Industry News

  • Selling the Books that Matter: Experiences of a Higher Ed Sales Rep

    In our third blog post for University Press Week (running November 6-11), our Higher Education sales representative, Mike Byer, shares his experiences from the road. In particular, he explores the impact that selling books with powerful messages can have both on their intended audiences but also on those charged with the task of bringing them to a wider public. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

    I’ve been a book rep for University of Toronto Press since August of 2012. In the past five years we’ve published so many great books, but my favourite book is still from the fall of 2012. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism was the first book that I had a lot of success selling, and anyone who’s worked in sales will understand why that makes me think fondly of it. But there’s also more to it than that. This book was fundamental to helping me understand the role of gender in society; it helped change how I see myself and my relationships.

    My initial success with Feminisms Matter was mostly due to the fact that it’s a great book with a unique approach. It’s a textbook with a bit of an attitude. In this case, you can judge the book by the cover. However, as I continued to make my sales pitch on campuses across North America, I began to notice that the arguments made in the book were starting to come out of my mouth in non-work situations. It was never an intentional decision, but I began to use my own experience in my sales pitch. It just made sense to me that if this book could have this kind of effect on a 30-year-old male, then it would certainly make an impact on 18-year-olds who were still trying to figure out a lot of these questions.

    Since 2012, I’ve had countless conversations about textbooks and their value in a classroom. Recently, I’ve noticed that the questions I hear from instructors have begun to change. There are still the usual concerns about cost and student engagement, but more and more I’m hearing anxiety about inclusion and student safety in the classroom. Instructors are asking how our books can teach about diversity, tolerance, and global citizenship. They are looking for books that are more than baskets of facts and charts. They are looking for books like Feminisms Matter.

    One example of this occurred earlier this year: It’s January 2017, and the weather in the Pacific Northwest is much more comfortable than at my home near Toronto. I have a bounce in my step as I walk to my rental car because this is the first time I’ve visited this school. Days like today feel like they are full of opportunity. At familiar schools, I’ve met with most professors several times. I know who is friendly and who isn’t interested. A new campus means all new faces and new conversations. Perhaps the previous book rep has been told a half dozen times that someone is happy with their books and stopped trying. I don’t know anything about that, so I knock on every open door.

    I follow the map to the Anthropology Department. We publish a lot of anthropology books, so I can have productive conversations with most anthropologists. When I see an open door, I check the nameplate, cross-check with my course and faculty lists, knock, and introduce myself: “Hi, my name’s Mike Byer. I’m a book rep from University of Toronto Press. Do you have a few minutes to chat about books?”

    I’m invited to sit down, and based on my course and faculty info, I start talking about our new intro to cultural anthropology text. This part of the meeting is a success. They’re interested in the new text, and I agree to send them a complimentary copy to review. As sometimes happens in these meetings, the conversation moves past the immediate sales pitch to other topics. In this case, we can’t avoid discussing the elephant in the room—the quickly approaching inauguration of Donald Trump.

    This professor is feeling a lot of anxiety about the new president and the impact his rhetoric during the campaign is having on the United States. Specifically, she is worried about the minority students on campus. This campus has a diverse student body, but it is located in smaller community that is not as diverse. She knows that some of her students are undocumented immigrants, and she sees students wearing visible symbols of their (non-Christian) religion, including hijabs and turbans. She asks for my perspective as a Canadian, and I explain that Trump’s rhetoric is also having an impact in Canada—hate crimes are getting more media attention, and Trump-like ideas are being promoted by candidates for the Conservative Party leadership. Canadian and American university campuses have many of the same controversies about free speech, safe spaces and inclusive language, and academic freedom.

    Eventually, we circle back around to textbooks and the challenge of teaching a diverse audience in a time when ideas of inclusion, tolerance, and citizenship are being contested. Of course, I jump at the chance to talk about Feminisms Matter and my own experience of having my eyes widened. It’s not an anthropology text, but it’s a great example of the power of a good book. This specific book spoke to me, but any of our books could have a similar effect on someone else.

    In the North American higher education market, UTP is a small fish. We publish great books, but sometimes people don’t hear about them. It’s my job to make sure as many people as possible have a chance to consider using them in their courses. Like any job, this can get tiring and repetitive. We’ve all had feelings of banging our head against a rock that won’t budge. On the days that campus is dreary and quiet, and I’d rather be anywhere else, I try to focus on Feminisms Matter. Not just because of the success I’ve had, but because I know that the books I’m selling can make a difference. That’s what keeps me knocking on the next open door…

    Mike Byer
    Publisher's Representative

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    University of Minnesota Press: Interviews with a few of their favorite booksellers.

