On January 25, 2017, UNP author Paul Johnsgard was honored by the Center for Great Plains Studies with a lifetime achievement award. Johnsgard, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska, has authored eighty-five books (I apparently missed a couple dozen … Continue reading The Director Dish
Shortly after the shootings in Orlando, Florida, occurred, I was at a meeting of the board of the American Association of University Presses (AAUP) in advance of the association’s annual meeting. In discussing how to address the shootings at the … Continue reading The Director Dish
The following letter was written for UNP’s spring and summer 2016 catalog. What an honor it is to be the director of the University of Nebraska Press as it celebrates its 75th anniversary and diamond jubilee. Reference to a diamond … Continue reading The Director Dish: Our 75th Anniversary
Are people who work in publishing just frustrated writers? I have spoken to undergraduate English and journalism classes many times about careers in book publishing, and one of the things I always tell the students is: if you want to … Continue reading The Director Dish
I suppose every season has countless poems and stories written about it or set in that season. Certainly, when it comes to summer there is a multitude of songs and writings about the lazy days, the burning heat, the carefree … Continue reading The Director Dish
I recently had the pleasure of having a young woman, Olivia, a junior at Southeast High School here in Lincoln, shadow me for a day. I felt a little sorry for her since much of my day is spent writing … Continue reading The Director Dish: A Day in Book Publishing
When I was a kid, my mom regularly packed a pb&j on white bread sandwich—or perhaps a slice of processed cheese, also on white bread—in my lunch box. Kids were able to buy a pint of milk, maybe a bag … Continue reading The Director Dish
I recently was asked to guest lecture at a publishing class about what I see as major trends in the book industry. You don’t always get to sit down and organize on paper (in this case, on Power Point) the things you know are happening in your industry. I thought I’d share some of the things I think are current trends in book publishing: Consolidation across all the channels. Whether it’s publishers themselves (e.g., the recent Penguin/Random House merger), printing presses (the number of printers has declined 18% in the last seven years), the mergers of significant wholesalers (e.g., Baker … Continue reading The Director’s Dish: Current Trends in Publishing
This season’s Director’s “Dish” might in fact be a pie plate . . . I never thought I’d come to know as many people who grew up on farms as I now do. Until moving to Lincoln almost five years ago, I’m pretty sure I had known no more than one or two people with farming backgrounds. But Nebraska—like so many midwestern and great plains states—was built on farming. As Evelyn Funda points out so beautifully in her wonderful memoir/cultural history book Weeds, due out this month from the Press, 90 percent of Americans worked on family farms in the … Continue reading The Director’s Dish
You can judge a book by its cover; in fact, I hope you do because we
spend a lot of time honing the titles and cover designs for our books. With
more and more people purchasing books online, it’s even important than ever to
grab them with a good title or compelling cover.
In the online world of search
engine optimization (SEO), a title needs to come up if a consumer is looking
for a book on a certain subject. That’s why I’m such a stickler for non-fiction
book titles (except perhaps, memoir) to say what the book is about.
In a recent meeting about titles
for forthcoming books, I raised the point that a particular title didn’t tell
you what was the book was about.
“Well, if you read the book,”
someone said, “you’ll know why the author wants this title.” I countered, “With
that title, I’m definitely not going to read the book.” We settled on keeping
the title, but with a very descriptive subtitle that captures what might come
up when someone searches that subject online.
Different genres have different
conventions for titling. It’s okay to go for a snazzy title paired with a long,
long subtitle on a sports or business book. (That seems to be the acceptable
approach now, anyway.) Personally, I love it. A recent favorite of mine: Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and
Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan. How could you resist a book
like that? Apparently you can’t because it’s been a hot seller for us. Of
course, some books don’t need a subtitle; the title says everything. I love 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before
They Die. End of story.
Religious books are tough to title.
You have to convey why the book is unique but remain respectful, while
explaining what the book is about. I’m particularly proud of the title we came
up with for —well, I don’t have to tell you what the book is about because the title
and subtitle say it all: From Gods to
God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends.
Fiction and literary memoir are a
bit more challenging. We seldom change the title that the author submits; it
would be like changing the title of a painting. Our memoirists, in particular,
seem to be quite skilled at titles. For example: