As part of the lead-up to the five-year anniversary of UTP’s Higher Education Division, we have been submitting blog postings to the main UTP Blog that explore the purpose and various functions of our division. We would like to reblog the following entry by our History Editor, Natalie Fingerhut, because we believe it is a very true representation of the personalized treatment that authors receive when they publish with the Higher Education Division at UTP—in any discipline.
As a prospective author, you can pitch your textbook idea to any number of publishers. Many of you choose big presses because you like the name brand. Some of you like presses where there are acquiring editors, developmental editors, copy editors, line editors. You don’t mind being shuffled from one editor to the next. Or maybe you do. Perhaps you are tired of not having your email returned. Perhaps you want to hear your editor’s voice over the phone but he or she never calls you back. Your editor has too many authors to deal with and can’t remember who you are. Maybe what you want is a more personal touch—a more human relationship with your editor.
If so, UTP’s Higher Education Division is the place for you and your textbook.
We editors at UTPHE pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We answer your emails within a day and if we reach an impasse, we call you to sort it out. I remember emailing with an author on a Sunday night. We were both home alone with our kids and I could tell that he was concerned about his book cover. So, I asked him if it was OK if we set up a phone meeting for that night at about 9:00 pm when all the kids were in bed. We talked for 15 minutes about how difficult it was to solo parent and what TV shows our kids liked best… and then we talked for 5 minutes about the book cover. Needless to say, he has published two books with me already and has another book on the way. So, yes, we editors go the extra mile with our authors because we are extremely appreciative of the work they do for us and we want them to be happy. In turn, they are appreciative of our work and we get repeat business and referrals. Everybody wins.
Unlike some other presses, we stay with you and your book from its birth to its reincarnation in new editions. We do not leave you. We do not pass you off to some jargon-talking PR person. We do not leave you at the mercy of a junior editor. When we sit down with you at a conference to discuss your book idea over coffee or, more likely, a glass of wine, that is just the beginning of the relationship. If we successfully acquire the book, we have it reviewed. We take it through production. We present it at sales conferences. We take it to large North American conferences like the AHA, APSA, ASA, and AAA, as well as medium-sized and smaller conferences. We treat your book with the respect that it deserves because we understand how much time and effort has gone into writing it. We know that you are busy juggling multiple obligations and we also know that you have a choice in who you publish with, so we do our best to make the editorial process smooth for you. We want you to come back and we want you to bring your friends.
Typically, this is how it goes (taken from a real email conversation, with the permission of the author):
Graham Broad: Right, so what I want to do is write a short book about this WWI soldier who went to Western University and his letters and guide the student through the reading of those letters—just like I did with my own students.
Natalie: That sounds creative. How did your students respond to it? I like when professors use ideas that have been tried in the classroom.
Graham Broad: They loved it. My teaching evaluations have never been so high. They had to write papers about this soldier using his letters and they were fantastic. That’s why I thought it would be a good book to write. I have to be honest: I pitched to other presses, but no uptake.
Natalie: Well, I can’t speak for other presses, but I think that the project fits with our mandate to publish materials for course use that are both useful pedagogical tools and that contribute to ongoing scholarship.
Graham Broad: So, what are the next steps?
Natalie: How about putting together a proposal? I’ll send you a link to our guidelines. After you submit your proposal, we will chat about it and then I’ll send it out for review. That usually takes between 4-6 weeks. I then prepare it for presentation to our editorial board which meets monthly. Once I have their approval, the UTP Board approves it, I send you a contract, and you go off and write the book.
Graham Broad: I think I could have first draft to you in 2 years. Is that OK?
Natalie: Absolutely. Most of our authors take between 2-3 years to submit a first draft. After I receive it, I’ll read it through and we’ll talk about whether it is ready for external review. If so, I’ll send it out again to three anonymous reviewers. When those come in—usually within 3 months’ time—I’ll organize the reviews and send you a review document and discuss a revision plan with you. When you submit your final version, I prepare it for production.
Graham Broad: And how long does production take? I’ve heard nightmares about the potential delays.
Natalie: We try to do it in a year—sometimes significantly less. Some books that have permissions and images take longer, but we try and keep it to a year maximum. Our goal is to publish it with enough time for professors to order exam copies and consider ordering it for their courses. We also gear our production schedule around important conferences to make sure that books get released in time to be promoted to key audiences. We are very time-sensitive with our books because we are market-driven.
A personal touch means that real people work on the books we publish and of course life can get in the way of best-laid publishing plans. But good communication and a clarity of expectations lead to a great working relationship between author and editor, and ultimately to great books. We are always eager to work on interesting textbooks that have a point of view, and I’m excited to say that this micro-history on the WWI soldier was recently approved at our editorial meeting. We are confident that it will find an audience, and we base that confidence on our combined years of experience in editorial, sales, and marketing.
Our editors have all spent time knocking on professors’ doors conducting sales calls. We ask you what kinds of teaching materials you want and we do our best to find them for you. We hear your concerns that your students are not good readers and we want to work with you to teach them how to do it better. Building critical thinking skills is our primary pedagogical goal, and we publish books with this goal in mind. We also hear your concerns about the lack of editorial freedom at big presses and we relish the opportunity to help you publish exactly the kind of book you want for your students. If you are intrigued by our approach, we hope you will consider working with us in the future!
-Natalie Fingerhut, History Editor