University Press Week: Behind the Scenes with Eric Henney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Peter Dougherty & Al Bertrand: On Being Einstein’s Publisher

by Peter Dougherty and Al Bertrand

So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. (Albert Einstein to Robert A Thornton, 7 December 1944, EA 61-574)

For all of the scholarly influences that have defined Princeton University Press over its 111-year history, no single personality has shaped the Press’s identity as powerfully, both directly and indirectly, as Albert Einstein. The 2015 centenary of the publication of Einstein’s “Theory of General Relativity” as well as the affirmation this past February and again in June of the discovery of gravitational waves has encouraged us to reflect on this legacy and how it has informed our identity as a publisher.

The bright light cast by Einstein the scientist and by Einstein the humanist has shaped Princeton University Press in profound and far-reaching ways. It expresses itself in the Press’s standard of scholarly excellence, its emphasis on the breadth and connectedness of liberal learning across all fields, and in our mission of framing scholarly arguments to shape contemporary knowledge. All the while, Einstein’s role as a citizen of the world inspires our vision to be a truly global university press.

PUBLISHING EINSTEIN: A BRIEF HISTORY

Albert Einstein is not only Princeton University Press’s most illustrious author; he was our first best-selling author. Following his public lectures in Princeton in 1921, the Press—itself less than 20 years old at the time—published the text of those lectures, titled “The Meaning of Relativity”, in 1922. Publication followed the agitated exhortation of the Press’s then-manager, Frank Tomlinson, urging Professor Einstein to get his manuscript finished. Tomlinson wrote:

My dear Professor Einstein—

On July 6 I wrote you inquiring when we might expect to receive the manuscript of your lectures. I have had no reply to this letter. A number of people have been inquiring when the book will be ready, and we are considerably alarmed at the long delay in the receipt of your manuscript, which we were led to believe would be in our hands within a month after the lectures were delivered. The importance of the book will undoubtedly be seriously affected unless we are able to publish it within a reasonable time and I strongly urge upon you the necessity of sending us the copy at your earliest convenience. I should appreciate also the favor of a reply from you stating when we may expect to receive it.

the meaning of relativity jacketMr. Tomlinson’s letter marks something of a high point in the history of publishers’ anxiety, but far from failing, The Meaning of Relativity was a hit. It would go on to numerous successive editions, and remains very much alive today as both a print and digital book, as well as in numerous translated editions.

For all its glorious publishing history, The Meaning of Relativity can be thought of as a mere appetizer to the bounteous publishing banquet embodied in THE COLLECTED PAPERS OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, surely PUP’s most ambitious continuing publication and one of the most important editorial projects in all of scholarly publishing.

The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein

Authorized by the Einstein Estate and the PUP Board of Trustees in 1970, and supported by a generous grant from the late Harold W. McGraw, Jr., chairman of the McGraw-Hill Book Company, THE EINSTEIN PAPERS, as it evolves, is providing the first complete and authoritative account of a written legacy that ranges from Einstein’s work on the special and general theories of relativity and the origins of quantum theory, to expressions of his profound concern with civil liberties, education, Zionism, pacifism, and disarmament.

einstein old letterAn old saying has it that “good things come to those to wait,” words that ring resoundingly true regarding the EINSTEIN PAPERS. Having survived multiple obstacles in the long journey from its inception through the publication of its first volume in 1987, the Einstein Papers Project hit its stride in 2000 when Princeton University Press engaged Professor Diana Buchwald as its sixth editor, and moved the Project to Pasadena with the generous support of its new host institution, the California Institute of Technology.

Since then, Professor Buchwald and her Caltech-based editorial team, along with their international network of scholarly editors, have produced successive documentary and English translation volumes at the rate of one every eighteen months. To give you an idea of just how impressive a pace this is, the Galileo papers are still a work in progress, nearly four centuries after his death.

