Interning at the UW Press
Since 1999, the University of Washington Press has introduced graduate students in the humanities to the world of scholarly publishing through a graduate internship, now supported by the Soden-Trueblood Graduate Publishing Endowment. Graduate student, Elizabeth Scarbrough was chosen as the Publishing Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, and is the first fellow to come from the philosophy department. Here is what she has to say about her experience:
The world of academic publishing can seem pretty mysterious to those who have never worked in the field. I have had the good fortune to see how a world-class academic press functions. The internship is thoughtfully set up in that I am assigned projects in every step of the publishing process. This includes acquisitions, ED&P (editing, design, and production), marketing, and advancement/grants.
Acquisitions is the first step on a manuscript's journey to becoming a book. One great thing about smaller presses is that editors can take time to develop a manuscript, which means they can take a promising-but-rough text and help the author smooth out the edges, or even work with an author from the start to develop a promising idea. I sit in on acquisitions meetings every week and hear editors pitch their projects. Once a manuscript survives the internal review process, it is sent to peer reviewers for evaluation. If positive reviews are received, the manuscript is sent to a board of University of Washington faculty for approval.
Once a book is approved, it is sent to ED&P where it will be copyedited, proofread, and designed. During my tenure at the press I've been able to proof a wide variety of manuscripts, from edited volumes about environmental issues, to a graphic novel/memoir about Japanese internment. UW Press is also unique in that it has two in-house designers, who type-set and design the book. I'm currently working on a project where I am helping one of the designers design a cover for one of our backlisted reissue titles. Designing a book cover is even harder than it looks! Our designers have won numerous awards for their designs, both for the covers of books and the internal design of books.
The marketing and sales department has myriad tasks, from placing ads in relevant trade and scholarly magazines, setting up book displays at academic conferences, pitching books to local and national media, nominating books for awards, and generally championing a text. With the help of the marketing department I recently wrote jacket copy for an upcoming book. Let me say that learning how to write philosophically helps one be clear, but does not necessarily help one be evocative! Additionally, the UW Press just launched a blog, and I will be helping with features for the blog ( uwpressblog.com).
The funding structure for university presses varies a bit from press to press. The UW Press is under the graduate school and receives about 10% of its annual operating budget from the University. In order to print high quality scholarship, books that, in many cases, sell hundreds rather than thousands of copies, presses have had to get creative about funding. The press receives donations, grants, and awards from numerous organizations and individuals.
I've had a great time at the press and have begun to understand the unique pressures an academic publisher faces in this ever-increasingly difficult market. One of the goals of this internship, I think, is to produce people who will champion university presses in general. I certainly fit that bill. The value that these presses add to the academic community is immeasurable. As academic publishing continues to evolve in the coming years, it is important to recognize the value of such presses.
If you are interested in learning more about the press and how you can help support its work, please visit the press's website at www.washington.edu/uwpress.