    University of Hawai’i Press: A round-up of interesting, peer-reviewed facts published by their journals.

    Columbia University Press: A post by Conor Broughan, Northeast Sales Representative for the Columbia University Press Sales Consortium, discussing making sales calls during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    University Press of Kentucky: A guest post by UK Libraries exploring the societal benefits in university presses continuing to publish and readers continuing to have access to well-researched, low-controversy, long-form published content in an age of distraction, manufactured outrage, and hyper partisanship.

  • Winning Hearts and Minds: Publishing that Matters

    In our second blog post for University Press Week (running November 6-11), our Executive Editor, Anne Brackenbury, discusses how academic publishing needs to go beyond just the facts in order to truly engage a wider public. She uses as her example our soon-to-be-published graphic ethnography, Lissa, and how decisions around the publication of this book will hopefully help capture both hearts and minds. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

    Objective. Rigorous. Evidence-based. Peer reviewed. This is what university presses do best, right? We appeal to reason over passion, evidence over opinion, intellect over emotion. Or do we? While I have published many books that would fall under this description, I have published others that actually critique this assumption of pure reason and scientific objectivity. These works criticize scientific approaches for their hubris, their lack of attention to the human lives that are impacted by this work, and the messy, often uneven, contexts in which this research is produced.

    And yet we find ourselves in a moment where critique—once the norm in the humanities and social sciences—has suddenly gone out of fashion. The response to the new normal where “alternative facts” often carry more weight than peer-reviewed research is to consider ourselves the protectors of the scientific process, and as the channel in which the “truth” needs to be made available as facts. Even some high profile critics are now joining the mission to save science from the unbelievers. Others have decried the death of expertise at the hands of postmodernism, which they believe has emptied all authority of value, encouraging a rampant anti-intellectualism that privileges personal opinion over evidence, and passion over reason.

    And yet, as Alex Golub suggests, the growth of populism and its associated anti-intellectual tendencies isn’t going to be solved by facts alone. The people we want so desperately to convince are not going to hear facts that they don’t want to hear unless we can somehow tap into the culture they are part of. Because that’s the thing. People (including those of us who consider ourselves liberal) understand facts in the context of a broader belief system, a culture if you will. And if we don’t somehow account for that culture, relying solely on a discussion of the facts means we will only ever be talking to ourselves.

    So what does that mean for scholarly publishing? There’s no question the work has to start with solid, rigorous, peer-reviewed research. After that, however, opportunities abound. Research can be cast in many different ways that win not only minds, but hearts as well. For belief is located as much in the heart as it is in the mind.

    Case in point: the launch of a new series, ethnoGRAPHIC, and the publication of our first graphic ethnography. Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution is a project that emerged out of a collaboration between two academics who have done related but very different medical anthropology research. One dealt with kidney transplants in Egypt, the other with genetic pre-testing for breast cancer in the US. When put into conversation with one another, the authors were able to ask larger questions about not just the limitations of science and medical technology, but the ways in which we understand this technology vis-à-vis our own bodies. These very different ways of understanding health, and bodies, and risk, and the future end up offering an opportunity to make connections where they are often not easily made.

    Two important decisions were made that I think move this book from being a traditional academic venture with a relatively limited audience to potentially exploding across age, culture, national, and disciplinary boundaries. The first was to develop a fictional story with two fully relatable and human main characters from very different cultures. Layla and Anna are not just instruments developed to further a message—they are living, breathing, human beings with complex emotions and even more complex motivations. This is what moves readers to feel empathy for them. Even when set in far-away Egypt, in a context that feels foreign, the characters and the relationship that develops between them makes it possible to explore beliefs and cultures in a fresh, non-threatening way.

    The second choice was to render this in graphic novel form, using the unique power of this format—a sequential narrative realized in image form that can make visible the invisible, bend and twist time, and create places and spaces that become characters in their own right. Comics aren’t what they used to be (or maybe we’re only now discovering how powerful they are in their simplicity). Both sophisticated and accessible, engaging and subversive, comics combine the best of text (linear narrative) with the strength of images (quick, affective, and holistic interpretation) to speak to both young and old, skeptic and believer, and hearts and minds.