The EINSTEIN PAPERS, having reached and documented Einstein’s writings up to 1925, has fundamentally altered our understanding of the history of physics and of the development of general relativity, for example by destroying the myth of Einstein as a lone genius and revealing the extent to which this man, with his great gift for friendship and collegiality, was embedded in a network of extraordinary scientists in Zurich, Prague, and Berlin.

Along with the EINSTEIN PAPERS, the Press has grown a lively publishing program of books drawn from his work and about Einstein. Satellite projects include The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, as well as volumes on Einstein’s politics, his love letters, and the “miraculous year” of 1905.

Last year the Press published two new books drawn from Einstein’s writings, The Road to Relativity, and the 100th anniversary edition of Relativity: The Special and General Theory, both volumes edited by Jürgen Renn of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, and Hanoch Gutfreund of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.   These volumes celebrate the centenary of Einstein’s publication of the theory of general relativity in November 1915.

In this same centenary year, PUP published several other Einstein titles, including:

— Volume 14 of the Collected Papers, The Berlin Years, 1923-1925.

An Einstein Encyclopedia, edited by Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, and Robert Schulman;

Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity, by Andrew Robinson

Especially notable, in January 2015 the Press released THE DIGITAL EDITION OF THE COLLECTED PAPERS OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, a publishing event that has attracted extraordinary worldwide attention, scientific as well as public. This online edition is freely available to readers and researchers around the world, and represents the historic collaboration between the Press and its partners, the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and the Albert Einstein Archive in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Moreover, works by and about Einstein sit at the crossroads of two major components of the Princeton list: our science publishing program which comprises a host of fields from physics through mathematics, biology, earth science, computer science, and natural history, and our history of science program which connects PUP’s Einstein output to our humanities publishing, helping to bridge the intellectual gap between two major dimensions of our list.

Einstein’s dual legacy at Princeton University Press thus serves to bookend the conversation defined by the Press’s unusually wide-ranging array of works across and throughout the arts and sciences, from mathematics to poetry. C.P. Snow famously described the sciences and the humanities as “two cultures.” Einstein’s legacy informs our effort as a publisher to create an ongoing correspondence between those two cultures in the form of books, which uniquely serve to synthesize, connect, and nurture cross-disciplinary discourse.

EINSTEIN’S LARGER PUBLISHING INFLUENCE

Much as the living legacy of the EINSTEIN PAPERS and its related publications means to Princeton University Press as a publisher, it holds a broader meaning for us both as editors and as leaders of the institution with which we’ve long been affiliated.

Like most of our colleagues, we arrived at the Press as editors previously employed by other publishers, and having little professional interest in physics. Each of us specialized in different editorial fields, economics and classics, respectively.

Our initial disposition towards the field of physics, while full of awe, was perhaps best summed up by Woody Allen when he said: “I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.”  

But we soon discovered, as newcomers to PUP inevitably do, that the Princeton publishing legacy of Albert Einstein carried with it a set of implications beyond his specific scientific bounty that would help to shape our publishing activity, as well as that of our colleagues. We see the Einstein legacy operating in three distinct ways on PUP’s culture:

First, it reinforces the centrality of excellence as a standard: simply put, we strive to publish the core scholarly books by leading authors, senior as well as first-time. Einstein’s legacy stands as a giant-sized symbol of excellence, an invisible but constant reminder that our challenge as publishers at Princeton is not merely to be good, but to be great. As we seek greatness by publishing those books that help to define and unite the frontiers of modern scholarship, and connect our authors’ ideas with minds everywhere, we are upholding a standard embodied in the work of Albert Einstein.

The second implication of the bounty Albert Einstein is a commitment to seeing liberal knowledge defined broadly, encompassing its scientific articulation as well as its expression in the humanities and social sciences. PUP purposefully publishes an unusually wide portfolio of subject areas, encompassing not only standard university press fields such as literary criticism, art history, politics, sociology, and philosophy, but a full complement of technical fields, including biology, physics, neuroscience, mathematics, economics, and computer science. A rival publisher once half-jokingly described PUP as “the empirical knowledge capital of the world.” She was referring to our capacious cultivation of scientific and humanistic publishing, an ambitious menu for a publisher producing only around 250 books a year, but one we think gives the Press its distinctive identity.

