As the team at West Virginia University Press starts a new year, we wanted to share a quick sense of our acquisitions priorities for 2023 and beyond. The people who sign new books at WVU are Sarah Munroe (acquisitions editor and marketing manager) and Derek Krissoff (director). Here they talk a little about what they’re looking for. You can find contact info for both on the press’s website.
Derek: One of the things I like about working at a small press is the degree of back-and-forth, which includes our collaboration in acquisitions work. In fact some of our most successful titles in recent years have involved editorial contributions from both of us. How would you describe the distinctions in our areas and roles?
Sarah: A tricky question to start! It’s often fairly fluid between us, which I really enjoy and appreciate—we don’t have guarded territories and we talk about most projects together.
Generally I handle fiction and creative nonfiction (CNF) acquisitions, including our In Place series. You’ve given me a lot of freedom in those areas, particularly fiction (an initially alarming amount: “You’re really going to let me take a novel about a bigfoot PI?”), but when I like something or am unsure about a project, I’ll share it with you so we can discuss. Sometimes though, fiction or CNF submissions are emailed straight to you, and either because you have an established rapport with the author or because of workload, you’ve taken the lead on those.Read More »
Way back when Another Appalachia hadn’t yet been published, and I was filled with doubt about whether anyone other than my family and friends would read the book, my mentor Geeta Kothari would tell me: “Your book will find its readers.” She said it with a confidence I didn’t understand. How exactly would this book find readers who weren’t people I knew? Never mind that I find books I love all the time—imposter syndrome is not subject to rational thinking, it would seem.
And yet, the three months since Another Appalachia’s release have proven Geeta right so many times that she’s gotten tired of telling me, “I told you so.” In large part, this is because of the work that folks at the Press, folks at Vesto PR, and I have all put into publicizing the book—to thinking creatively about outlets, to the litany of pitches and pursuits that are alway part of the pre-publication rush. Read More »
Over the past couple of tumultuous years, lots about publishing has changed and lots has stayed the same—and both tendencies are on display in West Virginia’s new seasonal catalog.
Several publishers have recently moved away from seasonal catalogs altogether, as the effort required to design, edit, print, and distribute them has come under new scrutiny. (Early in the pandemic, when so few people had access to the work mailboxes where catalogs tend to be sent, the investment seemed especially questionable.) But at West Virginia we’ve happily kept at it, believing there’s value in stopping, every six months, to share with our readers a tangible guide to forthcoming books.
We’re always adapting as things shift around us, though, and with the fall 2022 catalog we’ve made changes. It’s a shorter document, scaled back to align with (post)pandemic attention spans—and to function as a teaser (“learn more online!”) rather than a comprehensive reference work. We still like paper, but we want to use our print catalog to invite you to online spaces for conversation and, of course, for ordering books.
—The catalog has gotten thinner, but it’s the same height and width it’s always been. We’re attached to our distinctive 5.5 x 7.5 dimensions.
—The catalog cover was adapted by in-demand designer Rachel Willey from her cover for Tom Bredehoft’s forthcoming book Foote. You can see more of Rachel’s work on Instagram. Read More »
Gillian Berchowitz was director at Ohio University Press until 2018, and among other accolades she is recipient of the Cratis D. Williams/James S. Brown Service Award from the Appalachian Studies Association. She talked with Derek Krissoff, director at West Virginia University Press, for the blog.
Tell me about the biggest change you’ve seen in your time as a publisher, and maybe about something that hasn’t changed as much as people predicted it would.
Very broadly, I think the biggest change has been the digitization of every aspect of publishing, but that’s almost meaningless now.
In some ways the publishing process has been democratized and in other ways a great deal of expertise has been lost, and writers find it harder to make a living, which is very undemocratic. Self publishing is no longer stigmatized and that’s all to the good, but the skills that editors, typesetters, text and cover designers, and professional publicists bring to the act of publishing are less—or no better—understood now, it seems, than ever before. The invisibility of what publishers bring to the finished book is elusive for many authors who are starting out and I wish that there were better ways of connecting authors with the many independent publishers that are out there. In the last 30 years or so, university presses, in addition to their scholarly publishing programs, do the work of independent publishers, but many writers don’t know that.Read More »
Diana Mazzella, one of many publishing professionals at our university who works for units other than WVU Press, is editor at West Virginia University Magazine. In this guest post, she describes the impact of the global health emergency on her work.
In 2014 when I became managing editor of West Virginia University Magazine, I didn’t really know what we’d achieve. I just knew we needed to make goals, meet targets, and advance, advance, advance.
