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tv   The Future of University Presses  CSPAN  February 5, 2022 3:50pm-4:46pm EST

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thank you, carrie. and thank you everyone for joining us today. i'm very excited to be hosting this panel of distinguished speakers. so if you'll permit me, i'll go through the the roster here. we've got ditra filial. who's the author of the secret lives of church ladies. i venture to say one of the most successful fiction books from a university, press in the past years. it was published in 2020 by west virginia university, press the short story collection won the 2021 penn faulkner award for fiction. the 2020-2021 story prize and the 2020 la times book prize for
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first fiction. it was also a finalist for the 2020 national book award in the fiction category. so welcome deesha. thanks for joining us. we also have steven sparks who's the cone co-owner of point reyes books out in california. he's worked at green apple books and the dalke archive and he is on the boards of dorothy a publishing project open letter books and the center for the art of translation. thank you stephen for joining us. and last we have john shear who's the director of the university of north carolina, press it is the oldest scholarly publishing house in the south. i am as a bookseller. i'm compelled to say as well that john is a former bookseller at olson's in washington dc. oh, i'm sorry, washington. not dc. so, thank you everyone. i am going to start out with a question for you d shop. you have as i said had an
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incredibly successful university, press book. so what brought you to west virginia up? why did you just what pulled you in that direction instead of looking forward or deciding to go with a more traditional trade house. i venture to say not many people have their first books of fiction published through a up. um the poll was that west virginia university press believed in my book and believed in the collection and believe in the stories and we're very present. you know, i've said this to writers about their agents, but i think it's true for your presses as well. you know, they help you make a better book and they give you good feedback, but your agents your press everyone should be your biggest fans. and before the book got any critical response and even just hearing the concept and seeing the stories. they were early champions of the book and it it was so comforting to know that like there are people that care about this book like i care about this book and
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you know, and i think i was kind of racing for a fight especially as as a black writer and i've had peers who are also black writers who published prior to my publishing and there were some fights that they were having with their publishers and so the tenor right away in the tone from west virginia university was very collegial and very congenial and you know, i when the room opened i immediately said hi to my west virginia university, press family because that's what it felt like and i felt like um, you know, i knew that my book was in good hands. so we were strangers initially but not for long and i think that you know, that was was the difference. yeah. yeah, i think people forget or whether it's easy to kind of forget how collaborative a process publishing can be that you know, there's the myth of the author but when putting a book out of the world, there's so much more to it. and if that's the you know, west
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virginia up it's who you connected with. there's a reason to be drawn. drawn to them to make a better book. mm-hmm. i'm glad you found each other because it's a fantastic book, um turning the question to john and steven. what are some of the unique strengths that you've that you see in university presses? i'll call on one of you if you don't answer. well, john could john could certainly answer this from me from the inside and you know as a bookseller, especially as we kind of see this increasing, you know corporatization of publishing and you know and and things kind of become more and more centralized. i find just the sort of diversity of voices and even geographical differences with university presses to be extremely important for for a healthy publishing and book selling ecosystem. you know you have here, you know, i'm an hour away from uc
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press here in berkeley and as much you know, and as things kind of centralize and and you know, turn over in the turn of books becomes more and more important for everyone the sale you have to sell this book and there's such a short view that the long view of the of the scholarly and you know academic press outlook is really important as important for us to as booksellers to kind of keep that in mind and you know, i think in allowing the space for for new ideas and kind of risky ideas also is as exciting for me as a book seller as it is a reader, you know, i would be curious to hear john from from your side how you know how you know what it was the ultimate benefits for you because you've you've worked in both commercial trade-in and in university press publishing. yeah in between my stent as a book seller and and being at north carolina. i was at basic in new york, which is a pretty, you know, mission driven and yet still profit driven publisher, and i
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think i think that last point stephen i want to pick up on which is the the timeline for commercial publishers is there's this kind of urgency it is, you know over distributed book. do your best to get a bunch of publicity and then after 90 days you kind of like start watching for the returns to come in because the conveyor belt of new books is like it's just it's happening. and so i think one of the strengths of university presses is i mean, i love hearing what dish is saying about west virginia and west virginia has made all university presses. look good in the last two years. so thank you to that team there but that sense of partnership and you know, not every book is ready to bolt out of the gate and you know, grab all the attention and some books just take a while to find their readership to find that you know there that the champion and university presses realize that the investment is in that that relationship with the author and the production of beautiful books and and it's not to get that 90-day, you know moment of like bliss and then move on it's to sustain things and one of the
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things i was so impressed with in watching this book gets so much attention was the momentum that built i mean a commercial publisher might have said, okay, we had a good 90 days and now let's it's time to move on next thing and i feel like this book this book really just kind of kept finding new readers and and iterating and really positive ways. i just think university presses are built for that type of of campaign, and i it's great to hear you stephen say that that the booksellers recognize that too because if you return our day our books after 90 days, none of us are going to sell it books. can john can you expand on or anyone else here? like what is it constitutionally about a university press that makes them willing or able to commit to a longer timeline to for their books? well, but part of it is part of is just the economics of it. so, you know a commercial publisher makes such an investment in you know, it usually in an advance and in
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printing and in co-op space advertising and they just that's the business model it is get that roi in the first 90 days and if you don't have it, then it's time to move on to the next you know item in your risk pool with the university presses. like i said, the investment is much more in the development of the kind of lack of a better face intellectual property or the creative creative work and so, you know most these things just take a while to find find readers and i so i just think you know because our risk isn't in this kind of our business model doesn't require the quick return on the investment that we're actually better off with, you know, the proverbial long tail and that i just think that's we're just built for that type of model and again if we have booksellers who understand that model and will give us the patients to to make sure that these books sell over time then i think it kind of works. so stephen what given that this tends to be the focus of ups and what comes out of ups? how do you see that reflected?
