A couple of months ago I was recording a segment for “1869: The Cornell University Press Podcast” and our marketing director, Martyn Beeny, asked me what I meant when I talked about “smart books.” I had used the term in association with the sort of titles I wanted to acquire for our new regional trade imprint, Three Hills. “Smart” sounded like a good word, even a smart word, but what did I mean by it?
I paused, and audibly gulped. (You can listen here; the gulp comes at 2:06.) While I pulled myself together and said something about books that were “well-researched,” “informed,” “fair,” and “searching”—all good words, too—the truth was that I was not sure what I meant when I used the term “smart.” I felt that I knew what a smart book was but, when asked by Martyn, I realized I did not have a handle on what was obviously an intuitive feel for the sort of title I wanted to sign for the imprint.
A lot of work in publishing is, in fact, done by feel and intuition. That is part of the peril and fun of what we acquisitions editors do when we make judgments about quality and determine what we want to publish. Yet my failure to be articulate on this topic bothered me, and so I thought more on it. I use the term most often when I am talking about my trade and academic-trade titles—books that are meant to appeal to broader audiences—and that sense of readership plays into the concept of smart that, after some reflection, I struck upon. Continue reading “Outbox: Smart Books”→
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?
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. Continue reading “Adventures in #Acquisitioning: AAUP 2017”→
“Find your beach,” Corona suggests (forcefully, with beautiful people drinking ice-cold Coronas in beautiful places), and now we suggest the same. We’re not going to be as forceful, nor will we employ models to showcase our wares. Instead, our very-much-above-average books are the stars of this sale. We’ve started our first ever not-your-average beach books sale and we’d like you to find your beach so that you can sit down wherever you are with a beautiful Cornell University Press book in hand and disappear from the demands of your day, whatever those may be.
“Just do it” might be another campaign slogan we could appropriate. In other words, just do it and save big. Just do it and find your beach. Just do it and ignore all the other pressures of the day to immerse yourself in a way-above-average beach book.
And now that I’m into repurposing ad slogans, how about taking the Energizer bunny’s motto and encouraging you all to just do it, find your beach, and keep (and here’s where I’m being loose with the original) reading and reading and reading. But wait, there’s more. FedEx says to us all that we should use their service when there is no tomorrow; I’d suggest that if there’s no tomorrow, spending today reading above-average books might well be a better use of your time than shipping something. Disneyland is, of course, the happiest place on Earth. But surely, if you’ve just done it and found your beach and are reading and reading and reading because there is no tomorrow, then that would be the happiest place on Earth.
I could go on. No, really, I could. Instead, I encourage you to do all of the above because this sale won’t actually last forever and, I mean, 50 percent off is a really good reason to add volume to your TBR pile.
Martyn Beeny is Marketing Director for Cornell University Press. Have it your way. Think different. Impossible is nothing. Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny
At the recent Association of American University Presses (AAUP) meeting in Austin, TX, I finally got my hands on the print version of this report, which allowed me to actually read it all since I was no longer stuck behind a paywall. As we all know, it is fascinating. On so many levels.
I am pleased that The Chronicle took the time to compose this survey, send it out, and aggregate the responses, giving university presses a moment in the spotlight in a way that we do not often receive. I am saddened, though, by its overall approach. With a few exceptions, only directors or very senior editors responded (or were invited to). Questions posed were limited to subjects surrounding the acquisition of books. Responses seemed to gloss over the fact that we are businesses with marketing and sales teams.
As I read the questions and answers, I kept wanting to know what these wise and esteemed members of our community think about things other than writing quality, types of books, the acquisitions process, etc. I was struck that many of the responses were cautious—unwilling, perhaps out of fear or respect or something else, to push beyond the expected. While I criticize, I also understand. And yet I wished for something different. As such, I present here my responses to those same questions. I offer them from my perspective as a relatively short-term member of the community and as a marketing-and-business-first thinker. I expect and hope that my responses will elicit criticism, consternation, consideration, creativity, and more conversation. I look forward to, as some of us noted on Twitter during AAUP, a continued conversation. Hopefully that discussion will focus, at least partly, on the future of the university press so that this attention from The Chronicle does not simply fade into the ether now that we have returned to our campuses. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: A Marketing Response to The Chronicle’s Report on the Future of Scholarly Publishing”→
One hears so much these days, in academic circles, about the transnational that it is surprising that a decade ago it was a new concept in many fields. This was particularly so among historians of United States foreign relations, where high-level diplomacy and affairs of state had been the focus of attention as long as anyone could remember. So it was that the inaugural publications in The United States in the World—a book series dedicated to transnational scholarship—were unexpected, innovative, and trend-setting in the study of what was once termed “foreign affairs.” This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the first two books published in the series, and it is time to recognize the insight of the founding series editors and give tribute to the field-changing impact of the twenty volumes that have been published since 2007.
