Outbox: What makes a book timely?

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Ski chalet, Nevele Grande Hotel, Ellenville, New York. Photograph by Marisa Scheinfeld.

by Michael J. McGandy

Book editors are notorious for having too much to read and edit, running behind schedule, and, generally, holding up brilliant work that should have been published yesterday. Whether we are seen as imperious gatekeepers whose ways remain hidden behind in-house processes or as antiquated bureaucrats dithering at our desks, there is a general sense that authors as well as readers are unfairly beholden to our jam-packed schedules.

There is some truth to those assessments, of course. And of late I have been keenly aware of these critical (and sometimes contemptuous) evaluations of the work of editors. Coming back to my desk after six weeks of personal leave, and facing hundreds of emails and tens of overdue commitments, has reminded me of how many people are waiting, some patiently and some less so, on word from me about their book projects.


There is a sense of timeliness that is about the inherent quality of the work—the time a work needs and not what the events of our times might mean for its reception and relevance.


I have also been reflecting on the whole idea of the timeliness of books and the time that it takes to make books, particularly excellent books. Recent political events have turned over lots of publishing ideas with once-important books fated for irrelevancy on their first day of sale on Amazon, and editors and authors chasing after the new hot topic associated with the Trump presidency. Timeliness is, indeed, fickle. Continue reading “Outbox: What makes a book timely?”

Outbox: What makes a book timely?

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Reading is Power

Reading is power, because knowledge gives us the tools to think more widely about the things that confront us on a daily basis. In the aftermath of the presidential election many thousands of think pieces, blogs, articles, and much more have been written to rejoice, despair, cajole, criticize, and much else. Many of us read those pieces with minds perhaps already formed, or perhaps not completely open to new ideas. Such an approach is understandable; we seek out information that fits how we view the world or how we wish to view it. We don’t always seek out knowledge that pushes the boundaries of what we already perceive.

One of my jobs as marketing director is to introduce people to new information. Essentially, every time my team and I start marketing a new book we must seek a way to get someone to engage with content that they might not know about, be immediately interested in, or consider within the scope of their desire to know. Every book has a core audience, of course. Each author has written his or her book with that audience in mind. But there are often also audiences that do not immediately seem applicable. It is our job as marketers to find those people so that we can introduce them to the content and, we hope, expand their view of the world. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Reading is Power”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Reading is Power

It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon

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Buffalo Street Books: saving the world, one bookstore at a time.

It’s University Press Week at AAUP, and we’re excited to participate in the annual UP Week Blog Tour. This year’s theme is “community,” and today’s posts focus on IndieBound, the community of independent bookstores. Find more great reads at our partner presses: University of Texas PressUniversity of Calgary Press, University Press of ColoradoSeminary Co-op BookstoresMcGill-Queen’s University PressDuke University PressNYU PressUniversity Press of Kentucky, and University Press of Kansas.

Next door to Greenstar, Ithaca’s cooperative natural foods market, and down the hall from the legendary Moosewood Restaurant, you’ll find Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca’s cooperatively owned bookstore. In these hard times for the publishing industry, our conspicuously literate college town of 30,000 (50,000 when you include Cornell and Ithaca College’s student bodies) has but four brick and mortar stand-alone bookstores left within its city limits, each staking out its territory: used and rare, science fiction and fantasy, big box, and independent new. Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon”

It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon

The Deer Is OK

City Lore 30th anniversary party
“Readings, dancing, food, wine, poets, and fans” at City Lore’s 30th anniversary party and book signing (Photo: E. B. Gallardo)

The Poetry of Everyday Life, by Steve Zeitlin, hit the stores this month. The book is a lovely meditation on the nooks and crannies of daily life where poetic moments are nestled. Throughout the book the reader meets poets who have captured and paid homage to those moments. A few weeks ago I got to hear some of those poets in person as they read from the book in a lively and jam-packed book party on the Lower East Side in Manhattan at City Lore, where Steve is founding director.


One night I had a dream in which I tried to navigate the narrative of my dream using the Word toolbars (both Standard and Formatting).


We manuscript editors spend our days with manuscripts and page proofs, e-mail and monitors; some of us don’t get out much, or at least as often as some of our colleagues in other departments. One night I had a dream in which I tried to navigate the narrative of my dream using the Word toolbars (both Standard and Formatting). So I thought, when you get an opportunity to attend an event for a book you got to know really well during the editing and production process and see what actually happens when it hits the world, along with a chance to get down to the city, it is a good idea to seize it! Continue reading “The Deer Is OK”

The Deer Is OK

The Poetry of Everyday Life and Zeitlin’s Creative Writing Prompts

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From the cover of The Poetry of Everyday Life. Photo by Martha Cooper.

Place Moments

“The places we care about are baskets that hold the perishable fruits of memory and experience. Take a notebook out to the places that you love, those places that are lush with low-hanging fruit. The moments when you encounter them mark the times when the experience is ripe for you. Savor them.” — Steve Zeitlin

Have you done it? Have you gone back to those places you once held close? Have you explored new places?

The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness, by Steve Zeitlin, defines our own lives — all of our moments, no matter how small or big—as collections of beautiful poems. Poetry can exist in breathing: the simplest thing you can do as a human being. The writing exercise mentioned above is just one example of how Zeitlin, a folklorist who devotes his time to the beauty of human communication, uses his latest project to help educators, writers, and others discover the surrounding beauty in their everyday lives. He is also the founding director of City Lore, an organization that believes in the power of grassroots voices as they tell their stories of cultural heritage. Continue reading “The Poetry of Everyday Life and Zeitlin’s Creative Writing Prompts”

The Poetry of Everyday Life and Zeitlin’s Creative Writing Prompts

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: One Week on the Job!