    As a comic Lissa stands on its own. But it was clear from the beginning of this project that we wanted to make sure the real world context and the research that supported the story wasn’t erased, but made visible in the form of supplementary material (both in the book and on a companion website). Timelines of real world events, a teaching guide with probing discussion questions, links to further resources—on breast cancer and genetic testing, on kidney disease and organ transplants, and on the Egyptian revolution—as well as a documentary film that explores how the authors and artists transformed their research into a comic, create a supportive scaffolding for the book.

    It has been a massive collaborative experiment on a number of levels, and while a more commercial press could easily have published the comic, I’m not sure they would have shown as much interest in the intellectual contribution that constitute the supplementary materials surrounding the comic. The mandate of a trade press is to engage readers in a good story. Ours, as a university press, is to engage readers in a good story that might also lead to a change in public discourse and public policy, and to ongoing scholarly discussions.

    We can’t control how people use the book. Some might only read the graphic novel and ignore the rest (unless smart instructors assign it as required reading!). And that’s okay. They will still learn a lot in the process. But for those who become curious, or those who want to use the story as a way to probe more deeply into issues of modern technology and its limits, bioethics, religion, gender, health and political inequality, and the comic medium itself, we hope they will find this scaffolding useful. In the process, who knows? Maybe reading, discussing, and teaching this book can build a tentative bridge across a cultural divide, and in the process a new neural pathway will be reinforced that allows us to talk about these issues differently.

    In my experience, that isn’t just publishing that provides evidence for the mind, it’s publishing that matters for both hearts and minds.

    Anne Brackenbury
    Executive Editor, Higher Education

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

  • The Power of History to Galvanize and Energize

    In honour of University Press Week (November 6-11), our history editor, Natalie Fingerhut, reflects on how she sees scholarship making a difference in her everyday world, both on and off the page, and in her day-to-day job as an editor of higher education materials for students. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters

    In my day job, I spend a lot of quality time in the fifth and fifteenth centuries, acquiring books that teach students about the Middle Ages. After hours, my personal reading is focused on the twentieth century and specifically on the territory that Yale historian Timothy Snyder refers to as the “Bloodlands”: the area of Europe that ping-ponged between Hitler and Stalin and where millions of men, women, and children, including Jews, Poles, and Russians, were massacred by bullets, starvation, disease, and gas. In Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Snyder references the work of Jewish journalist and fiction writer Vasily Grossman, who in 1944 visited the remains of one of the death camps located in the Bloodlands, Treblinka, and wrote a searing account entitled “The Hell of Treblinka.” In a particularly graphic passage, Grossman describes final moments in the gas chambers:

    The door of the concrete chamber slammed shut […] Can we find within us the strength to imagine what the people in these chambers felt, what they experienced during their last minutes of life? All we know is that they cannot speak now… Covered by a last clammy mortal sweat, packed so tight that their bones cracked and their crushed rib cages were barely able to breathe, they stood pressed against one another; they stood as if they were a single human being. Someone, perhaps some wise old man, makes the effort to say, “Patience now—this is the end.” Someone shouts out some terrible curse. A holy curse—surely this curse must be fulfilled? With a superhuman effort a mother tries to make a little more space for her child: may her child’s dying breaths be eased, however infinitesimally, by a last act of maternal care. A young woman, her tongue going numb, asks, “Why am I being suffocated? Why can’t I love and have children?” Heads spin. Throats choke. What are the pictures now passing before people’s glassy dying eyes? Pictures of childhood? Of the happy days of peace? Of the last terrible journey? Of the mocking face of the SS man in that first square by the station: “Ah, so that’s why he was laughing…” Consciousness dims. It is the moment of the last agony… No, what happened in that chamber cannot be imagined. The dead bodies stand there, gradually turning cold.

    Around the same time I first read this essay, private sponsorship of Syrian refugees began in earnest in Toronto. Under the influence of Grossman and the horrors he had witnessed, I volunteered to do communications work for my synagogue’s refugee efforts and I am pleased to report that we managed to bring in a set of grandparents, parents, and a little boy. Five people saved from another inferno.

    This is the power of history to galvanize and energize. And while I realize that there are educators who stamp “Trigger Warning” on material such as Grossman, doing so suppresses the energy that causes those readers impacted by such horror to act.

