Let’s Change the World

Our goal for Giving Day is to raise $15,000 and open one of our new titles to the world. Your contribution will realize that dream.

 

Give the gift of reliable knowledge to everyone.

Cornell University Press has been publishing high-quality scholarship since 1869–rigorously edited and voraciously read all over the world in print and digital form.

Your gift on Cornell Giving Day (March 14th) will allow us to continue our experimentation with open access and give back to the world. We already have 150 open titles being accessed across the globe in 150 countries by thousands of people. With your support we’ll make it 151.

A Cornell book stimulates thinking otherwise. The more of our books that we open to the world the more we can change it through that stimulated thinking.

Our books help effect positive change in the world. Deadly River from our ILR Press imprint exposed the UN’s role in the cover up of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The award-winning Violence as a Generative Force brought an unknown genocide in Bosnia into the light of day. Continue reading “Let’s Change the World”

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Let’s Change the World

$1,205,000 Mellon grant to expand the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program

Cornell University Press, University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, the Ohio State University Press, University of Chicago Press, Northwestern University Press, and the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) join forces to expand the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program.

A four-year, $1,205,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the University of Washington Press to support the continued development and expansion of the pipeline program designed to diversify academic publishing by offering apprenticeships in acquisitions departments. This new grant will provide for three annual cycles of editorial fellows at six university presses: Cornell University Press, University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, the Ohio State University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Northwestern University Press.

This new grant builds on the success of the initial 2016 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which funded the first cross-press initiative of its kind in the United States to address the marked lack of diversity in the academic publishing industry. Graduates of the first fellowship program hold professional positions at university presses across the country, including at Columbia University Press, the MIT Press, University of Virginia Press, the Ohio State University Press, and the University of Washington Press. Additionally, for the four participating presses, the initial grant expanded applicant pools, improved outreach to underrepresented communities, created more equitable preliminary screening practices in hiring, and enabled dedicated attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion overall.

The 2016 grant also served as a catalyst for broader changes at the partner presses and within the AUPresses as a larger organization. “Diversity is one of AUPresses’ core values. As such, we are proud to partner in the expansion of this significant program,” says AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “Our participation in the original initiative over the last three years has led, not only to more inclusive programming choices at our annual conferences and webinars, but also to the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which will evolve into a Standing Committee to help us sustain momentum in this area of vital importance to our community, higher education, and the entire publishing industry.”

This new grant offers opportunities for more sustained engagement with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion among the new partner presses and the university press community more broadly. “Continuing the fellowship program will enable us to focus on longer-term issues of retention and leadership development among the program’s participants,” says Larin McLaughlin, Editor in Chief of the University of Washington Press and principal investigator on the grant. “With this new grant, we want to provide the opportunity for new presses to participate in the program while benefitting from the experience of the original partner presses.”

Gita Manaktala, Editorial Director of the MIT Press, commented, “The fellows have inspired a strong sense of responsibility among partner presses, which have demonstrated this in several ways: by developing more inclusive press environments, by opening processes to welcome the fellows’ perspectives and input into the daily work of acquisitions, and by providing fellows with focused career advice for job placement and professional development.”

The first and second grants combined provide for a total of thirty fellows in six years, which will generate marked shifts in acquisitions staff across university presses not possible without this kind of dedicated funding.

Gerald R. Beasley, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell University said, “I am very grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for giving Cornell this opportunity to add a Diversity Fellow to the outstanding team at Cornell University Press. The Cornell University Library currently has three Diversity Fellows in its professional ranks; I am excited to know that we will now be adding a fourth in the Press’s acquisitions department.”

Dean Smith, Director of Cornell University Press said, “We are delighted to be included in this grant and to address the issue of diversity in academic publishing. This aligns us with efforts already underway in the Cornell Library and with Cornell University’s campus-wide diversity initiatives.”

$1,205,000 Mellon grant to expand the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program

Behind-the-scenes with an Acquiring Editor at the 2019 American Historical Association Conference

a-ha
Wrong A-HA?

This year’s meeting was in Chicago, but we were spared the worst of the winds (and denied the pleasures of daylight) in the Book Exhibit, located in the subterranean level of the Hilton Hotel. Had I been wiser about creating some personal time, I’d have taken a break to walk the fabulous waterfront, envy of North American cities everywhere; to visit local museums; to practice the fine art of being a flanneur for an afternoon.