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and what's on the shelves and what's on the table that you're choosing to bring into your bookstore? how what's the difference between the types of things coming out from ups and the types of things coming out for me even serious trade non-publishers. no, no publishers not non-publishers. um, you know, i think thank you aspect it was certainly that is big. like university presses do for us i think a lot where a general interest bookstore the kind of has a focus on natural role in the environment. and so, you know, you see presses field guide series is something that we would regardless whatever it is is california based. it's in the west we bring it in for other books, you know, it's sort of books that are cutting edge that that kind of seem like they're doing work that we're going to be thinking about in a few years and so to kind of get a you know a foot in the door earlier to say like, okay, we're we're interested in this, you know, i think a lot about one of the kind of pre the questions
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you send a little earlier was was a what's kind of an emblematic university press book and i think about anna sings mushroom at the end of the world, which was a book, you know, i think it came out 2016 and hard pepper. it was just in the past year released in a trade edition because this is the kind of book that laid some groundwork through word of mouth, you know, which is for a bookseller. that's the best kind of hand sell, you know, like we want those books like we you know, we love the books that marketing budgets that get all the reviews and you know, but the book that we want to hand. someone is the book that we're passionate about that might not have that kind of marketing behind it. but you see a book like this. it's a slow burn it kind of goes and suddenly, you know, five years later through word of mouth and through citation. you have a book that that is and everyone's sort of everyone's consciousness and people come into the store and they say well i've heard of this and so you kind of watch that groundwork being laid and i think about that when i'm buying for the store, you know, like what what book white might we be thinking about in five years, whatever the timeline is. yeah. so for to jump straight to that
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question for everyone are john and diesha. do you have examples of books that are emblematic of university press books? and then about implement, but i do have two favorites that i wanted to mention that people may not even know were university, press well, everybody this audience probably knows um, but my friend honorary finone jeffers whose book is oprah's book pick now and her novel is and it's a shortlisted or it's a finalists. it was a finalist for the carcass prize. her prior book was a collection of poetry last year the age of phyllis which was long listed for the national book award and it was published by wesleyan university press and then another fellow mba finalists for nonfiction was gerald walker's how to make a slave and that was an imprint. i think it's called mad creek, which is an imprint of ohio
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university, ohio state university's press and so those were books that you know last year when people would write stories say you know there are these three books that are you know university pressbooks and and i don't know that people knew that about those wonderful wonderful one is a collection of poems and is one a collection of essays. i'm gonna be less generous than dean and talk about one of one of my own books, but we published a book three years ago now called race for profit by kiyanka yamada taylor who is at princeton. so this book this is a revised dissertation. so let me start there. this is a revised dissertation 10 years later more research. this is a densely research book. it is not, you know beach reading but it is a vital book. this is a book. that was a finalist or a long list for the national book award a finalists for the pulitzer. she got a writing gig at the new
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yorker. she won a macarthur i mean, this is a woman who's whose time has come but the publication of the book was this kind of singular moment. i when i was at basic, i'm not sure we would have taken on a book like this because it felt you know, it had these kind of these elements to its origins that kind of make commercial publishers like, you know, it's got lots of research and it's a revised dissertation and so you know at an end up being a windfall for us as well. although. we we knew she was going to be successful, but we didn't know it was going to be like that. so it's just it's just a very satisfying moment to have something like that where it fits in with the core of what we're trying to do as a scholarly publisher, but has these moments of public engagement and impact and then, you know catapults somebody's career into a place where none of us could have imagined, you know, before we published it. and allows them to be then be swept up by a commercial publishers as taylor probably had a number of titles, you know widely published and then, you know accessible all across the