    As a history editor at a university press, I am constantly privileged to speak with professors who are galvanized and energized to bring out the best instincts in their students—more so now than when I started a dozen years ago. I have medievalists who are trying to tell another and more complicated story of pre-modern relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: a story that looks at cooperation rather than just conflict. They hope, I think, that if their students see that interfaith relations are more complex, that understanding will trickle into their consciousness when they look at the Middle East today and maybe, just maybe, they will spend their careers trying to repair that troubled region.

    I have authors who spend their time curating powerful primary sources related to trials in order to teach students about justice and agency and gender and superstition. They believe that the trial of a sixteenth-century literate woman who was put to death for being a witch has lessons to teach budding lawyers, judges, and leaders of women’s groups.

    In the last year, I have received brilliant proposals for projects that teach Canadian undergraduates our sordid history of Indigenous relations by emphasizing the invaluable skill of “reading against the grain.” What isn’t being said? By asking questions to reveal silences, lies, and contradictions, students learn to empathize with the silenced and hopefully take that empathy into their futures as activists.

    There has been a dramatic change in the proposals I have received in the last two years especially. I used to receive proposals for books that covered dates and personalities and events. Now, the proposals contain sections such as “Historical Skills for Students.” This is not a coincidence. We seem to be moving forward into the backwardness of the century we have just left. My authors feel compelled to do their part to put on the brakes. To ask their students to read and read carefully. To think carefully. To remember that the past is a teacher, and then ideally, to have this generation armed with the skills of the historian to act positively on the future’s behalf.

    Natalie Fingerhut
    History Editor, Higher Education

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

  • May Round-Up

    Here is a recap of what went on at UTP in the month of May.

    Conferences:

    Richard Ratzlaff attended the Association for the Study of Nationalities 2017 Annual World Convention in New York from May 4th to May 6th.

    Suzanne Rancourt, Natalie Fingerhut, and Anna Del Col had a great time as always at Kalamazoo (or, the International Congress on Medieval Studies) from May 11th to May 14th.

    Finally, we were thrilled to be at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences again this year, from May 27th to June 2nd, and loved that it was in Toronto hosted by Ryerson University. It was great to see so many people interested in our books, and to see so many of our authors and future authors. We are looking forward to Regina next year!

    Author Events:

    On May 9th, a standing room only crowd gathered at Clinton St Public School for the launch of Making a Global City: How one Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Rob Vipond.  A more intimate, but no less enthusiastic crowd attended a book launch at The Munk Centre for Global Affairs on May 25th.

    Awards:

    We are thrilled to announce the following awards:

    John Borrows’ Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism won the Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association.

    Ronald Rudin’s Kouchibouguac: Removal, Resistance, and Remembrance at a Canadian National Park won both the Clio Atlantic Region Prize and the Canadian Oral History Association Prize, from the Canadian Historical Association.

    Maureen Lux’s Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s won the Aboriginal History Book Prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association.

    Norman Hillmer’s O.D. Skelton: A Portrait of Canadian Ambition won the 2015 Stacey Prize awarded by the Canadian Commission for Military History and the Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War.

    George O. Liber’s Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine, 1914-1954 co-won the Best Book in the fields of Ukrainian history, politics, language, literature, and culture awarded by the American Association for Ukrainian Studies and Maxim Tarnawsky’s The All-Encompassing Eye of Ukraine: Van Nechui-Levyts'kyi's Realist Prose was an honourable mention in the same prize.

    Maria Luisa Ardizzone’s Reading as the Angels Read: Speculation and Politics in Dante's Banquet won the Medieval Book Prize awarded by the American Association for Italian Studies.

    Amber Dean’s Remembering Vancouver's Disappeared Women: Settler Colonialism and the Difficulty of Inheritance was a co-winner of the Women’s and Gender Studies Association Outstanding Scholarship Prize.

    Jennifer Hubbard, David Wildish, and Robert Stephenson’s A Century of Maritime Science: The St. Andrews Biological Station won the John Lyman Book Award awarded by the North American Society for Oceanic History, in the “Naval and Maritime Science and Technology” category.

    Karen Foster’s Productivity and Prosperity: A Historical Sociology of Productivist Thought was an honourable mention in the John Porter Prize awarded by the Canadian Sociological Association.

    Congratulations to all!

    In the Media:

    Blacklocks Reporter reviewed Spying on Canadians: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service and the Origins of the Long Cold War by Gregory S. Kealey.