That said, there were memorable moments of site-seeing. An author took me to the incredible landmark deli, Manny’s, for breakfast, where we shared smoked meat (which, at that hour of the morning, had an effect akin to caffeine) and talked about modern Japanese history. Another colleague, Eric Zuelow, editor of our newly launched series, The Histories & Cultures of Tourism, took me for dinner at a world-class Spanish tapas bar, Café Iberico, where we enjoyed one marvelous garlicky dish after another. Between bites, we discussed upcoming author meetings and how best to position Cornell University Press, and our series, with respect to their work.

I cemented existing author relations in the most enjoyable way. Now that the anxieties of peer review were a distant memory, the back-and-forth of committee approvals and revisions were no more, and actual publication dates were assigned for books, we could partake in civilized drinks in a too-loud hotel lobby to reminisce about the process and strategize about promotion, or to discuss future projects. One of my authors, Jay Geller, did a “Live at the Event” podcast with our Marketing and Sales Director Martyn Beeny, about his forthcoming book, The Scholems, and then we had a Mexican dinner, where I found out about his next research question. (I was so impressed that he truly had just the question, not even the suggestion of an answer.)  At moments like these, this editor’s saturated mind found room she did not even know existed.

geller - front

I had hourly meetings with prospective authors. Conversations encompassed everything from the essentials of thesis revision, to the way in the evaluation process works, to the key features distinguishing Cornell University Press as a publisher. Every now and then, I would excuse myself from the meeting to sell books – highly rewarding to get the fruits of our collective labor into customers’ hands – but I heard about many fascinating potential manuscripts.

I also took time to be, à la Jonathan Lethem, a feral booth detective (getting a sense of the shape of other publishers’ current lists, seeing books I would love to have acquired, taking note of interesting cover designs, discovering newly launched book series), and to speak to those colleagues at other presses. We are living in interesting times, as the old expression goes, and it’s informative to get a sense of how others are navigating them.

I got back to the office and committed to kale shakes, low carbs, and a healthy dose of fiction. I am now renewed for the next conference!

Emily Andrew is a senior editor, acquiring manuscripts in the fields of European History, military history, Asian history, and tourism studies. Next time in Chicago, she plans to visit The Green Mill, a staple of the city’s live jazz scene, which has been slinging drinks since before Prohibition.

 

 

Behind-the-scenes with an Acquiring Editor at the 2019 American Historical Association Conference

The One-Week Bookstore @CornellPress opens its doors this Nov 5th!

A few weeks ago our team got an email from the Marketing Director that read: “Mahinder (our Editor in Chief) just sold a book! In Sage House. To a real customer. Fun.” A couple lines later in the same email, we found out that we were having a pop-up bookstore right here at Cornell University Press. The ball was rolling.

So as a result of this random but wonderful happening of selling a book in-house, on November 5th at 10:00am and for one week only, our doors will be open, our bookshelves will be filled, and Ithacans will march through the grand, old entrance to get their wishlist titles from our very first pop-up store.

There’s not much more to it. Walk in, choose your next reads, pay cash, check or credit card, and carry your books home. Or as our Exhibits Coordinator David put it: “Cash, credit, check, and carry!” Paperbacks will be $10, hardcovers will be $15. Taxes included. It’s a one one-time deal to make knowledge more accessible to professors, students, and all book lovers in the community. Plus, the chance to wander about Cornell University Press, and experience the magic of publishing books in the beautiful Sage House mansion.

I was not supposed to write this blog post. But the person that volunteered to do it is busy putting everything together for next week, so I stepped in. Looking for inspiration on what to write, I stumbled upon an article that said that “… pop-up retail tickles the parts of one’s brain that likes new things”. I instantly understood what had happened. At #CornellPress, we just love new ideas. And the opportunity to bring our customers face to face with the books we love, in our own backyard, and in such a spontaneous format, sold it for us.

The invitation is up: This November 5th through November 9th, stop by Sage House on 118 Sage Place to take part in The One-Week Pop-Up Bookstore, and get the books you want.

In the meantime, we’ll be busy preparing for it: part of our staff is being trained in the world of sales and retail, flyers are being distributed all over town, and books are piling up downstairs, growing our pop-up inventory. And as everybody’s doing their bits and pieces, I am curious to see what excitement, feedback and results our first and one time only pop-up bookstore will bring.

FLYER copy


About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. Her birthday is November 9th, so if you happen to stop by the pop-up bookstore that Friday, make sure to give her your best wishes!

