Here is a link to a thoughtful, substantive interview by a university press director, Willis G. Regier. It should be of interest to all prospective academic authors for a sense of what a university press editor is up against, and why it gets ever-harder to say “yes” to a book–even a book the editor may admire very much!
The interview is from 2004, and much has happened in the interim including the demise of the big-box bookstores to which Regier refers, but much of this remains evergreen.
I’ve long touted the scholarly conference as an absolutely matchless place to meet university press editors, to peruse the offerings and styles of various presses, and to help them know your work. Now here, in the words of one of our best-published authors, is another perspective on the same idea:
I encourage [faculty] to work hard at developing their research and writing skills but also at making contacts. I would say that the time I spent in book exhibits at conventions schmoozing with acquisitions editors and publishers rather than listening to boring and self-aggrandizing research papers has paid rich dividends. That kind of networking is incredibly important. Of course, so too is having something significant to say: original research, new insights, not to mention engaging style, etc.
Today is Thursday, September 2, and faculty may write with me at the Mortara Center from 9:30-11:30. Please send a note to me for details about location and protocol (pretty simple, actually).
Also, tomorrow a small group of faculty will join me for booth visits at the American Political Science Association conference at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in DC. I met with a Yale editor yesterday pre-conference, and Friday I have meetings planned with MIT, Harvard, Chicago and Duke. Our team will meet for coffee and strategy at 10 a.m. followed by two hours on the exhibit floor… they are welcomed to shadow me to the two morning meetings, or go off on their own. Lunch is next where we’ll compare notes and plan the afternoon (some faculty may leave, others may arrive).
Here are several reasons why it makes sense to visit university press aisles of a major conference in your city even if it’s outside of your field:
- For the price of a $10 exhibits pass you can visit all of the major university presses in one day, getting a feel for the respective cultures, publishing priorities, and even in a very tangible sense budget.
- Editors are usually friendly and interested in meeting you at conferences, whereas they may be quite busy if you approach them during normal business hours.
- Although key editors usually have meetings scheduled for most of the conference (and if you have a book to pitch I urge you to make appointments much earlier), some find themselves with quite a bit of downtime, and most are willing to discuss the books they love if you show genuine interest in the product and the process.
- Your field doesn’t matter since the booth is usually similar at various conferences. Books will change of course, but so much of a university press’s identity is still out and visible, there for you to learn about.
- It’s a great way to snag a range of catalogs to scrutinize to understand even more about how a press offers its wares, what makes it different from its colleagues and competitors, and how it balances its priorities.
We’re getting excited about the upcoming American Political Science Association conference in early September, because it will provide a wonderful opportunity to visit the university press booth aisle. You do not have to be in one of the on-target to get a lot out of visiting booths at this conference; it will be instructive for faculty in many fields. Here is a list of exhibitors:
A group of Georgetown faculty (four so far) will go with me on Friday, September 3, and if that describes you, then you are welcomed to join us. I will host a pre-conference planning session in mid-August (TBA) so we can discuss presses and outreach for meetings. Then I’ll meet with faculty that morning at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel for coffee and strategy, followed by a morning of meetings and press booth visits. Those of us who want to will meet for lunch to discuss progress so far, and then we’ll break for more afternoon meetings and visits, with a final round-up discussion in the bar at 4 p.m.
Just FYI, this will NOT entail paying for the entire conference if you are not participating in it. At most conferences exhibit/day passes are available, and I will confirm that before the first information/strategy meeting.
Richard Brown, Ph.D., Director of Georgetown University Press, is also the president of the Association of American University Presses this year. Later I will blog more about some of his key issues, as I will from time to time throughout his presidential year, but for now these links should be of interest:
Brown’s 2010 presidential address.
An article from Publisher’s Weekly on the annual conference in Salt Lake City.
Coverage by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required).
Farrar Straus & Giroux editor Paul Elie returns to Georgetown for another great interview, this time with New Yorker literary critic, Harvard professor and author James Wood. The talk will be Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 4:30 in Riggs Library on the third floor of Healy Hall. Space is limited, so reservations are requested.
I’ve attended all of the events in this series hosted by President DiGioia, and they’re amazing. James Wood will be here as part of the Faith and Culture series.
The Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications has opportunities for
exceptional Georgetown University graduate students and even interested faculty to learn about the book publishing industry, and we would like to get the word to as many people as possible. Click here: Georgetown Community — Learn Book Publishing
We have specialized projects depending on individual interests, and
outstanding volunteers can later apply for paid opportunities as they arise. In a tight publishing industry these are impressive resume builders, and past students who have worked in this office have gone on to internships in the publishing industry. Some even receive published credit in the acknowledgments of the books with which they work.
I promised to blog the MLA, and I will also blog future conferences. The best part of MLA was visiting the university press booths and getting to know even more editors and publicity people as human beings rather than figures behind monolith names. I loved that part, and I so look forward to going to another conference in a different discipline to meet still more editors this way (in addition to the on-site visits I already do).
I recognized a particular faculty member at MLA whose name I didn’t see on any of the panels. She said yes, this was the first time she had the luxury of going when she wasn’t looking for a job, sitting on a hiring committee, giving a paper, or trying to get someone to do something for her. Instead, it was all about professional development and networking sans agenda. She seemed so happy!
I found a great new blog today, “Dr Syntax,” the blog of Peter Ginna, publisher and editorial director of Bloomsbury Press. It has intelligent observations on book designers, e-books, visiting the grave of Camus, thoughts on how authors should respond to bad reviews, and much more. As I follow it I’ll let you know about interesting posts, etc.