Industry News

  • University of Toronto Press Moves Offices to Accommodate New Book Publishing Division


    TORONTO - Canada’s largest scholarly publisher, University of Toronto Press (UTP), has outgrown the office it has called home for the past thirty years. On Monday, April 16, UTP’s book publishing staff from editorial, sales, marketing, design and production, as well as its human resources and administrative teams will settle into a brand new, state-of-the-art office space at the corner of Bay and College, in downtown Toronto.

    The move is part of a re-structuring for UTP’s much lauded publishing program. After a decade of operating on parallel paths, and in separate cities, the company’s Scholarly Publishing and Higher Education divisions are coming together under one roof. Moving forward, these two groups will join forces and resources as part of UTP’s Book Publishing Division.

    “Our new office is symbolic of the confidence we have in the future of scholarly publishing and in UTP itself,” says UTP’s Chief Executive Officer, John Yates.  “Consolidating the book publishing teams will make us more nimble and puts us in a better position to respond to the needs of our authors and customers, both at home and around the world.”

    The company’s spacious new location boasts an open-concept design, natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows and cutting-edge technologies. All of the workstations and panels are constructed from recycled materials, which represents more than an aesthetic consideration, according to Lynn Fisher, UTP’s Vice President, Book Publishing.

    “Being environmentally responsible is a corporate priority for us as a book publisher,” says Fisher. “Over the past few years, UTP has become widely seen as a major platform for new work in urban planning and environmental studies. That’s another reason we’d be remiss to not build a ‘healthier’ work space.”  

    UTP’s Book Publishing Division will be located at 800 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A9. Phone numbers and email addresses are unchanged. Contact information for the company’s Journals, Retail and Distribution divisions remains the same.

    Founded in 1901, University of Toronto Press (UTP) is Canada’s leading scholarly publisher and one of the largest university presses in North America, releasing over 200 new scholarly, reference, and general-interest books each year, as well as maintaining a backlist of over 3500 titles in print. For more information, visit: utorontopress.com.

  • 'Unbound': Winner of the 2018 Kobzar Literary Award

    Guest post by Dr. Lindy Ledohowski

    “Identities – ethnocultural, gendered, socio-economic, minoritized, regional – are interesting facets of who we are. Often we both are and are not multiple selves simultaneously, and as we asked authors to contribute to this collection, the key question we wanted them to think about was this: What does Ukrainian Canadian-ness mean to them in contemporary Canada? We were both surprised and pleased with their responses.

    This book demonstrates that on close scrutiny, as with any vibrant and dynamic community, there may be more divisions than similarities among the views of individual Ukrainian Canadians. More than sixty years have passed since the first English-language Ukrainian Canadian novel was published, and the literature playing with notions of what it means to be Ukrainian Canadian suggests that it means many things to many people. This book explores the spaces where, in the words of Myrna Kostash, “our collective, though not necessarily common, interests coincide.” And while this exploration uses Ukrainian Canadian (in all its iterations) as its focusing lens, it speaks to other minoritized subject positions in Canada and abroad, and perhaps most loudly to contemporary mainstream Canada as well.”

    So begins the introduction to Unbound: Ukrainian Canadians Writing Home. In thinking about identity politics and contemporary Canada, as diasporic and postcolonial scholars who focus on contemporary Canadian literature both Lisa Grekul and I approached co-editing a collection focusing on English-language Ukrainian Canadian literature in a radical way.

    As scholars, both Grekul and I are committed to multiplicity to identities rather than a single, hegemonic way of looking at the world. When we asked our contributors to provide something for the book we envisioned creating, we wanted to give them the greatest degree of openness we could.

    We did not want to constrain their voices, which meant that we did not want to constrain their generic or stylistic choices. It also meant that we were committed to a consultative and collaborative process to bring this book to fruition.

    The book, as a result is an expression not only of some of the best thinking and writing about contemporary Canadian identity politics and literature, but also an articulation of being “unbound” by genre or expectation. This book is profoundly scholarly and profoundly creative simultaneously. And its creation is the culmination of the best feminist practice that we lived over years to pull it together.

    We are terribly and justifiably proud of this book.

    Then when we found out that it was a finalist for the 2018 Kobzar Literary Award, a nation-wide literary prize in Canada that is only offered every two years, we were over the moon.

    Then on March 1st when the winner was announced and Unbound: Ukrainian Canadians Writing Home became the 2018 Kobzar Literary Award winner, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

    Grekul was in the middle of a busy teaching term at UBC, Okanagan on the other side of Canada from the Toronto-based gala awards night, and I was glued to my iPhone in Kuala Lumpur 13 hours ahead of Toronto.

    Marusya Bociurkiw, one of the contributors who has also been a Kobzar finalist before, represented us, and when she texted me: “WE WON!” I thought she must be joking. As Twitter exploded with the announcement, and Bociurkiw pulled another contributor onto stage with her Erin Moure – who was also a finalist this year in her own right – we all felt the years of hard work being recognized.

    This book is important. This book is revolutionary. This book is interesting. This book is powerful. This book is political. This book is beautiful.

    And this book is a nation-wide literary prize winner.

    On behalf of my co-editor, Dr. Lisa Grekul, I must thank our amazing, talented, intelligent, and formidable contributors:
    Maruysia Bociurkiw
    Elizabeth Bachinsky
    Janice Kulyk Keefer
    Myrna Kostash
    Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
    Erin Moure
    Daria Salamon and Weronika Suchacka who wrote the preface and Natalka Husar who allowed her painting '500 people you didn’t know' to be used as the cover art.

    Lisa Grekul is a novelist and associate professor in the Department of Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

    Lindy Ledohowski is an educational leader and literary scholar. She serves on the board of trustees for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

  • 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.

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