The One-Week Bookstore @CornellPress opens its doors this Nov 5th!

Let the Printing Wars begin at #BKBF!

Anyone who has heard me speak about it or read anything I’ve written on the topic knows I’m a big proponent of the benefits of print-on-demand (POD) technology for university presses. Even so, when I received an email recently from a gentleman at HP I was quite surprised. He wanted to let me know he’d seen a video of me speaking about the advantages of POD and wondered if I would mind having a phone call with him to discuss in more depth.

What takes place at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday is the result of that call. If you stop by our Cornell University Press booth # 624 you’ll be able to see it for yourself and take part in the one and only CUP Printing Challenge sponsored by HP!

During my call with the Man from HP (I feel as though it needs caps; it’s seems so James Bond somehow), we started discussing the legendary “Pepsi Challenge,” a marketing promotion that allowed the brand to grab a significant market share away from its main competitor Coke. If you ever took it I bet you’ll instantly know what I’m referring to. Back in the 80s (or maybe it was earlier), Pepsi devised a worldwide marketing campaign in which people would be asked to blind taste a glass of Pepsi and a glass of Coca Cola and pick their favorite. The taster didn’t know which glass was which. As a result of the experiment, Pepsi announced with great fanfare that more than 50 percent of the participants preferred their sweeter taste and moreover, discovered that Coke was launching a new formula, in an attempt to resemble theirs. Pepsi USA declared that the “Cola-Wars” were over and gave its employees the day off. It was a festive day for the company. Even now, the “Pepsi Challenge” remains one of the most memorable marketing campaigns in history, and a great example of how consumer perception, and smart marketing, can tilt the scale in any way.

So, going back to what concerns us, the Man from HP and I started musing about something similar for offset and POD printing in the publishing world. It was my contention that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the traditional and the newer methods of printing a book, and that like the “Pepsi Challenge,” perception was one of the factors inhibiting the university press world from making a more profound shift.

The Man from HP agreed that we should try it, and so we devised the Printing Challenge.

We’re unveiling what it’s all about this weekend, at the Brooklyn Book Festival. Do you think you’ll be able to tell the difference? Do you think one way is better than the other? And do you even care? If any of this sounds intriguing to you, come on by. You’ll get a sample of two books to look at and you’ll be asked a few questions. And just for taking the challenge, we’ll give you 50 percent off your next CUP book, together with some special @HP giveaways!

Quite frankly, I’m fascinated to see the results.

If you are not able to make it to #BKBF, follow @CornellPress on Twitter for live updates and the latest news from our #PrintingChallenge

More on the “Pepsi Challenge” and experience marketing, here:

 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director of Cornell University Press. He prefers Coca Cola.

Let the Printing Wars begin at #BKBF!

Gerri Jones, Professor Cleese, and Me

Last summer, Gerri Jones called to tell me that Cornell Professor at Large John Cleese would be coming to Ithaca in September for a week. She told me that she had scheduled me for a public talk with Cleese on September 11th at Bailey Hall that would become the last chapter of the book we were working on together.

Since joining this amazing Press in 2015, moments like this seemed to occur with some regularity. I attended a poetry workshop at Olin Library café with a former leader of the SDS at Cornell, a Nobel Laureate and an A.R. Ammons biographer. Today, I am surrounded by correspondence rejecting Vladimir Nabokov’s novel in verse and a ledger that holds the 1939 pencil-written royalty entries for the publication of The Nature of the Chemical Bond. I am also keenly aware at times of Cornell founder Henry Sage and his wife Susan who initially occupied the mansion where I work. Gerri Jones fit right in as part of an emerging entourage.

A small family of deer mingled outside my window looking in my direction as if waiting for an answer. Surely someone else would want the opportunity to have this conversation. Gerri confirmed that she had cleared it with the Provost’s office, and that the Provost would be introducing us both. I still didn’t believe it was going to happen.

cleese cover

More than one year after that call and the event that formed the final chapter of Professor at Large: The Cornell Years, Gerri Jones passed away on August 10th, 2018. She was 68. She died from an infection in the hospital while being treated for leukemia.

This mystical and extraordinary woman who first alighted upon the second-floor landing of the Sage House during a folk concert never got to see her book get published. It was Gerri who brought one of the world’s most impressive and hilarious minds to Cornell over a span of seventeen years.

“Start thinking about a plan for the conversation,” she instructed me.

