Boot Camp for Professional, Scholarly, and Academic Books

On Friday, May 11, 2007, Michael McCutcheon and I attended Professional, Scholarly & Academic Books: The Basic Books Boot Camp. Organized by PSP (the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers), the Books Boot Camp is a one-day intensive overview of the book industry intended for people with less than three years of experience in the professional and academic publishing sector.

Attending this program was a great opportunity for Michael and I to both gain insight from some of the leading professionals in the area of academic publishing; and to interact with our publishing peers. The seminar was moderated by Beth Schacht (Director of Marketing, McGraw Hill), who did a great job of keeping things timely and in order. John A. Jenkins (Senior Vice President and Publisher, CQ Press) presented an overview of the industry and the differences between publishing sectors.

Gregory M. Britton (Director, Minnesota Historical Society Press & Borealis Books) was one of several AAUP members sharing their experience. Britton explained the role of acquisitions in academic publishing, taking us through the stages of manuscript development in a way that was both informative and entertaining. Cathy Felgar (Associate Production Director, Academic, Cambridge University Press) spoke openly on what the production department typically does and introduced some information on the changes to come in the area of production. Elizabeth Sheehan (Marketing Manager, EE/Technology, Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) gave a spirited talk on what a marketer does, and explained marketing through a book's lifecycle.

Paul G. Manning (Vice President, Book Sales, Springer) had the arduous task of having to speak to us directly after lunch, but in spite of that, was still able to convey valuable information about sales. Molly Venezia (Assistant Director and CFO, Rutgers University Press) spoke, as many in AAUP will be familiar with from her work on various "Finances for Non-Financial Folks," quite candidly and in layperson's terms about her work in the area of business and finance.

A personal highlight for me, was participating in a group project. Like at the higher-level and longer-format PSP Journals Boot Camp, attendees divided into teams over a working lunch to create a plan in response to various hypothetical publishing problems. My team's assignment was to deal with a potentially disastrous situation with an author. Has this ever happened to you? There's a meeting, and it is very important for the author to be in attendance with his or her latest title; but to everyone's horror, there are no books available in the warehouse or anywhere else to send to the meeting. What would you do?

Our solution involved a range of activities that a publisher might pursue to rescue this scenario from disaster. A large size poster of the cover, with special order forms, was the first priority, along with—if possible—a galley for browsers to flip through. An innovation to this was the idea of offering autographed copies of the book to anyone who ordered at the meeting. Scaling up the plan in case this author's assuagement is an absolute necessity, we also suggested an in-booth reception with the author and the book (or poster, at least) as a centerpiece.

The team challenge was key to making this a valuable learning experience, allowing us to combine our own experience of publishing with the day's presentations.

The next Books Boot Camp will be offered in San Francisco, November 9, 2007. For more information go to: www.pspcentral.org. The intensive four-day Journals Boot Camp is also being offered later this year, September 26-29, in Philadelphia.

Kim Miller
Marketing and Membership Coordinator, AAUP