Tag Archives: From the Desk of

From the Desk of the Director: Knowledge and Facts Matter

With fall quarter now well underway, I thought I’d take a moment to update you on the latest news from the University of Washington Press.

It has been an especially busy time for me since I assumed the presidency of the Association of University Presses at our annual meeting this past June. Diversity and inclusion were pervasive themes at the conference this summer thanks in large part to our Mellon-funded University Press Diversity Fellowship Program, which was featured during the opening plenary, two panels, and a breakfast roundtable. Our first Mellon fellow, Niccole Coggins, is now an assistant editor on our permanent staff, and in early June we welcomed our second fellow, Mike Baccam. This is the first program of its kind in university press publishing and we are proud to be taking the lead in increasing diversity in our industry together with our partner presses at MIT, Duke, and Georgia.

To expand on this work, my first initiative as president of the Association was to create the new Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. I am also working on other initiatives, including forming an international working group. I’ve just returned from a board of directors meeting in Washington, DC, where I was also able to participate in a publishing workshop for doctoral and post-doctoral scholars (Kluge Fellows) currently researching a wide variety of topics at the Library of Congress.

Advocating for the value of university presses is one of my main duties as president. A recent piece in Publishers Weekly, which I coauthored with Association executive director Peter Berkery, discusses the importance of scholarship in the current political climate. During this time of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” university presses offer deeply informed, reliable discussions of pressing issues, including questions about climate change, disputes over the meaning of public monuments, and debates about the rights of refugees. As we launch University Press Week on the theme “#LookItUP: Knowledge Matters,” I find myself thinking back to Dan Rather’s words at our annual meeting in June where he told a room full of scholarly publishers: “Our country needs you and your work right now. . . . What you do matters.”

Throughout the year, we at UW Press provide dozens of opportunities to engage in informed discussions at public events with our authors. Please visit our events calendar for more information, and find us and other presses during UP Week online with the hashtag #LookItUP. We hope you’ll join the conversation.

With very best wishes,

Nicole F. Mitchell
Director, University of Washington Press
President, Association of University Presses 2017–2018


From the Desk of the Director: Books in Common

In May we received exciting news from Western Washington University: the Western Reads committee has chosen a University of Washington Press book, Tulalip, From My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community, by Harriette Shelton Dover, as their common book for the 2017–18 school year. The committee selected this book by a Tulalip elder in consultation with Indigenous people on and off campus to commemorate the 1969 “Right to be Indian” conference. This gathering drew tribal members from across the region in support of young people working to improve their communities through social and political self-determination. Now, as we approach the conference’s fiftieth anniversary, more than 4,000 incoming Western students, faculty, and staff will engage with Tulalip, From My Heart, Dover’s remarkable story about her tribe’s history, struggles, and powerful ties to land now occupied by others.

Harriette Shelton Dover

Dawn Dietrich, associate professor and director of the Western Reads program, shared her enthusiasm for this selection as a way of fostering collaboration and relationship building around Native American education. The choice of this common book “honors the Coast Salish traditions that defined, and continue to define, this region,” Dietrich told us.

UW Press has played an important role in publishing the stories of Native American and Indigenous communities for almost 100 years. Our list includes memoirs by Coast Salish and Alaska Native writers, tribal dictionaries and grammars, books about Native American art and culture, as well as new work presenting contemporary issues from decolonizing perspectives. Our books are enjoyed by general readers, taught in classes, found in libraries of tribal colleges, and used by scholars and artists in many disciplines.

The Western Reads common book selection is just one example of how communities and readers engage with the work we publish. Another is Promised Land, a new documentary about the Duwamish and Chinook fight for treaty recognition. Several UW Press books “formed the academic framework of the film’s narrative,” as filmmaker Sarah Samudre Salcedo puts it, including Coll Thrush’s Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, Robert T. Boyd, Kenneth Ames, and Tony Johnson’s Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia, and Jon Daehnke’s forthcoming Chinook Resilience: Heritage and Cultural Revitalization on the Lower Columbia River. The Seattle Theatre Group will present Promised Land on July 6, 2017, at the Neptune Theatre. The screening is free and open to the public and will include a preshow discussion with representatives from the tribes. We hope you can join us.

UW Press is dedicated to publishing books that help communities engage in shared conversations and inform new art and scholarship. We are proud to bring important stories and ideas to life for current and future generations.

We invite you to browse our new and forthcoming Native American and Indigenous publications and other recent catalogs on our website.

Happy reading!

Nicole F. Mitchell, Director
University of Washington Press

From the Desk of Larin McLaughlin: The Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship Program

In this guest post, UW Press editor in chief and Principal Investigator Larin McLaughlin writes about how the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship Program (application deadline: March 15, 2016) came to be:

In the past six months, two children’s books have incited controversy with their rosy depictions of enslaved African Americans making desserts for their owners. On the heels of the well-tweeted #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which brought national attention to the lack of diversity in children’s book publishing, objections to the books flew across social media platforms. On my own Facebook feed, scholar and cultural critic Rebecca Wanzo nailed a key question that pervades these controversies: “who was in the room?” Publishing houses produce all-too-frequent situations where critical decisions are made without the benefit of diverse perspectives, and who is in the room certainly matters.