The story of the series goes back to 2005, when Mark Philip Bradley and Paul A. Kramer collaborated with my predecessor at Cornell University Press, Alison Kallett, to frame the series concept. At that time no press had a series of books in history focusing on the role that non-state actors, flows of capital and peoples, and non-governmental organizations had in state diplomacy and international relations. The editors proposed to push beyond the then-popular idea of global history and then to “draw on domestic and international archives,” “challenge conventional periodizations,” and “explore how people, ideas, and cultures traveled between the United States and the rest of the world.” Moreover, while looking ever outward to the larger world, the books were always intended to enrich and broaden, as Mark and Paul wrote in their series proposal, “our understanding of modern United States history.” Continue reading “Outbox – The Transnational Trend in U.S. Foreign Relations 10 Years In: Reflections on a Path-breaking Book Series”→
The difference a t-shirt makes: That is a lesson about regional publishing that I learned in the course of editing our new book, from Peter Conners, about the Grateful Dead’s 1977 concert at Barton Hall on the Cornell campus. When the authors, artists, editors, and archivists who play key roles in developing a book live in close proximity, chance meetings that can change a book are more likely to occur. And, as I learned last summer, if you are at the right place at the right time, you would do well to be wearing the right item of clothing.
Big history is making a comeback in the subfield of early American history. Or perhaps I should say that bigger history is once again of interest to scholars and, as an acquisitions editor, I am seeing exemplary work that shows what can be accomplished when one takes on the challenge of offering a more grand and sweeping account of events.
The contrast here is with the more fine-grained, local, and sometimes fragmentary work that came to the fore in the decades-long rise of social and cultural history. Rightfully weary of the big histories of famous men, military conflicts, and affairs of state, historians turned to the particularities of events and personal experience. In so doing they did scholars and lay readers alike a great service by putting us in contact with the daily and intimate aspects of history (often using diaries and court records), the experience of lesser-known historical actors (often women and people of color), and informal practices that structured experience (often unregulated markets, social networks, and resistance movements). And, as a result, today no one can do legitimate research and write meaningful narratives while overlooking these rich dimensions of historical experience. Continue reading “Outbox: Trends in the History of Early New York”→
To: Sage House Staff From: Patrick Garrison, Data Processing Manager Subject: New Press-wide Database
The PWDB¹ has now been transmitted in final form to Bob Oeste for AllBooks². Our database has now been frozen in time. Full search capability remains, but nothing can be changed. It is what it is, for the ages to come. Goodbye old friend, along with your good buddy CIS³. Change, the inevitable, irresistible force of the Universe, has caught up with you both.
To paraphrase Shakespeare:
Our revels now are ended. These our databases, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The inventory reports, the price change worksheets, The solemn reworking of the PWDB, the great mission of the Press itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a dust jacket behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
And when we wake, we will find All Books waiting for us, in a forest of Long Leaves4. In another year, we will not think it so long in coming.
What if we’re missing the real revolution of Print on Demand?
Think about it. With POD we could:
Make almost real-time edits and updates to a book
Feed content from a blog or website straight into a book
Create a system for marginalia printed in a book
Change content based on critique
Change a cover to suit audience taste more easily
Personalize every copy of a book
Why would we want to use print books in this way? Isn’t it better to simply allow digital platforms to handle this kind of change? On some level, absolutely. Print books can’t do what digital ones do; they can’t be changed or edited in real time. But what if we tried to mimic the digital experience as closely as we can in print books? How would that affect how we perceive the printed book? In other words, it’s time to flip the print-to-digital paradigm on its head and see if we can apply some digital-like assets to a printed product. Continue reading “DOC MARTYN’S SAGE MARKETING: Shifting the POD Paradigm”→
My colleagues and I at Cornell University Press were saddened to learn that Susan Christopherson, Professor and Chair of City and Regional Planning at Cornell, died on Wednesday, December 14. In the obituary posted on the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning website, her faculty colleagues celebrate her excellent research and writing, her commitment to equity in our communities, and her tireless work as an administrator, teacher, and mentor. At the Press my colleagues and I saw those qualities of mind and character displayed in her role as a fair and exacting referee on book manuscripts. My predecessor, Peter Wissoker, and I benefited greatly from her dedication to supporting projects that brought theoretical innovation to grounded research as we built a list of titles in that melded political economy approaches to geography with urban studies. Susan was an indispensable and savvy critic, and a champion of worthy projects in the rough that needed just a little more editorial attention. When my energy flagged on a book she cared about, Susan would jump in and revive the project and push both editor and author to work a bit harder. I cannot imagine a better partnership between editor and faculty member. Susan will be missed be me and by my future authors.
Michael McGandy is a Senior Editor at Cornell University Press.