    The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber was profiled by Frontiers in Psychology.

    BizEd Magazine reviewed Rick Nason’s It's not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business.

    MidWest Book Review declared Gentrifier by John Schlichtman, Jason Patch and Marc Lamont Hill to be a "must-read" and said it was "highly recommended."  Schlichtman was interviewed about the book by NPR Wisconsin. 

    Rob Vipond was interviewed about Making a Global City: How one Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Steve Paikin, host of TVOntario’s The Agenda.

    Lions or Jellyfish: Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations Since 1957 by Raymond Blake was reviewed in a collection of key titles for Canada 150 by Margaret Conrad for Atlantic Books Today.

    New Releases:

    An Introduction to the Crusades by S.J. Allen

    The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber (New in Paperback!)

    Conflict and Compromise: Pre-Confederation Canada by Raymond B. Blake, Jeffrey Keshen, Norman J. Knowles, and Barbara J. Messamore

    Conflict and Compromise: Post-Confederation Canada by Raymond B. Blake, Jeffrey Keshen, Norman J. Knowles, and Barbara J. Messamore

    Latin American Politics: An Introduction, Second Edition by David Close

    Asian Canadian Studies Reader edited by Roland Sintos Coloma and Gordon Pon

    Edging Toward Iberia by Jean Dangler

    Beau Monde on Empire’s Edge: State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine by Mayhill C. Fowler

    Canada’s Department of External Affairs, Volume 3: Innovation and Adaptation, 1968–1984 by John Hilliker, Mary Halloran, and Greg Donaghy

    Revitalizing Health for all: Case Studies of the Struggle for Comprehensive Primary Health Care edited by Ronald Labonté, David Sanders, Corinne Packer, and Nikki Schaay

    Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690–1763 by Jeffers Lennox

    The Art of Subtraction: Digital Adaptation and the Object Image by Bruno Lessard

    It's not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business by Rick Nason

    Confessional Cinema: Religion, Film, and Modernity in Spain’s Development Years, 1960–1975 by Jorge Pérez

    Josep Pla: Seeing the World in the Form of Articles by Joan Ramon Resina

    A Nobel Affair: The Correspondence Between Alfred Nobel and Sofie Hess edited and translated by Erika Rummel

    Victimology: A Canadian Perspective by Jo-Anne M. Wemmers

    Value Change in the Supreme Court of Canada by Matthew E. Wetstein and C.L. Ostberg

    The Near Abroad: Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine, 1956-1985 by Zbigniew Wojnowski

  • Count Down to Congress

    Congress is just over one week away and we are getting excited to make our way down to the Mattamy Centre with all the other presses and set up our book exhibit! We hope to see you some time during the week at booth 14. This year we are 5 booths wide (6 if you count our sister division UTP Distribution) so you can’t miss us.

    What can you look forward to from us at Congress this year? Read on to find out.

    Integration of Books and Journals

    Some of you may know that we publish more than just books here at UTP. Alongside our scholarly books and course books, our journals division puts out top-quality journals across many disciplines. This year at Congress we will be displaying books and journals in the same booth, to make it that much easier for you to see all we have to offer.

    Canada150 poster 18x24 revisedThe Canada 150 Collection

    We are excited to debut our collection to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial year. We have chosen a special selection of outstanding books published over the years that bear witness to the depth and breadth of the nation’s history and the diversity of its peoples. These books showcase remarkable achievements as well as uncomfortable truths in Canada’s history, from pre-Confederation to the present. This carefully curated collection includes classic works of cultural, historical, legal, and literary scholarship that have informed and shaped Canada as a nation.

    A selection of these books will be showcased at Congress, and all can be ordered there or online. We are also holding a Canada 150 giveaway – stop by the booth and enter to win one of our packages.

    BergSeeber_SlowProfessorThe Slow Professor New in Paperback

    The Slow Professor is moving along quickly! Approximately one year after the release of the hardback version of The Slow Professor, we are happy to be putting out a paperback version. The paperback version, which features a new forward by Stefan Collini, debuted a few weeks ago at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting and we are pleased to be taking it to quite a few conferences going forward. Buy it at Congress and receive a 25% discount.

     

     

    Of course, we will also have a huge selection of our books and journals, giveaways, examination copies of our course books, and our knowledgeable editors and marketing staff as reasons to pop by the booth. See you at Congress!

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