In the case of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, author Ramin Ganeshram describes how her concerns about racial representation went unheeded in the collaboration between author, illustrator, and publisher. Overall, those best positioned to bring critical and diverse perspectives to publishing decisions are still significantly underrepresented in the industry: recent surveys such as the 2015 Publishers Weekly Salary Survey and the Diversity Baseline Survey demonstrate important differences in demographics between publishing professionals in the U.S. and the U.S. population more generally. Continue reading

From the Desk of Becky Ramsey Leporati: The Soden-Trueblood Graduate Publishing Fellow Program

A call for applications has just gone out looking for the 2016-17 Soden-Trueblood Graduate Publishing Fellow (application deadline: March 18, 2016). The fellowship gives one Masters or PhD student the opportunity to work in a variety of departments, including editorial, production, and marketing. Throughout the course of the fellowship the student will be exposed to a wide range of areas in the publication process, including acquisitions, copyediting, design, production, electronic publication, and marketing. The fellowship will also offer a larger sense of the publishing profession and current issues gained through readings, opportunities to network within and outside the press, and discussions about career issues and further educational opportunities.

As part of a series of guest posts from the desks of UW Press staffers, 2015-2016 Graduate Publishing Fellow Becky Ramsey Leporati describes her experiences at the press.

Becky Ramsey Leporati-portraitIt’s Thursday morning and I’m at my desk at the University of Washington Press, checking my email and enjoying the view out my window. I can see the top of the Space Needle just over the parking garage across the street. On my to-do list this morning: reviewing revisions to book summaries I’ve written for the Marketing department, finishing edits to a manuscript for publication this fall, and submitting applications to the Library of Congress for cataloging records. I’m here twenty hours each week, so I want to make each one count.

I’ve been working at the press since last September, getting a couple of quiet weeks in before the quarter started and homework, classes, and department commitments started competing for my ever-dwindling time. In other words, I got to just enjoy learning about books before jumping back into the typical life of a graduate student. Even amid all the chaos, though, my time at the press has largely been a peaceful break from that torrent. It’s an opportunity to really understand a process, to see how books go from idea to manuscript to product.

One great advantage of the fellowship is how open it is to the research and professional interests of the fellows. Last year, for example, the fellow was a PhD student in the Communications Department, Will Mari. Since Will’s plan is to become a professor, his interest in academic publishing mostly came from the content production side. He was able to get a good idea of how the press works to better inform him as a future author of academic books.

I, on the other hand, am finishing up my degree in library science this year. As a future academic librarian, I wanted to learn more about publishing as scholarly communication. As a support for faculty looking to publish, I will now be able to better explain what they need to know about the publishing process. I will also be better informed as I make buying decisions to grow the monograph collection at my future institution.

While this fellowship has allowed for concentrated explorations of specific career goals, it is also quite indulgent of general curiosity. I have had great conversations with people in every department of the press about what they do and what they see on the horizon. It’s not surprising, then, that many people have gone on from this fellowship not just to become faculty members and authors, but also editors and other publishing professionals.

As we look for the next graduate student to fill this role, I am hoping that the opportunity will go to someone curious about publishing who can share a new perspective no one has heard from before. Maybe it will be you!

From the Desk of Rachael Levay: Sales Conference

As part of a series of guest posts from the desks of UW Press staffers, Marketing and Sales Director Rachael Levay walks us through her recent sales conference trip to New York City:

Sales conference happens twice a year, like clockwork. The University of Washington Press announces our new forthcoming titles twice a year, Spring and Fall. That announcement includes a great deal of internal work, the final step of which is sales conference, when I meet with our sales representatives in New York City to discuss the list and our sales opportunities.

Our U.S. reps are based at Columbia University Press and I meet with them in person at their offices. These meetings are a crucial part of the announcement process because we get the opportunity to talk about the books in depth, ask questions, and share ideas for non-traditional sales. (And meeting in NYC lends a touch of that three-martini lunch, Algonquin table, Bennett Cerf era of publishing.)

IMG_2161Our reps, Catherine Hobbs (sells the Mid-Atlantic), Conor Broughan (Northeast), Kevin Kurtz (Midwest), William Gawronski (West), and Brad Hebel (New York City), have worked with books for decades and bring a wealth of experience to our lists. They also sell books for at least a dozen university presses, which means that a visit from one of our reps is highly appealing to buyers at independent bookstores as they can see lists from a dozen publishers at once.

Because our reps also work with so many other university presses, many of my colleagues from other publishers are in town during the same stretch of time, which allows for the opportunity to get together and talk more about what’s happening in publishing. Luckily this year, two of my favorite colleagues (Brian Halley, Senior Editor for University of Massachusetts Press, and Emily Grandstaff, Sales and Publicity Manager for the University of Virginia Press) were in NYC at the same time so we were able to talk about trends we’re seeing in academic fields and in terms of sales.

