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”→
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?”→
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”→