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country. it sounds like among the three of the picks for the three of you each has the common trait of taking a risk whether it's on a new writer or a type of argument or methodology that a commercial publisher might not be ready to commit to for in their financial models you noted john and i think that's such a strong trait of ups. is that risk taking putting the time and effort into developing these these works to share them with the wider audience. yeah, i mean the truth is i think almost every book we sign is more likely than not to lose money and potentially even lose significant money. and so which isn't to say that we are a cavalier about it, but we're not going into it with this sense of like every book has to generate a certain contribution to the you know, the margin of the organization. so once you once you stipulate that we're doing this for a sense of mission, then you you make choices a little bit differently and and you know, we're talking about the success stories and i have you know
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scores of books that did not get nominated for the pulitzer prize, but but but once you kind of take that sense of like every book has to make a certain amount of money it just kind of changes the way that you think about things and then every once while you kind of do everything right and you have a success story like the ones talking about today. and i would add to that as well. you know, i think the store is alina certainly for you at the the sem co-op and stores that i think that like ours and city lights and you know various others across the country that have that feel more mission driven, and i think we understand that as well when we're bringing in books like these books and independent pressbooks that that you know, some books will earn their keep and beyond and they can help support, you know, there's an ecosystem here where you know, we're okay to leave that shelf space, you know that book there for years, even you know, if we think that we believe in it and so that kind of trickles down that sense of mission and the long view trickles down to to us as well.
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yeah, i completely agree in terms of how we decide what to keep on our shelves and what we decide to bring in and how long it stays that that sense of risk taking. is present in the book selling side as well, but i want to ask about the risk taking on the on the writers side. disha, the you talked about finding a community to support your book a place where there could be diverse set of authors is would you i'm trying to figure out how to phrase the question but would you ever try to write for a different audience based on where you're publishing the book, you know like, how is that how is that the actual publication the production of the book? how does that affect your writing process if at all? well, you know with this book when i started writing the stories, i wasn't even thinking. i was writing a collection and i really had no expectation on the publishing end of of things. my first book was actually a
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nonfiction book on co-parenting that i co-authored with my ex-husband and that book was traditionally published. and so when i was working on the stories and then even once i knew i was working on a collection i thought you know, and everybody will tell you a publishing short story collections don't sell so i mean the bar was like of my expectations. okay, you know really low that i may not find anyone that wants to to publish this book but one of the things that was really important to me is like if i do get a book deal if i do get the opportunity to have this book traditionally published like the first book. i hope it's a publisher that's willing to invest in promoting the book because you can write edible book and it can be great but you really need help finding that audience. sometimes through the the marketing and promotion, so i didn't think about that when i was writing the stories because i felt like it was out of my
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hands, you know, i was just, you know, kind of hoping for the best but you know again the experience with wvu was completely different from my prior experience there were times when i didn't even think the editors at the other publisher for the not the co-parently book was like did we -- her off? i don't know. she just you know, we're happy about it. whereas everything with you know from the time of getting the book deal to the editorial process. it was all as the word you use very collaborative. i felt like everybody on the team and that's what it was. it was really a team. we were all singularly minded about giving this book the best chance for success and that included also part of our team. the publicity team the publicist jeremy wang iverson at vestal pr and i was i thought that's exciting because i remember with the co-parenting book. like, how are we going to publish this book? because they had like one person.