Inspiration Chair

First impressions certainly do count for a lot, but they are just first impressions. I’ve found myself thinking about this during my first week at Cornell UP.

You cannot help but have a positive first impression when you arrive at Sage House, home of the Press and namesake of this blog. The old house is beautiful; I’d be surprised if there are too many other university presses with prettier digs. The house is populated with a fun, lively, creative, and intelligent team. I’ve been impressed with everyone’s excitement about the task of creating books. There is genuine pride in what we do here and that has been apparent to me from the first moment.


You cannot help but have a positive first impression when you arrive at Sage House, home of the Press and namesake of this blog.


I’ve enjoyed meeting my fellow marketers, all of whom bring a wealth of experience to the role they play. As the newbie, it’s fun to be taxed and challenged by what they know and how they work. I think we have the foundation for some really inspired and (I hope) inspiring marketing to come in the next few months and years.

But first impressions are simply that. In one week I cannot begin to fathom the inner workings, details, and processes of the oldest university press in the country. That realization is not negative. What it means is that there is so much more to come, so much more to flesh out upon the raw bones of the information I’ve received in my first week. I tweeted this week about trying to learn everything as quickly as possible. But that was on Twitter where I can be a little cheeky. There’s no way I can learn everything in a week, nor would I want to. But what I have found from these first impressions is the sense that my role here as marketing director is going to be fascinating.

Marketing is an ever-changing field, so it naturally requires one to continually grow lest we become stale and old-fashioned. As I discern more about what happens here, what works well, and so on, I’m also conscious that we have to keep evolving and keep trying new things and keep pushing ourselves to find the best way to tell our story to as many people as possible.

At first glance, Cornell UP is going to be a fun place to work—perhaps the most important thing to me in a job—because the people here are primed and ready to take the Press to new heights. So if you catch me standing on the third-floor balcony from time to time, gazing out over the beautiful view of Ithaca below me, it’s simply because I’ve already been lifted up this high and now I’m straining to see what’s next.

Martyn

Martyn Beeny is the Marketing Director at Cornell University Press. No one told him the streets in Ithaca were so steep! Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: One Week on the Job!

Director’s Cut: It’s a Wonderful Life of Books

cornell-guideI stopped into The Bookery on Tuesday after lunch at The Moosewood Café a few blocks down from our offices at The Sage House here in Ithaca. I discovered a book on Shakespearean actor Sir John Gielgud for $1.00 that I pulled from the discount rack. It referenced a friend of mine from my days in New York City. Ben Edwards lived in Chelsea and was a Broadway set designer. With his hickory-tinged Alabama accent, Ben would hold court over martinis with hints of ice skimming the surface in his brownstone telling stories about Tennessee Williams, Elia Kazan and Gielgud.

I noticed another book as I reached for my wallet. On the table was the “Guide to the Campus of Cornell University” published in 1920. The Cornell Press was on hiatus at the time, reopening in 1933. The trim size and feel of the book resembles our recent title, “The Inauguration of Elizabeth Garrett.” The “Guide” was advertised for fifty cents during its time. In 2015, the price had risen to $15.00. I gladly paid it.

The book contains many entertaining passages about the town and the university. We learn that it took seven hours to reach Ithaca by train from New York City in 1920 in the section entitled, “General Directions for a Stranger.” During the winter an “automobile omnibus plies daily from Elmira to Ithaca.”

There’s a section on “The Infirmary.” The Sage House was once an infirmary that contained “rooms, offices, and rooms for convalescent cases.” There were 75 beds in the house and “the number can be doubled in an emergency.” This is good to know for expansion possibilities.

In the “Biographies” section, Henry Williams Sage receives more than a page of copy for his contributions to Cornell. At the inauguration of the university in 1868 with tears in his eyes he told John McGraw, “We are scoundrels to stand doing nothing while those men are killing themselves to establish this university.”

It’s Christmas Eve 2015, and the Sage House is bustling with activity. It feels like seventy degrees outside. Our editor Roger Haydon is busily preparing manuscripts that will bring accolades to the university in areas that Cornell is known for and others that it is not. Mahinder Kingra is plying metadata as though he is wrapping gold chocolate coins to stuff in stockings. Ange Romeo Hall is readying her desk for another 50 or more titles to be published this Spring. Betty Kim is waiting for me to finish writing this.

In today’s volatile publishing industry, these folks and many others are striving to ensure the long-term survival of the Press. It’s an honor to work with them.

Please support your university press and have a tremendous 2016 filled with exciting literary discoveries.

—Dean Smith, Director

Director’s Cut: It’s a Wonderful Life of Books

Director’s Cut: Voices in the Band

Never Forget the Voices by Dean J. Smith, Director, Cornell University Press

As I read Dr. Susan Ball’s memoir, Voices in the Band, about working in the trenches of the AIDS crisis, I remembered the searing lines from Henri Cole’s poem “Paper Dolls” that was published in The New Yorker in 1995: “Straight as candles/His legs exposed/The eroding candelabrum/That was his body.”

Ball’s account brings back the patients she cared for in all of their tragic beauty. You accompany her on daily rounds and inside the group therapy sessions where doctors were trying any technique possible to deal with a deadly contagion that had become a national health crisis. You learn that many hospitals and doctors didn’t want to deal with these patients. She arrived to find the shoddy work of medical residents who were afraid to touch them.

On some days, she’d had enough:  Continue reading “Director’s Cut: Voices in the Band”

Director’s Cut: Voices in the Band