Staff Stories: An Interview with Leif Milliken
Anna Weir is one of the more recent additions to the press: Publicist, book hoarder, and needlework enthusiast. For the Press’ 75th anniversary—and out of her own curiosity—she is interviewing her more experienced co-workers to put a familiar face on one of the largest university presses in the country.
Leif Milliken works with contracts, permissions, and subsidiary rights for University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books, Jewish Publication Society, and Potomac Books titles. He has been working with the Press since 2010.
Anna Weir: What’s your current job at UNP, and how long have you held it?
Leif Milliken: I work with rights and permissions, and I’ve been doing this for… I’m trying to think… Five years? No, it’s six now.
AW: So, what does that look like in the day to day?
LM: Whenever we acquire a new book, I create the author’s contract and prepare the legal paperwork. On the permissions side of things, whenever someone wants to reuse material from one of our books, I help with that. I also work with placing subsidiary rights for our titles.
AW: Have you held other positions with the press?
LM: I was a student worker in the Journals department for a while, about ten years ago.
AW: Oh, what was that like?
LM: Nice. I was able to do some editing, but mostly I handled things in our database. Contacts and addresses, subscriber information, you know.
AW: Oh do I. I live in the database now.
LM: It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember too much, other than lots of data entry. I went on to another job outside of the press which I held for several years before starting here in Administration.
AW: Describe your most memorable moment at the press.
LM: I should say something about publishing. But I’m going to pass up the easy answer for something out of left field: I’ve really enjoyed playing Settlers of Catan with my co-workers over lunch… does that count?
AW: It counts.
AW: What brought you to UNP? Or, in your case, what brought you back?
LM: I had very fond memories of the press and the people who worked there. Many of them were still there from my time as a student.
AW: Well. I know where you’re at, you work more closely with the authors themselves rather than their books, but is there a particular book you particularly enjoyed working on?
LM: That’s a good question. You’re right, I don’t have my hands on too many books, not creatively. I register copyright for them all—and that’s more difficult for some books than others—so I feel like I know them all well. But if I had to pick one… I’d say You Will Never See Any God.
AW: I know the one you’re talking about. By Ervin D. Krause?
LM: That’s the one. One of his stories was censored by the University’s literary journal, back in the 1960s. So the story behind the collection is interesting – but beyond that, Kraus’s stories are very good. Some of them are very dark. Morbid, but beautiful as well.
AW: Similar question, is there a forthcoming book are you’re really excited about?
LM: Ngh, kind of the same problem. But at our meetings, I’m always listening to what other people say about whatever books we’re working on right then, and once in a while, one will make my ears prick up.
AW: What advice do you have for people starting a career in publishing?
LM: The best way is to start as a volunteer, or a student worker or a temp or something. Get your toes in the door, get to know people, get a sense of how operations actually work.
AW: Absolutely, that’s what I did and it’s working out for me so far.
Thank you so much for your time!