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they're like, here's a list of mom bloggers that was publishing i mean the publicity so just knowing that there was so much thought given there was actually a plan in place and that i was part of those conversations that just meant so much to me. so now as i look ahead and thinking about, you know, i'm trying to do the same thing, which is as i write. i try not to think about that side of it. this experience has given me sort of the trust that if you just do your work as writers, i think we have to just do our work and focus on telling the best stories that we can and then if we're lucky we can find publishing partners that really believe in what we've done. so i guess my well my short answer is no i try not to think about it, but i'm hopeful so it it sounds like the the traits or the things that made this such a collaborative compelling and satisfying experience were made
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possible because the entire manuscript was approached differently and that may connect back to just the structure of a up the what what where they're able to put their resources where they're able to allocate their time and that just might not be possible in non-up settings and obviously they have a business model too, but i never felt like i was in a machine, right? you know, i think that's a big part of like this whole 90 day thing. i didn't i didn't know anything about that. you know, i i still talk to derek probably at least once a week, maybe every other week, you know, we're still in touch. the book came out september 1st of last year. so if there's some 90-day thing, i don't know anything about it, so um, i want to turn the question or the questions now to the idea of the evolution of university presses because this is the 10th anniversary as i'm sure we're all celebrating here, you know with you know champagne for the 10th anniversary of university, press week and the theme is keeping up and so like
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what how have youps changed over the past 10 years. how do we predict them to change over the next 10 to 60 or whatever and that might be addressing strengths or i'm sorry addressing challenges changes to address challenges or changes to really stride forward not in the face of challenge, but in the face of like hope and innovation i'm happy to take the first step at that as the the closest representative. you've got to a up here. so a you you kindly you sent this question to us a few days ago and i've reflected on it and i it's interesting. i was going to turn the question in on itself, which is like like it's actually the the continuity of what presses do that is fascinating to me when i got to you i got to unc in 2012, and i remember when they hired me they're like you have to figure out the digital strategy. i was like, okay and and what's interesting to seeing the endurance of the print format and and so like i look at what's
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happening in the trade world and we've got you know you reference this the consolidation that's happening or not happening at the doj steps in and just it feels like the trade world is just like, you know, the tectonic plates are like moving in real time, and it's astonishing to me the durability that university presses have done and experience that dies. about and the feelings that steven has about like it feels it's like remarkably and very kind of satisfyingly like familiar and it doesn't you know it i i catch myself using rhetoric of disruption and innovation as much as anybody else. but but one of the things that's really satisfying is is like we're still doing this kind of like old-fashioned thing in very and partially an old-fashioned ways and it works. i mean like it's i think there was a university press book on the national book award long list or shortlist like each of the last fight four or five or six years. i mean, it's it feels like in
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some ways as the rest of the marketplace feels so erratic and unpredictable that there's something kind of satisfying about it. and you know, i look at the catalogs that come in. i feel like i mean, look, it's hard like we're all struggling. we're all underwater financially. we've all like look over our shoulders constantly, but when you look at the output, it feels like it's kind of a renaissance of like university, press they're doing that's a great answer to like, how are we innovating and we're doing all the right things from ebooks and audiobooks and marketing directly and all those sorts of things. but at the end of the day like i just feel like we're this reliable source of like fascinating books and that that's kind of more vital than it was even you know, 10 years ago. yeah. i could i can second that i love this idea of sort of radical continuity. this feels to me as a book seller especially especially so much changes around us and you know, and and i thought i you know, i gave this question some thought to and i think there's actually been a kind of renewed and refreshed interest on both
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sides of the book selling up from that that some of us are rediscovering each other, you know, some of the better university presses have kind of reinvigorated their trade list in ways that i find really great and you know, and this whole idea the dishes is talking about is the community and the team like that goes in so many directions in our registry. it's for us it's people who come into the store, but it's all so you the author of a book and the publisher of a book and so i think that renewed sense of community and this idea this this kind of strong continuity. it has been really key for us in a lot of ways and you know, stuff economics are hard. we lose sales reps. we certainly have less sales reps now than we did 10 years ago, but i think the sales reps that we have and the ways that we're approaching it are are kind of new and was with fresh expectations and eyes, you know, john as you said these books that like dishes book that are getting into the public eye more are reminding all of us of the
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great work that a lot of these presses are doing when i was on the national book award committee for poetry a few years ago some of the most not somebody the most interesting books were independent and university press books. those are the book me the bell like they were really capturing what was happening on the ground in a way that a lot of the trade. i mean the, you know, the bigger publishing didn't and so to me that kind of opened my eyes and another way even as someone who had been buying university pressbooks for green apple, you know, 15 years ago like that is exciting to me and this and this is longview and this kind of i don't want to say plotting because it's not plotting but it's you know, we're things seems to be changing, but there is something very reassuring about a commitment to this kind of work. patient not plotting thank you. disha, did you have anything i notes about either the patience
