When I was little, maybe six years old, I’m guessing, my mum read Roald Dahl’s Danny, the Champion of the World to me. It changed my life. It’s still my favorite book of all time, even now so many years later. I read it for myself a couple of years later and it’s just about the only book I return to every now and then to read again. This book led me down a path that eventually saw me become a book marketer. Between then and now, my love of books grew every year. Now, I’ve spent the past thirteen years publishing, marketing, and selling books, and in some small way, Danny, the Champion of the World is the reason.
In middle school (the English equivalent, anyway), my friends and I competed to see who could read our assigned books the quickest, who could move on to the next book in the series, and finish that series. The joy of being first added to the joy of reading the books in the first place, and made me a voracious reader of books of all different genres and subjects.
In high school, I read two books that completely changed my world view. The first was The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The second was Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. I still have the broken, worn paperback versions of each book more than twenty years later. Both books showed me how impactful nonfiction could be and set me on the course of academic study, and, probably, academic publishing.
I shipped them all from England to the US when I moved here; far more weight and volume in books than all my other possessions combined.
In college, I kept every book I bought. I never sold a single one back at the end of the year. I shipped them all from England to the US when I moved here; far more weight and volume in books than all my other possessions combined. Until I moved to Ithaca towards the end of 2016 (and ended up with far less space for books because we did not immediately buy a house) I still had each of those college text and nonfiction books. Even with the move to Central New York I still kept the most important of those books and I proudly display them in our living room.
After finishing my PhD, I fell into publishing at the South Dakota Historical Society Press. I discovered a completely different side of books, and it changed the way I think about books. I found a new appreciation for what a book is and what it takes to produce one. I bought books I never would have before. I kept every book we published at the SDHS Press. Again, I still have many of them, including the first one I edited, the first one I designed, and the first one of which I sold more than 5,000 copies.
When I moved to the University of Nebraska Press eight years later, I could no longer keep every single book we published, but I took home significant volumes, such as Josephine Waggoner’s Witness (it made the shortlist of books to bring to Ithaca and is in my office here at CUP, or Black Elk Speaks. I gave UNP gifts to family and friends. Everything from backlist science fiction to twentieth-century history to essays on soccer.
This year, I’m particularly looking forward to adding our new John Cleese book and Mr. X and the Pacific to that list, as well as stumbling through the back list some more to see what other gems lay hidden.
This penchant for gifting and keeping books I’ve published has not changed since I arrived at Cornell University Press. I’ve already read and placed carefully on my shelves many CUP books including those covering such disparate topics as WWII publishing, the history of camping, and modern military doctors in field hospitals. This year, I’m particularly looking forward to adding our new John Cleese book and Mr. X and the Pacific to that list, as well as stumbling through the back list some more to see what other gems lay hidden.
Yes, books have been, are, and will be, a crucial part of my life. It’s my job (and my passion) to find ways to make books appeal to someone enough that they will part with their hard-earned cash. From fan of Roald Dahl to marketing director at a major university press, I enjoy books for the worlds they open. Hopefully, in my current relationship with books, I can somehow be involved in creating the next little seed of excitement about books in a six-year-old boy or girl so that one day they’ll be sitting in my seat wondering how on earth to get someone to buy a book!
Martyn Beeny is Marketing Director. The idea of stuffing bloated raisins with sleeping pills has fascinated him for years. Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny