recognition of the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship.” Today that influence is stronger than ever as university presses expand their publishing programs, take advantage of the opportunities afforded by a more global society, and explore new ways to bring valuable content to readers. This helpful infographic designed by our own Jessica Massabrook summarizes a great deal of fascinating information about this segment of the publishing industry.

Here at PUP, we have some great things planned!

Our contribution to the #UPWeek blog tour will come on Wednesday, November 11 and will focus on UP Design. Chris Lapinksi will be announcing an exciting new social media development in PUP’s design department.

Other special features include:

Kellie Rendina, from Advertising, will post on children’s literature for adults, with a focus on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Check out the AAUP’s online gallery of featured titles from various university presses for more information on this and other surprising offerings!

Alice

Peter Dougherty, Director of PUP, will talk about what’s new at PUP, particularly how we’re using technology to reach our readers.

In addition, each day we’ll be bringing together daily round ups of all the great posts from our fellow university presses.

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How can you get involved? Easy! Sign up to attend the November 10th online session entitled Opening Access: The Reinvention of the Academic Book and the November 13 online session called It’s Not Scary: The Art of Getting Published with a Scholarly Press. You can also check this map to find your local university presses. Follow them on social media, using the hashtag #ReadUP to join the conversation, and check their blogs for exciting new content as we celebrate academic publishing together.

Kicking off University Press Week! #UPWeek

Upress week

It’s finally here! This week, we bring you exciting content from 31 different university presses. We kick off the week with our first topic: collaboration. Yesterday, our group of university presses discussed titles or projects that illustrate the value of collaboration in scholarly communications and in their work. Check it out…

University Press of Colorado

This one is the cat’s meow. The University Press of Colorado discusses a collaboration with the Veterinary Information Network on a recent textbook, Basic Veterinary Immunology.

University of Georgia Press

Our next post involves an award-winning project. The University of Georgia Press talks about the New Georgia Encyclopedia (NGE) partnership, which includes the Georgia Humanities Council, UGA libraries, GALILEO, and the Press. The NGE is the state’s award-winning, online only, multi-media reference work on the people, places, events, and institutions of Georgia. Peachy-keen!

Duke University Press

Looking to hear from a university press author? Duke University Press has you covered. Author Eben Kirksey writes about his recent collaboration, the Multispecies Salon. You do not want to miss the images — preview them here.

University of California Press

The University of California Press shows how university press work connects to front page news. Authors Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Jim Yong Kim discuss the collaborative work they are doing to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

University of Virginia Press

Check out this account of a collaboration between the Press and the Presidential Recordings Project at the Miller Center to create ‘Chasing Shadows,’ a book on the origins of Watergate. The project includes a special ebook and web site allowing readers to listen to the actual Oval Office conversations. We can’t wait to have a listen for ourselves.

McGill-Queen’s University Press

McGill-Queen’s University Press provides details on Landscape Architecture in Canada, a major national project with support from scholars across the country and published simultaneously in French and English by two university presses. Landscape Architecture in Canada provides a detailed panorama of the man-made landscapes that vary as widely as the country’s geography.

Texas A&M University Press

This year, our friends in Texas launched a new consumer advocacy series with the Texas A&M School of Public Health, whose mission is to improve the health of communities through education, research, service, outreach, and creative partnerships. Check out the post for more information.

Yale University Press

Mark Polizzotti, director of the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, will contribute a guest post to Yale University Press’s ‘Museum Quality Books’ series. The series consists of guest posts from the knowledgeable, erudite, witty, insightful, and altogether delightful directors of publishing at the museums and galleries with whom Yale UP collaborates on books.

University of Chicago Press

University of Chicago Press takes a look back at year one of an exciting project, the Turabian Teacher Collaborative. This unique collaboration between high school classroom teachers, university professors, and a university press began in 2013 as a pilot project to test the effectiveness of Kate L. Turabian’s Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers at helping high schools meet the ELA Common Core State Standards.

Project MUSE/Johns Hopkins University Press

Last but certainly not least, we turn to Project MUSE, which is a key example of collaboration in the university press world. Project MUSE resulted from collaboration between a university press and university library.

 

Game of Tongues — PUP Director Peter Dougherty Reflects on the Importance of Translations (#UPWeek)

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This post is presented as part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. November 11-15 is set aside as a week to celebrate the myriad ways university presses contribute to scholarly communication and society at large. Please support our colleagues by exploring more posts in the tour via the links below. For a complete schedule, click here.

 

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If you want to get a great sense of the global reach of the university press and, not incidentally, of the potential of forthcoming publications, you could do worse than observing a few days’ worth of foreign rights meetings at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Perched in a folding chair at a card table in the Princeton University Press booth last month, I watched my colleague Kim Williams, PUP’s foreign rights manager (who operates from our office in Oxfordshire), hold 80 meetings with nearly 200 publishers from 22 countries, representing 17 languages around the world. Meetings such as Kim’s–going on eight frenetic, exhausting hours a day over the five-day forced march of Frankfurt–comprise the annual ritual wherein the world decides which books and which ideas get dispersed across nations. The word “dissemination” is sometimes used to characterize the mission of university presses. Frankfurt is an example of dissemination of the highest, most sophisticated, most intricately orchestrated kind.

Pitching our books to Chinese publishers at #fbf13 - cheers to Cheers Publishing!

Pitching our books to Chinese publishers at #fbf13 – cheers to Cheers Publishing! (credit: @PUP_Rights)

Not only geography, but history matters in the annual translation transaction Olympiad. Kim Williams knows her counterparts at the foreign publishers and has worked with many of them for years. She knows their tastes, interests, and strengths. The experience she brings to the task and the development of these relationships, invest her exchanges with insight and efficiency, providing a kind of multicultural shorthand for conducting the world’s book business.

And the game of tongues matters. Over the past ten years the number of Princeton’s translation licenses has nearly tripled. Rights deals in Chinese over this period have increased almost tenfold, translations into Japanese have almost tripled, and Korean rights deals have also increased dramatically. And this growth is not limited to Asian markets. We’ve seen equally strong growth in the number of Turkish, Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish translations, among others. Taken all together this increased activity reflects changes in international economic development and national cultural priorities. This upward trend in translation activity will only increase as economic development rises. It would be interesting to know how many of our translated titles win awards and other accolades in their adopted languages.

And much as the annual idea-swap in Frankfurt provides us with a window on the world, it also tells us a lot about ourselves. From a distance, it tells us which subjects “travel” well, yielding valuable insights into list-planning and therefore into editorial acquisitions. From a closer standpoint, it provides a powerfully compelling preview of how a publisher’s upcoming list is likely to perform. If three dozen foreign publishers are panting over a particular title, chances are you’ve got a winner in English as well as around the world in other language markets.

Finally, a week at a rights table in Frankfurt gives a publisher a glimpse into its soul. Just how good are we? Are certain lists as strong as we think they are? Are we current or are we yesterday’s news? Do our lists have the three Ds–depth, dimension, and durability–or are we publishing mere ephemera? The five-day stress test in front of the world’s hard-bitten foreign publishers answers those questions, sometimes painfully, other times reassuringly.

As the global university press evolves, table talk in Frankfurt will continue to serve as a vital indicator of our impact around the world and our insight into ourselves.

Peter J. Dougherty
Director
Princeton University Press

 

Click through to check out the covers of various On Bullshit translations.

For more information about Princeton University Press’s foreign rights program, please visit http://press.princeton.edu/europe/content/pages/rights.html