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of a university press or the swift innovation of the university, press over the last 10 years, so i can't speak to the innovation because i'm you know a up newbie. i will coin that but definitely the patients i didn't feel rushed at all and i have an agent who says you know books are born when they're ready like kids, you know, they come when they're ready. um, and that's just something else. i'm thankful for that. you know, the editing process was meticulous and i felt like the unspoken between everybody on the team from editorial to marketing was you know, this book will go out when it's ready. and so we, you know did the different rounds and there was such a tension to detail that you know that you lose that if there isn't that that patients and you know, and i don't mean things like, you know those but like really having an author come away from the experience feeling proud that you know, that's the book that they have
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in the world, you know, and i know so many people want to get published quickly and they want to get published by, you know, a particular kind of publishing house and i'm like you're gonna live with this book the rest of your life and for at least a year, you've got a market it's you better love it. and so, you know the what i you know, fortunately have as a team that loved it as much as i did and you know from from start to finish and and that that does take time and even when you're on a you know, i would call it say an aggressive timeline. there's still a difference between you can move quickly but still be thoughtful and patient right and i think that's a nuance that you know that we struck because there was a year between when i turned in my manuscript and when the book came out, so that's pretty aggressive i think but i never felt rushed. yeah, i don't think any of the four of us are in offices that operate with a rush with much rush or would be in very only
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very particular spaces. where the rushes. truly felt so with that in mind what? we know what universities do well the radical continuity as established in this panel, but what are the what are the present challenges in the face of that radical continuity? what pushes against the radical continuity and wants us to be different? and that might be anything from the distribution john you spoke about the consolidation of various publishers steven. i know you've spoken about what what consolidation does to the for the bookseller. what what are the challenges out there? yeah, there's no doubt that the reason penguin randy house wants to buy simon schusters because they just want more scale. i mean they're scale is so vital to you know, making a profit in publishing and they just these publishers can't they just can't
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be big enough. they realize every time they get bigger. they they make more money. and so this is why they're kind of insatiable and acquiring each other, you know university suppresses can't ever kind of get into that game. although i think there's been a lot of innovation kind of in the backend plumbing of distribution and things like that things that aren't really that much fun to talk about on panels, but like a really important i i think for me the challenge and we've already kind of touched on this is is on like literally on finding shelf space and so, you know, there's been i would say the last 10 years. there's probably been like kind of like a mini resurgence of independent stores, but a lot of them are really small and they really focus a lot on contemporary fiction and memoir and they just you know, that's kind of their bread and butter and you know the idea of having, you know an economic section. it's like not not plausible for a lot of these stores and so for me the challenge is you know, we have a type of book that we
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publish that i think helps make a great backless section and in some of your nonfiction categories, we're not going to be we don't really intend to compete for the front tables, you know, all that off and all the great stores, you know, find a way to put our books there. so but, you know, we can really help make your backlist better, but the the whole you know the payments system, you know, like we kind of i've sometimes used the word consignment and i usually get kicked out of a meeting when that happens like like it's possible that we need a very different type of model. all for bookstores to display our books because i mean steven's right like it can take a year to sell a university press book and and that's like not that's neither a surprise nor, you know a disappointment. it's like it's just it sometimes it takes but like like someone's gonna buy like these are very well-intentioned books smartly published. and so that to me that's the challenge is is how do we get more stores willing to you know, what is the incentive that of university press needs to give a
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store they give them what they need to do to be able to hold on to book long enough for the right customer to find it. i would love to talk about consignment john. yeah, i would not pick you out of the store for offering your books on consignment. you know to kind of follow to piggyback on that. i would say that that education, you know, there are a number of new books stores, and they and many of them are small and and nimble in a way, you know like this story, you know, i went from green apple which at that point was three store friends and it has not even gotten even bigger store. that's 1200 square feet, you know, and we are backless heavy maybe 12,000 titles in the store, but you know, and i my initial hesitation was like i used to buy for, you know, twenty thousand square feet and now i'm buying for 12 100 and it's sort of like, okay like, oh we just find the best books, but i think you know because i had this education previously and i think educating newer book sellers, you know, whether we have a trade as association and i think you know, there are
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economic, you know investments that would need to be made and that's tough, you know for our trade trade shows or you know, gatherings and things but i think like this kind of panel could go a long way for booksellers to kind of understand the economics of that and the value of that for a community that it isn't just about the quick turn. it's about a longer deeper investment with ideas and you know and your and your community however defined right? so why? i'm gonna turn to a much larger question, which is why do university press books matter at all? like why i venture to say that we're all can we all would like university presses to remain sustainable and you know, perhaps even to flourish in the future. so why is why is that worth? thinking about i think we touched on it, which is this idea that they're the risk