 

As it always was with Gerri, I knew what she meant. Avoid the cliched version of the Professor. Don’t spend a lot of time on Python—which I already knew anyway. If my words didn’t energize Gerri—she became bored and disinterested. She’d make a face. You had to elevate your game to be on the field with her. Those words reverberated in the weeks after the call. I dove into the Cleese canon of books, movies, and television shows. His mind came first. I read the manuscript of lectures and talks over and over.

While studying the Minister of Silly Walks, I recalled Gerri’s return to Sage House after the folk concert wearing knee-length boots and John Lennon shades. She carried a white shopping bag of Cleese talks and lectures on CDs. She told us about the never before published lecture entitled “The Sermon at Sage Chapel” that included a passage about “The Psychopaths for Christ.”

I received word of her passing and attended her funeral. She was supposed to be in remission now.

Through her friends, I came to discover that this whole episode was another glorious chapter in the amazing life of Gerri Jones. She could tilt the universe in any direction. She brought the Dalai Lama to Ithaca twice as the house mother to the Tibetan monks. She carried Kurt Cobain’s ashes back to Courtney Love after the monks had prepared them. She had even used one set as a door stop. She broke Reagan’s blockade of Nicaragua. She was the pride of Central Islip High on Long Island. To everyone there, she was simply “Ger.”

She loved Mardi Gras, dogs and Professor Cleese fiercely. They trusted each other and their chemistry was telepathic. She engineered a schedule that both challenged and protected him and left him with enough space to be creative. “I can’t read him,” he told Gerri during our second meeting after trying to discern the meaning of my facial expression. I can tell you that in that moment I felt absolute joy. My preparation for the talk had been rigorous and thorough. Professor Cleese had been talking about the brain and I leaned back in my chair and smiled. Yes, I had a little secret. I had known exactly what he was going to say before the words came out but I didn’t want to tell him that in the aftermath. Getting to know John Cleese is like learning how to play guitar. The chord structures are accessible, but they merely serve as a launch pad into an endless galaxy of improvisation.

I was ready for the public conversation and had enough confidence in his presence to suggest how the show was going to begin. After nearly falling off the chair with laughter, he agreed. Until now, Gerri was the only one I told this to in the hallway after we left Cleese that day. She and I have other secrets related to the book. Those we will keep. She swore me to it.

“We make a good team, don’t we?” She pinched my arm.

GERRI
Photo courtesy of Slade Kennedy.

 

About the author of this blog post: Dean Smith is the Director of Cornell University Press.

Gerri Jones, Professor Cleese, and Me

And what is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversations? (My first time @BookExpo)

I attended  BookExpo in NYC, last Thursday, for the first time.  I had no idea of what to expect, so I’m sharing here a recap of everything I took (and didn’t take) from BookExpo 2018:

The variety. People and books everywhere, I felt like Alice in Book Wonderland. Sometimes shrinking within the crowd, sometimes enlarging by book displays, only to find myself chasing The White Rabbit, always late for the next talk that I wanted to attend. What a fascinating conglomeration of publishers, titles, events, and everything that is new in the publishing world!

The networking. Whether in booths or in the long lines for book signings, the atmosphere was electric. I was delighted to talk to other colleagues with different interests and from the most varied backgrounds. The result: I walked out of BookExpo with fresh insights, new marketing tools provided by the speakers from Ingram, and more importantly, a handful of business cards with the contact information of people with whom I will collaborate in the future.

The University Press world. I spent my afternoon visiting the other university presses exhibiting at BookExpo. I met with fellow marketers and exhibitors, and we chatted about catalogue design, the most cost-effective merchandising for publishers, new releases, and last but not least, how to better promote our books on our social media platforms.

The food. More excited than the Hatter at the Mad Tea Party—and forgetting about that article with tips for first time attendees—I ate at the Javits Center’s food court. It had a surprisingly wide array of options, and even a vegetarian selection. Plus, I met a wonderful lady in line and we shared our lunch, talking about the importance of encouraging children to read from a very early age. Priceless.

The giveaways & galleys. My Queen of Hearts, both antagonist and favorite character. Even though I gathered some books and souvenirs, I felt a bit underwhelmed by the few giveaways available at the event. On the bright side, I found everyone at their booths to be very animated, always handing out a catalogue or business card when they didn’t have a galley to offer.

The maze. The King of Hearts. Even though by walking in circles I found exhibits that were not in my loop, I found the layout of the event to be a bit confusing. I spent a fair amount of time looking for the Midtown stage, with no BookExpo volunteers in sight to ask for directions, and a small map not suitable for a short-sighted person like me.