When the pandemic struck, the magazine was as ready as it was going to be to meet this challenge after years of our staff making plans for an online future.
We hadn’t prepared for all of this, of course, and it affected us like everyone else: cuts and losses and uncertainty. We had been preparing for years to meet our digital-native audience where they were. And now we were all-digital much sooner than we had imagined.Read More »
Art director Than Saffel provides a look at the DNA behind our Fall 2020 seasonal catalog cover.
“I believe that there is something in you that strives for order, and within that order, there’s a certain kind of mishmoshy confusion, and you bring this mishmoshy confusion, if you succeed, into some kind of order. There’s an element of control, and there’s also an element that just happens—if you’re very lucky.”
As WVU Press’s art director and lone production designer, I stay busy cranking out covers, interiors, galleys, ads, posters, signs, catalogs, social media imagery, and more. Most of the press’s visual sensibility originates with materials I create (or, in the case of Deesha Philyaw’s cover shown here, commission).
Update: Our warehouse in Chicago has now reopened!
In this period of extraordinary challenges—for publishing, bookselling, higher ed, and just about everything and everybody else—the staff at West Virginia University Press is committed to ensuring that the state’s largest publishing house continues to maintain a robust lineup of books and journals. Some key points:
We look forward to sharing our fall catalog next month. If your access to the print catalog is interrupted, let us know and we’ll make sure you get a digital copy. Booksellers and sales reps can always access information about our new and forthcoming titles on the Edelweiss platform.
Forthcoming titles will continue to be released on schedule, with the possibility of some modest hiccups related to the temporary closure of our warehouse at the University of Chicago Press’s Distribution Center. Our colleagues in Chicago have been great, and we don’t anticipate significant disruptions.
Many print books continue to be available directly from WVU Press during the warehouse closure (currently scheduled to last through April 7), but to help compensate for any delays we’ve made all of our ebooks half offon our website. Plus you’ll receive a free digital edition immediately when ordering any print book directly from WVU.
If you’re looking for print without delay, our books are widely available at online retailers. We suggest Bookshop.org, Indiebound.org, or independent bookstores that sell directly from their own websites. Our titles are also available and shipping now from Amazon.com and BN.com.
Our staff is working offsite, but we’re excited to continue acquiring new books. If you have something to pitch, please email the appropriate acquisitions editor.
At West Virginia University Press we publish books in our areas of specialization by authors around the world, including WVU faculty like Rosemary Hathaway and Travis Stimeling, both of whom have written for our blog. Other members of the WVU community, of course, work with different publishers. In this post we continue to feature authors at the university who publish with other houses—part of our effort to serve as a forum for all things book- and publishing-related at West Virginia University.
Last year I was proud to publish my book Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay through the University of California Press. The finished product readers view or hold is of course only a façade veiling a complex internal scaffolding of effort, time, and multistep stages involved in bringing a book to fruition. Here I outline the combination of perseverance and fortune that resulted in my book being accepted for publication, in addition to the steps, at once monumental and mundane, that got it into print.Read More »
Sarah Munroe and Kat Saunders worked as graduate assistants at West Virginia University Press while earning MFA degrees in creative writing from the WVU English department, and both have gone on in publishing—Sarah at Temple University Press, where she is an acquisitions editor, and Kat at Kent State University Press, where she is an assistant editor. In this conversation, conducted over Google Chat, they talk about how their time at West Virginia University informs their publishing work.
Sarah: I don’t know about you, but I miss West Virginia University Press. It was so chill. And the little house with the sheep.
Kat: I do too! Although I don’t miss the dead mice in the walls—only downside to that old farmhouse. What was your favorite project you worked on?
Kat: I worked on the reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, which featured a new introduction by Catherine Venable Moore. It was a stunning essay. And I loved how Rukeyser wound research through her poetry.Read More »
In the second installment of our Booktimist series, we hear from collaborators across the world of books.
Penny Pugh is head of research services at the WVU Libraries and a member of WVU Press’s editorial board.
It’s been my pleasure to serve on the WVU Press board for several years and to see it grow and flourish under the leadership of two talented directors. The work of a board member is indeed a pleasure. The board approves all new books before they’re published, and as part of the evaluation members read a portion of the work under consideration as well as a summary and reports from external reviewers. These glimpses into potential new titles are fascinating. After reviewing the titles, members of the board provide additional insights from our various disciplines and vote on acceptance of the title. The board also advises the director on matters of policy and practice and generally guards the reputation of the press.Read More »