Adventures in #Acquisitioning: AAUP 2017

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Austin via South Congress, complete with guitar-playing cowboy (right)

By Bethany Wasik

Two months ago, for the second consecutive year, I represented Cornell University Press at the AAUP Annual Meeting. The discussion panels, networking opportunities, and ambient air temperatures in Austin, TX, were extremely positive experiences.

First, who am I and why did I trek all the way to Austin?

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Bethany Wasik

I have been an acquisitions assistant at Cornell University Press for approximately two years, recently making the transition to assistant editor. I landed here after receiving a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics studying beetle horn development from Indiana University and completing two postdoctoral appointments researching butterfly wing patterning at Yale and Cornell Universities (true story). As my second postdoctoral appointment came to an end, I realized my passion was with editing and publishing rather than bench work. I had the experience to justify such a switch, having published my research in several academic journals (still ongoing!), edited and peer reviewed manuscripts on a regular basis, helped students and lab mates with their writing, and composed grants for my own funding. Thus, unbeknownst to me, I was already performing some tasks of an academic editor even before walking through the Cornell University Press lobby.

Up until last year, I had only attended national scientific conferences, where I spent the majority of my time presenting my research and fretting about the next career step. AAUP is a vastly different, happier experience, with many opportunities to network, diverse panels about scholarly publishing to attend, and no one questioning the statistical significance of my data.

Discussion Panel Recap

Two panel discussions in particular stood out for me.

First, the panel on Faculty Boards appealed to me, as I am “the scheduler” of such meetings. I also order and provide the refreshments, which I thankfully learned from this panel to be an important component for building trust with said board. However, even more important to me as I acquire more projects in the coming year are the results from the AAUP Editorial Review Board Survey, released shortly before AAUP 2017 (data is fantastic…).

The survey addresses how the members are chosen, how they “vote” on projects, how editors present their projects to the board, where and when boards meet, etc. While there is significant diversity among university press faculty boards with regard to best practices, meeting structures, and even names, the panel members widely agreed that getting to know your faculty board members and providing them with the best representations of potential projects are key objectives.

Second, the panel on working remotely was especially attractive to both CUP Editor in Chief, Mahinder Kingra, and me since half of our acquisitions editors spend partial time away from the quaint, gorgeous hamlet of Ithaca. The panel was very meta, with all the panelists (onsite and offsite) projected on the screen, complete with Greg Britton in a Marriott bathrobe. Topics ranged from whether editors should advertise to authors that they are offsite (opinions were mixed but created a really interesting discussion), how roles may change depending on location (e.g. collaborating as an editorial director onsite while focusing as an acquiring editor offsite), and how offsite editors can change the roles and responsibilities of onsite staff—in particular editorial assistants (greater planning is needed for offsite editors, who are not as readily available for quick answers and manuscript adjustments).

There were also a variety of solutions for making an offsite staff position feel more “onsite”: renting an office locally with other remote workers to have a non-home office; starting or ending the day by driving or walking a short distance outside to simulate a work commute; and making sure that the home technology is closely matched to that used at the onsite UP. Furthermore, the question and answer session addressed both positive and negative aspects of working remotely. Very important: do not postpone meetings due to finishing laundry (an actual excuse).

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Signs of Austin … tacos were eaten and enjoyed multiple times

Network, Network, Network: The AAUP Early Career Listserv

As it happens, I am lucky to be one of the founding members of the AAUP Early Career Listserv (aaup-career-request@lists.uchicago.edu). Upon my arrival in Austin, fellow founding member Angie Lopez-Torres of University of Texas Press (with whom I proposed a panel for this year’s meeting which was, ahem, sadly not selected) graciously picked me up from the airport, and we discussed our press roles and responsibilities over lunch, followed by her fantastic tour of Austin. Later in the evening, an impromptu meetup of the Early Career Listserv members at the Newcomer’s Reception finally gave us a chance to put faces to months of email exchanges.

Special credit goes to Liz Crowley Webber for starting the conversation and moderating the listserv this last year, enhanced and amplified by input from Catherine Goldstead, Angie Lopez-Torres, Jess Massabrook, and Patrick O’Dowd. Not only does the listserv provide networking connections with other UP colleagues, it’s also a means to solicit advice on how to successfully navigate a career in academic publishing. Shameless plug—Angie and I are now co-moderating the listserv for the infinite future. Send us ideas and topics!

As with last year, I employed Twitter as much as possible during the meeting, producing a few (ahem) witty tweets using the #AAUP17 hashtag for as many sessions and social events as possible. Yes, you can check out my feed @BethanyWasik. Post-meeting, a highly encouraging Twitter buzz called for a focus on the “next generation” of AAUPers. This buzz was propelled further by motivational tweets from John Hussey of Ingram (@BookHussey) and our own exceptional marketing director, Martyn Beeny (@MartynBeeny), which altogether spawned welcome calls for future panels aimed at early career staff and the development of resources to encourage success in moving “UP.”

Bethany Wasik is an Assistant Editor acquiring in Archaeology at Cornell University Press. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWasik.

Adventures in #Acquisitioning: AAUP 2017