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taking and you know for writers, you know, it's sort of drilled into us that if anybody wants to publish us, they're taking a risk, you know, they're probably going to lose money there, you know, all these things. we know we're risky, you know and goodness if you write short stories, you know, that's risky if you're writing anything that's experimental. that's risky if you're touching certain stories if you're too scholarly, you know, so i think that university presses willingness to take on sort of the problem children maybe keeps writing innovative and it rewards authors taking risks and authors sort of marching to the beat of their own drum. i think that you know, that's significant you ask the question earlier elena about does that, you know influence how we write and i know for some people you know there is that fear like i want to write this, but i'm worried that it's not commercially viable, you know,
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and it can hinder you and so if we want writers to write, you know, unencumbered knowing that you can get your work published you can take those risks and somebody's going to be willing to take a chance on you it gets people doing their best work, i think. yeah, and couldn't agree with that more deisha and i think you know, i often think it turns of an ecosystem right like you need as many flourishing. components sun ecosystem and university presses provide that in a sort of a counterbalance way, you know almost at the ground level, you know as the bigger players are you know higher up but you need all of these components and that risk is key to that i think i think you can also make the argument that. you know, we're kind of looking at this from the author's perspective perspective because they have decent here but like i, you know having worked in bookstore, i think a lot about the readers and on the one hand like the because the barriers to publishing and self-publishing have come down dramatically in the last 10 years. like it's really not that hard
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to like make you know something that looks like like a book like i think of it in terms of the the commitment of time that are reader takes and you know, i i always tell a joke that you know in my experience in working at olson's for 10 years, like nobody ever ever walked into store and said like what's new from simon & schuster right? like they don't think about who the publishers like and we don't want them to but i've started suggesting to to readers and consumers like take a look at what's on the spine the book because there's a lot of things that you will not get those 15 hours of your life back. but if you look at it and it says it's a university, press on the spine you it really feels like a money back guarantee to me that it's gonna be worth it. and so this idea of you know, we're competing for people's time and and you know, what are the what are the signals that you can send to a reader about like like this is going to be worth your time and it may be, you know, something, you know as we're kind of all suggesting that maybe feel a little
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unpredictable and surprising and that's kind of what we all want sometimes and so i do think this this notion of it's a it's a proxy. it's a it's a signal of of this will this will have value to you if you if you commodify your time which most of us do way or another i want to just pause to open up the chat to any questions before we had i get too much further down on my list of questions if anyone from the audience has questions were all happy to to take them. so please share them there, but steven going off of what john just said. i'm wondering how you would approach like, i think it's true that for the most part people when people pick up a book in a bookstore. they're not thinking great. i you know first check the publisher before checking the title or the table of contents and it's kind of an afterthought for a lot of readers and that's fine. but how do you as a bookseller approach, you know placing a
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trade book and a up book in your store whether the cut we think the customer is going to pay attention to the difference or not. how do you approach the two? well as far as bringing in, you know a train book, it's kind of written. it's right there for you. right all the info you need is there i think with the university press book like i think in terms of is this a fresh approach to an old issue or is this bringing in you know, is this synthesizing something in an interesting way or brand, you know breaking new ground and for us, you know, i love sort of that. the conversations these books have next to each other on the shelf, you know ones that you have something like the book. i previously mentioned the mushroom at the end of the world sitting next to entangled life in a big trade book and you see you have these kind of conversations and you know one references the other, you know part of part of that and so i kind of think you know, how in which way do these books talk and and which which way are they approaching, you know a serious scholarly topic or having fun in
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a deeper way or doing, you know less immediately commercially successful things like short fiction from university, press you know, what are the new voices like is this a voice that i want to hear because i do agree i think. you know the whatever generic, you know kind of universal customer who doesn't actually exist, but you know, they come in and i think they're they're struck by the ideas and those conversations and in a physical space and so like thinking about how how everything talks is really important for the way that we bring books in. and you know university presses elevate the conversation and a lot of the ways some of the trade books that you have to sell either converting me the commercial hits even in a store that you know, we're pretty literary fiction heavy even then you're gonna have those books set that you don't care about or even necessarily want to see so much but you know, i like to elevate it gives me a sense of better mission and you know, you
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feel less icky sometimes to have these important books in the store. thank you for that as a detour or john anything to add in terms of i know that's a you know bookseller specific question, but just thinking about on the readers side who's picking up these books and why whether they'd be intrigued or turned off by you know, the emblem of the university press on the on the spine. now i you know i did i remember a couple of people readers saying that you know, they were surprised because they thought university presses only published scholarly or academic books. so i think that you know, that's been a plus for you know my book. it's introducing people to the idea of how broadly you know university presses published. so, you know, i did have a couple of people kind of zero in on that right away that you know