Preparation for sales conference is mostly a mental exercise—we publish approximately 75 books a year and distribute another 250 or so, which means there are a lot of books for which I need to know not only what the book is about in a sentence or two, but also its unique sales opportunities, where the author is from, what bookstores the author has recommended as sales outlets, what the editor suggested for sales possibilities, and what backlist books might also pair well alongside the new title to keep those older titles fresh.

In addition to bringing catalogs for our reps, I also prepare “tip sheets,” which are just what they sound like—a one-page document that synthesizes all the info I prepare for this meeting, but also shares our marketing plans so that reps can know where we’re pitching to media and when, advertising plans, and when direct mail plans will send either through snail mail or email. This can help buyers see where the strongest trade investments are being made at our end and ensure they can meet demand.

Luckily our reps are a friendly bunch! What might be a stressful meeting is in actuality an enjoyable and fun get-together—we’ve worked together long enough that before we get down to business, we always spend a few minutes sharing baby pictures, talking about recent travel, and chatting about the current state of publishing. Our reps have a particularly enjoyable point of view—they can tell us what’s happening on the ground in independent bookstores all across America.

Our Spring 2016 list is particularly interesting in that we have a very strong trade list—a number of titles that will resonate not just in the Pacific Northwest but also on a larger scale. Books like Warnings Against Myself and Unpleasantries will have traction on a national and international scale, which is always fun for our reps—it’s a challenge in the best sense of the word to have books that can be sold into any store in the country. There’s also an exciting range of academic books in new disciplines and within new series, like Power Interrupted (Decolonizing Feminisms) and Indian Blood (Indigenous Confluences), that will appeal to buyers at venues with a highly educated and social justice emphasis customer base.

Our distributed art titles are also very popular. In addition to independent bookstores, our reps work with museums all around the country and one of our strengths is our art books. This year, we have two excellent copublications, Endeavouring Banks and Bhupen Khakhar, both of which will have significant appeal in these markets.

We part knowing that the real bulk of the work is still ahead of us—actually selling the books. Announcing them and working through sales conference is always a daunting task but it’s energizing to reach the point at which it’s time to start hitting the pavement, or the email as it’s increasingly become, and see how those back orders start to shape up!

From the Desk of Puja Boyd: The Frankfurt Book Fair

UW Press Intellectual Property Manager Puja Boyd

UW Press Intellectual Property Manager Puja Boyd.

As part of a series of guest posts from the desks of UW Press staffers, Intellectual Property Manager Puja Boyd walks us through her recent trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, from October 14-18, 2015:

Every October, as the weather cools and the leaves fall, my inbox goes through its typical seasonal swell. Invitations to cocktail receptions. Solutions to technology problems. Requests for rights sheets. Reminders to check in for that cozy 10-hour flight to Amsterdam. As the days number down to the world’s largest gathering of publishing professionals, rights managers around the globe spruce up their uniforms (and most comfortable shoes) for the endurance event of the year: The Frankfurt Book Fair.

This was my fifth ‘Messe’ and my first with the new orientation for US publishers. In years past, most US publisher booths were laid out in Hall 8 of the sprawling 11-building messe complex, allowing us sprinting distance (via moving walkways) to our colleagues in Halls 4-6 and a slightly longer commute to the festivities that honor each year’s international guest. We had the luxury of being placed closer to the action this year, and the challenge of re-learning our well-worn pathways to the S-Bahn, to the café, and of course, to the nearest bathrooms.

The entrance to Hall 4 on opening day.

The entrance to Hall 4 on opening day.

As with any large gathering, the book fair offers publishers the unique opportunity to connect with colleagues across the full spectrum of the book world. Everyone from authors to publicists, printers to metadata experts, literary agents to proofreaders have a temporary place to call home at Frankfurt, and we keep busy in the hive of activity for the first three days of the event. By Saturday, the doors to the Messe open to the public and we, jetlagged and a little tired, are greeted by hordes of young readers who ambush the stalls dressed as their favorite literary characters. This has the emotional equivalent of a stranger handing you an ice-cold lemonade on the 20th mile of a hot, desert marathon.

After three days of meetings and dinners, the publishing community gets to witness the sheer aliveness of its supporters, and it’s that kind of energy that jolts us into planning the next year’s schedule. Surrounded by so many beautiful books, in so many languages, I am reminded of how great it feels to be a reader.

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Highlights from the UWP booth include sharing forthcoming titles with agents based in China, Taiwan, and Korea; introducing a new mountaineering book to a Canadian publisher, and participating in the International Convention of University Presses in addition to the usual smattering of technology meetings, trading notes with colleagues, and the lucky happenstance conversations that seem to only occur at the Messe.

Publishers around the world seem to be facing the same struggles—online sales, international distribution, the loss of bookstores—but remain optimistic about new opportunities including micro-fiction (writing designed to be read on a smartphone) and cultivating collaborative partnerships to increase reach overseas.

I came away from this year’s meeting with a suitcase full of new business cards, a new favorite restaurant in Römerplatz, and the insatiable desire to be in a bookstore. Lucky for me, a new colleague had already suggested the perfect read for the long trip home.