It is no coincidence that Albert Einstein, PUP’s most celebrated author, cast his influence across many of these fields both as a scientist and as a humanist, engaged fully in the life of the mind and of the world. His legacy thus inspires us to concentrate our editorial energies on building a list that focuses on knowledge in its broadest and deepest sense—that puts into play the sometimes contentious, and even seemingly incongruous, methodologies of science and the humanities and articulates a broad yet rigorous, intellectual vision, elevating knowledge for its own sake, even as the issues change from decade to decade.

A third implication appears in Einstein’s challenge to us to be a great global publisher. Einstein, a self-professed “citizen of the world” was in many ways the first global citizen, a scholar whose scientific achievement and fame played out on a truly global scale in an age of parochial and often violent nationalist thinking.

Einstein’s cosmopolitanism has inspired the Press to pursue a path of becoming a truly global university Press. To do this, PUP has built lists in fields that are cosmopolitan in their readership, opened offices in Europe and China, expanded its author and reviewer base all over the world, and has licensed its content for translation in many languages. As we go forward, we intend to continue to build a network that allows us to connect many local publishing and academic cultures with the global scholarly conversation. This vision of the Press’s future echoes Einstein’s call for a science that transcends national boundaries.

THE FUTURE

It has been nearly a century since publication of The Meaning of Relativity and half that since the original agreement for the EINSTEIN PAPERS was authorized. We can only imagine that the originators of the latter project would be proud of what our collective effort has produced, grateful to the principals for the job they have done in bringing the PAPERS to their current status, and maybe above all, awed by the global exposure the PAPERS have achieved in their print and now digital formats.

As we continue our work with our colleagues at Caltech and the Hebrew University to extend the EINSTEIN PAPERS into the future, we are reminded of the significance of the great scientist’s legacy, especially as it bears on our identity as a global publisher, framing the pursuit of knowledge imaginatively across the arts and sciences.

The eminent Italian publisher Roberto Calasso, in his recent book, The Art of the Publisher, encourages readers to imagine a publishing house as,

“a single text formed not just by the totality of books that have been published there, but also by its other constituent elements, such as the front covers, cover flaps, publicity, the quantity of copies printed and sold, or the different editions in which the same text has been presented. Imagine a publishing house in this way and you will find yourself immersed in a very strange landscape, something that you might regard as a literary work in itself, belonging to a genre all its own.”

Now, at a time when the very definition of publishing is being undermined by technological and economic forces, it is striking to see each publisher as a “literary work unto itself.” So it is with Princeton University Press. In so far as PUP can claim a list having a diversified but well-integrated publishing vision, one that constantly strives for excellence and that stresses the forest for the trees, it is inescapably about the spirit and substance reflected in the legacy of Albert Einstein, and it is inseparable from it.

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Peter J. Dougherty is Director of Princeton University Press. This essay is based in part on comments he delivered at the Space-Time Theories conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in January, 2015. Al Bertrand is Associate Publishing Director of Princeton University Press and Executive Editor of the Press’s history of science publishing program, including Einstein-related publications.

PUP Statement on Marra and Santella’s Cat Wars

Marra and SantellaPrinceton University Press takes pride in publishing a diverse, global mix of voices, ideas, and arguments. Cat Wars by Peter P. Marra & Chris Santella addresses a demonstrable threat that free-roaming cats bring to the long-term health of bird and small mammal populations and provides a science-based survey of the subject. It looks at a wide variety of issues and attempts to provide dispassionate, objective analyses. The authors and the Princeton University Press do not support the inhumane treatment of animals.

All books published by Princeton University Press benefit from a rigorous and thorough peer-review process to ensure the highest quality of scholarship and accuracy.  We embrace the highest standards in our publishing, embodied in the work of our authors since 1905.

To learn more about Cat Wars, please visit the book’s PUP catalog page.

To learn about the Press’s mission, read more here.