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when they saw that they weren't quite sure what was going on. so i'm just latching on to the we make booksellers. feel less icky comment that stephen made i'm gonna we're gonna integrate that into some of our tip sheets or something some sort of pitch. i think there are a lot of dias you kind of point to a lot of assumptions about what a up does and who and who it's for and i think one of the most surprising things is that for some readers is the accessibility of up books, but to me that seems like a challenge that kind that might need to be faced in the future, you to is it is it worth anyone's time to try to convince people outside the industry of what ups are or is it heads down and keep doing what you all do so well and you know readers
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will come to you is there you know, should you be out there fighting or just quietly working? yeah for me. it's a real challenge because you know, we have this kind of portfolio approach to publishing where we're doing different things for different people so we can publish, you know, very specialized monographs in indigenous studies and then we can publish a cookbook and then we can publish, you know, a civil war biography and so it's hard to it's hard and for an individual reader to kind of have coherence, i do think when you think there's been one of the themes today that you know, university presidents are trying to find those spaces that are kind of under underutilized and under under you know, these pathways that that that authors and readers have have a hard time accessing. i mean that the, you know, there's the kind of the founding story of unc press. it was first university, press in the south 1922. there was no secular publishing in the south so like so we you know, we kind of think about that all the time like like they're needed to be publishing
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happening in the south and and so you know, so we're just we're doing different versions of that all the time. so even when we publish a cookbook, we're not, you know, i'm not trying to compete with clarkson potter. i can't compete and clarkson pod, but we're trying to find people whose voices are not being particularly. well represented by commercial publishing or they're saying something about the region that maybe we can uniquely amplify. so there's always sort of that that angle to it and that that's consistent whether it's a monograph and a you know in a humanities field or whether it's a you know, a trade book for a trade yeah, i really like the the point you're making about not not trying to compete with someone like clarkson potter who's a massive and you know, great cookbook publisher, but finding a way that you're doing. i mean, it's a niche you're doing something different. you have the potential to do something different and it's not about either or but it's about finding a way maybe where there's space for something like
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a up to flourish and that does not mean clarkson potter has to fold up shop, but that the two can you know steven i think he used the word ecosystem before the there can be a complex ecosystem of publishers. anyone else on kind of the niches of university what university presses can do to fill niches or craft carve their own niches? now i've got other questions. well, yeah, i would reiterate with john's i think you know, they're then that comes back to me is as a book seller, you know and educating other booksellers as well as to kind of find. you know, what? x university press does. well, you know what? they're if they have a particular focus that works for us. you know that that is key and you know and filling those spaces. and then also, you know and more broadly and kind of the trade books that are published by university presses.
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you know, there are you know you i can you can i mean, i mean, i'm sure you can too you can think of immediately think of you know what i you know. university of north carolina, press does well, west virginia university. press does. well, princeton, whatever and you know, and to pay attention to those books matter, you know in that larger view. yeah. and i think let's see. i had i got i had a great question and then i forgot it should have written it down. um, but oh right this was it was for you john it was going back to the question of a business model and also the question of you know, what challenges ups face in the next few years the next, you know century. like what? what challenges does the current model for university presses in? what way is it? not yet. flexible enough or might be failing the mission of certain failing them like failing the
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mission of certain ups. i'm thinking about kind of the hubbub with stanford. within the last few years where all the sudden the monetary side of it didn't match with the mission driven side of a up. so without you know, you don't need to speak specifically about stanford. but what are the challenges you see there? yeah, no, it's you know, it's kind of the elephant the room. we don't like to talk about such things. but, you know, most university presses rely on this kind of financial or some sort of in-kind nest from their host university to be supportive and and want the press to succeed and do things, you know, we exist to do things that commercial presses can't do so it's probably going to cost money to do those things because if you could make money than a commercial press would have done it and i think you know the the environment on university campuses is super tough these days they're you know, all the people who have the checkbooks use this kind of rhetoric of every dollar has to be spent accountably and like, you know, how do you how do you know in how do you quantify impact in
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humanities publishing for somebody who is looking at you know the phrase in north carolina sometimes has been used like -- in seats for you know classes or jobs. so, you know the whole kind of increasing focus on vocationalization of campuses and really kind of a disparaging the humanities are these are real challenges and i you know, i'm sitting here on the campus university of north carolina chapel hill, which the pretty progressive place and has you know, we've benefited from from good support, but you know, even i'm looking over my shoulder all the time just to make sure that the support that we get is is continuing and you know it we're not it's not in our dna to kind of be lobbyists for ourselves. like we you know, we hopefully we produce 110 new books a year that the people who give out money can look at and say like hey this says this is something really positive about what you're doing. these books get distributed globally are books get reviewed and major publications and it always is university of north carolina when it doesn't like
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that has value and so how do we quantify that? so i just worry that that pressure is going to get harder, you know. for whatever gets better if it ever gets better. it could just viewer in this kind of like asymptotic like decline of you know, provost provostial enthusiasm for for process. so it's a real it's a real problem and i appreciate you're raising it. wish i had a great answer for you. yeah, i was looking for a solution from this panel, but no, thank you for that. i appreciate you addressing the addressing the issue with candor to turn though to perhaps the things we know and can be hopeful about for ups. i'm interested in what up books. you're each looking forward to reading in the next few months. well, oh no, please go ahead. i was gonna shout out. um a press mate a west virginia university, press made of mine devon loeb who his memoir the
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in-betweens is coming out next year. so i'm excited about that one. create taking note and taking notes here. yes. thank you. i'll mention your co-worker. jeff deutsche's book coming out next spring and praise of good book stores when i'm excited to to dig into you know, and as you know as a bookseller we have i think behind me is like some of the other university pressbooks that i'm excited to get to you know, if only i had the time but but jeff's book is on on the top of the list. i once that book hits the world. it's gonna i can't wait. it's just gonna be fantastic. so thanks for calling that. i am i have had a dream for 30 years to try to go to new zealand and i had a ticket in my hand for march of 2020 and needless to say i did not make it. so in the meantime, i've been reading about new zealand and otago university, press in the beautiful little town of dunedin new zealand is publishing a book called across the past and it's a collection of they call it
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tramping hiking stories. so it's kind of traveled narrative about just kind of wandering around new zealand. it's kind of like if c ball just kind of like wandered new zealand instead of you know, sussex. so really looking forward to that. excellent. i don't think i've ever read anything from ortega university press so. now's my chance. does anyone either any of you three or anyone in the chat have final questions or comments to end on? there was a question for me from john. oh and john was asking sort of about you know, how i connected with west virginia university press and i think this is where the where you know presses that are regional it matters because before my manuscript was completed my agent met with their kristoff, who is the head of the press and so she kind of teased my collection to him at that time and that's what
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sparked his initial interest and i think the other part of john's question was, you know was their proposal and so forth. yes, so i am representative by an agent my i did not have a completed manuscript to submit. i submitted a partial manuscript and my deal with west virginia university press was based on that partial manuscript, and i think the other part of john's question was did i have a background in short fiction? and again, this is university presses taking a chance. my previous book was nonfiction. i published i think my first short story was published in 2008, but i had been quote unquote busy working on a novel that wasn't going anywhere, but also writing a lot of nonfiction and also just writing for pay just to survive and so fiction was this thing i was going to get back to eventually and so, you know the stories in the collection were written over a period of about, you know, five years from the oldest story to
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the the most current one in the collection. and so again, i was somebody without a background in fiction writing. i mean obviously had published fiction before three of the stories in the collection have been published at the time. my proposal was submitted. i also don't have any writing related degrees. i do not have an mfa. so again the risk taking and i really appreciate you know, just that whole wvup team. thank you for that and thank you for for catching that question and john. thank for that question. john and stephen any further notes on radical continuity and risk-taking? or innovation even it's just a font of like hashtags. i've been writing them down. i just want to thank i want to thank deisha. we're in the we're in the the presence of greatness here. your book is so fantastic and it
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just i i wish i could go back to be a book seller so i could just sell the hell out of it because it just it just it reminds me of books that i used a hand sell and really loved it and we're really we're lucky to be in your presence and the fact that you've taking the time to help spread the word about university presses like an incredibly generous thing that you're doing. and so thank you for that. oh, thank you, and you're welcome. yeah, i would reiterate that as well. and as a bookseller over the last, you know year, there's been a challenging year for a lot of us having a book. like disha's book in the store to kind of press into people's hands. that's one of the great rewards of of doing this work and and yeah and having someone who's so willing to be an ambassador for this and kind of talking about all of the great things the university presses do and you know, they're in our communities. they're our neighbors. that's how you meet people and you know a book like this seems like it was kind of born in that way. and so yeah. thank you deisha and congratulations. i can't wait for what's next. thank you. thanks so much. and thank you to all three of
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you've been so generous with your time and your thoughts of really appreciate it. you made this a fantastic panel, so thank you. thank you and carrie for setting this up right? thank you carry. thank you all thank you alina. thanks stacia, steven and john you've been a really fantastic conversation and you've captured so much of what has made us all proud to be a part of the university, press world. thanks everybody for joining us today, and we hope you'll continue to share on the up week celebration in the days ahead. all right. haver in the near
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future on the tv. . . . brings many years of public education and experience to the smithsonian before joining us in june she served as vice president for education policy and strategic initiatives at the american institute for research. so now please join me in welcoming


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