The wandering about. Finally, I just took the time to wander about. During this time, I wrote on the “What is the book that changed your life?” wall, entered a contest to win a book basket, wheeled my little bag around until I got a few children’s titles for my son, and even met a translator that recommended some books in Spanish that I will read in the near future.

All in all, I found BookExpo to be a success. I appreciate the contagious energy, the excitement, and the friendliness that transpired in that place. It reminded me of the magic worlds that open up with every page we read, and the fact that behind every book that is published, there is a story, an author, and a team of dedicated people who are working hard to bring it to life.

——

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is grateful to have attended BookExpo 2018 and more than anything, to the people at Sleeping Bear Press who gave her free cake for dessert!

 

And what is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversations? (My first time @BookExpo)

The reality of book sales (is an asteroid hurtling through space)     

In February, Publishers Weekly released data indicating that print book sales dropped 4 percent in 2017. The early-warning doomsdayers are looking skywards and believing they see an asteroid making its way towards the book publishing world. Perhaps. Although I don’t believe so. What I do believe, though, is that we’ve entered a new paradigm for book sales, particularly for sales of scholarly books.

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Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

If we consider recent data, it quickly becomes apparent that what was once true is no longer. Sales of individual titles are just not the same as they were five or ten years ago. The reasons for the drop are myriad, of course, and have been discussed over and over. To list just a few, libraries no longer purchase as many books, new types of courses that use non-traditional materials emerged, there’s a perceived aversion to print books from both students and younger scholars (although I’m not truly buying that one), and, of course, there’s the internet. And so on. Regardless of the foundational reasons, the reality is that what we all thought to be our baseline for sales on any given type of scholarly book has changed.

My study of books published in the last twenty-four months shows a drop of between ten and twenty percent in expected first-year sales (XFS) over books published in the previous twenty-four months. It’s a relatively small sample size, but it’s still indicative in a way, and will cause us to evaluate how best to approach sales projections in the next couple of years. What this little bit of analysis doesn’t show, is the three-year projected sales (or beyond). I’ll look at trends there in a coming blog post, but my hope is that we can overcome the drop in XFS over the longer haul through focused marketing and new techniques and technologies.

This reality check isn’t all doom and gloom. Sure, we’d all love sales to be ticking upwards at the same rate as they fall, but that isn’t happening. But the end of the (book publishing) world isn’t yet here and I have cause for optimism. These new real numbers will, if anything, push us to find efficiencies across the Press, and to look for the very best of all projects that have the biggest upside and show an XFS of n+25% (or some other wonderfully optimistic number). We’ll be forced to innovate, finding new and creative (and inexpensive or collaborative) platforms to use to help us boost sales. To borrow an oft-used phrase of a few years ago, we’re going to have to “git ‘r done.”

Having reworked the marketing team over the past six months, hired three new people, and developed a nascent marketing strategic plan, we’re well positioned to face the threat of diminishing sales. Our invigorated team is constantly brainstorming and experimenting. We’ve even invited our colleagues to sit in on open marketing meetings to see how we’re attempting to meet our challenges. New technology, integrated marketing approaches, and an openness to ideas from outside are all ways in which we will address the drop in sales of print books. We refuse to stick our heads in the sand like marketing ostriches. And though it’s no use pretending sales are what they were five years ago, it’s also not an excuse for sitting back and waiting for the asteroid to come crashing from the sky.

 

Related article on the topic: “Three experts share publisher expectations for 2018”

Recommended watch:

 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is the Marketing Director at Cornell University Press. He has the crazy idea that we’re here to sell books. You can follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny

The reality of book sales (is an asteroid hurtling through space)     

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!

free

This week, we’re focusing on Cornell Open, our partnership with National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation to bring classic books from our backlist back to the forefront of discussion through an open access strategy. As such, I’ve been turning my attention to how we market and “sell” things that are free. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow

Creativity

Recently, we spent two and a half hours in a marketing meeting. Yes, that’s right, 150 minutes. We spent that time brainstorming, discussing, agreeing and disagreeing, planning, posing problems and finding solutions, and much more. We didn’t go into the meeting with a plan to spend that amount of time, it just organically occurred, and it was worth every minute. What we didn’t do in that time was our usual work. We disrupted our workflow, and the marketing team (and by extension the rest of the Press) is better as a result. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow