Day one – A start up press

Written on day one — Jan. 9, 2017

Although I head into my thirtieth year in publishing, it still seems somewhat unbelievable that today I take the director’s chair.  On any given day during the years I worked for scholarly and higher ed publishers, dozens of ideas would cross my mind.  “How could we improve this model?”  “What’s next?”  Often the questions were much simpler.  “What if?”, “Why?, Why not?” “Could this book be published differently?”  “Is there a way to expand the market of scholarly publishing without doing a disservice to anyone, without selling out.”  Well here I am, day one… What now?

Opportunity led me to the University of Cincinnati Press, experience told me this was in fact a unique opportunity to create something new and contribute to the industry; make a different.  And so a girl from the lower Hudson Valley, brought up in Rockland County and educated in the Bronx who called New York home for 51 years has l followed a dream.  Moving 650 miles west, I set out to start a university press more sustainable, focused on accessible and rigorous content, appropriate peer review, attention to manuscript development and eye toward UX…  What? UX.  Who are the users anyway?  Authors and readers in fact.   With thoughts of building a university press to begin with a goal: build a publishing program which builds an intellectual common to engages users throughout the entire field from scholars to practitioners and students.  One which blends business principles with non-profit publishing, respects the academy, incorporates the modern reader, and remembers the mission.   I begin with a press which does not retrofit authors, projects and pipelines to a new vision.   I begin with the mainstay of my work style: clarity of goal, team effort, knowledge, understanding, and greater good.   I aspire to create a new press that collaborates with university administration, academic and service departments and educational and research initiatives, one that encourages scholars to write with clear voice and purpose; at times for fellow scholars and more often for public intellectuals and practitioners but always with minimal jargon.

Even before day one, I had started to list what became a spreadsheet of the hundreds of things that all need to be done, all seemingly at the same time.  To follow are the broad strokes.

  • Awareness – The press is here.  Who needs to know?
  • The Message – Why Cincinnati
  • Education – What does a university press do differently than a library publisher?
  • What’s different? – Mission, vision, purpose, objective, my philosophy
  • All active players – Drawing on experience and networks beyond the AAUP.
  • Publishing Models – Print, digital, platform, interactive
  • Content – Fill the pipeline.  When is the first season?  What’s the first book?  Back to awareness and education
  • Operations – Setting Up Shop; Creating EVERYTHING – but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, Thoughtful assessment of how to integrate a peer review publishing operations within a library.
  • Business Models, Goals, and the dreaded finances
  • Staffing
  • Measures of Success – Metrics
  • Challenges – oh, they’ll be plenty
  • Reflections & Lessons learned
  • Limitations and Opportunities lost – yes, I’ll be honest here
  • Collaboration & Partnerships: Engaging the university –  Administration, Digital Humanities and Scholarship, OER, Social Science, Humanities and STEM departments
  • Wins
  • What haven’t I thought of – LOTS

Most of these posts will be basic journaling.  Other posts will focus on something very specific that I may be in the throws of figuring out.  It’s a way for me to reflect, gain insight and perhaps feedback. I hope to have comments from a few publishers, authors, or people interested in my start up journey or in sharing their own.  In fact, not unlike the intellectual common we hope to create in Social Justice, I hope to engage the industry.  The producers, suppliers and consumers.  I have always believed that the best results come from a representation of stakeholders with some unlikely participants mixed in to ensure I’m not just getting back what I put in.  In this case, that might be authors, readers of university press books, administrators, academic publishers, educational publishers and industry partners such as wholesalers, book store owners, and book reps.  Turn the key, turn on the lights and let’s start day one.