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University Press Week: The Importance of Regional Publishing

14th November 2013

We are pleased to have FUP Press Director, Fredric Nachbaur, as a guest on our blog as part of the University Press Week blog tour! The tour continues today at Syracuse University Press , UNC PressUniversity of Nebraska PressUniversity of Mississippi PressUniversity of Alabama PressUniversity of Kentucky Press, Louisiana State University Press, and Oregon State University Press. A complete blog tour schedule is available here.

Creating a Regional Imprint by Building on an Existing Reputation

“New York is My Campus, Fordham is My School.” This slogan appears on banners around campus and in literature promoting the university. New York City is an integral part of Fordham’s DNA and one it uses as a selling point to prospective students.

Though Fordham University Press (FUP) has had a longstanding history of publishing books on the region, the 2010 introduction of Empire State Editions officially brought together New York City and state subject matter under one umbrella.

The idea for Empire State Editions (ESE) started some years back. Before coming to Fordham, I worked for NYU Press and was responsible for selling books from Fordham’s list. (NYU Press handled FUP’s distribution and some of its marketing before 2011.) While there, I noted the consistent market success of FUP’s New York titles. When I moved over to Fordham as its new director in 2009, establishing the ESE imprint was one of my first objectives. It made sense to mirror the university’s motto with the Press’s existing reputation in regional publishing and expand on the opportunity to publish trade books and open up new sales channels.

The regional imprint also allowed the Press to build on established relationships with regional institutions like the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Hudson River Museum. Before ESE was established, FUP co-published with the Hudson River Museum a book on the Dutch origins of New York City that coincided with an exhibition of Dutch New York paintings. It is now in its second printing and has reached a course adoption market. The relationship with the museum has continued, and a new book—Industrial Sublime: Modernism and the Transformation of New York’s Rivers, 1900–1940—just published on November 1 and is the official catalog for the museum’s exhibition of the same name.  Currently we are reviewing projects with the New York Public Library and the American Museum of Natural History. Co-publishing books with these iconic New York City institutions not only broadens the profile of the Press; it reinforces Fordham’s connection to New York City. These are partnerships that make administrators happy and ones they may even boast about to other key stakeholders on campus.

I find that regional authors can be some of the hardest-working on my list. They are tireless in their efforts to promote their work, and sometimes their efforts pay off. In 2011, we published New York City’s Golden Age of Bridges, a beautifully illustrated book capturing the history of NYC’s nine iconic bridges accompanied by four-color paintings. The artist’s grandfather helped build the 59th Street Bridge (now the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge). Though the book sold modestly through trade channels, the author and artist set up their own speaking tour, which included exhibits and book signings at galleries, museums, and historical societies throughout the New York metropolitan region, and a month-long exhibit at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, resulting in thousands of copies of the book being sold. This book also landed a spot in the December 2011 Gift Guide of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Joan Marans Dim, historian and author of New York’s Golden Age of Bridges, said that the significance of books published by the Press reaches far beyond the Empire State itself. “When you think about New York City, and New York state, you see that much of what happened across the country happened here first,” she said. Dim said she was amazed by the sincere interest in New York history evinced by the more than 200 people who attended her book’s launch event, which we held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. “I think it says a lot about the Empire State Editions and the fact that people care about these types of issues,” Dim said.

The ESE books also get good pickup in mainstream print and electronic media like the New York Times, Huffington Post, Time Out New York, New York Review of Books, New York Daily News, and the New York Post. ESE authors are called on for their expertise. For example, after Hurricane Sandy, a reporter from Huffington Post called FUP to obtain the e-mail address of the author of A Century of Subways to discuss the flooding that occurred as a result of the storm. This type of attention allows the Press to develop a focused identity in trade publishing while maintaining a strong platform for scholarly content.

Book Expo America (BEA) was an opportunity to showcase the ESE titles; FUP had a banner at its booth this past June featuring lead regional books and gave out hand-sanitizers with the ESE logo. The Press actually made a sale for The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City’s Unbuilt Subway System. Train buffs come out of the woodwork for new books on the subject and we wouldn’t have met the owner of this specialty account if we hadn’t attended BEA. Also, we set up an event for The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned, at a great independent bookshop, Spoonbill and Sugartown, as a result of a chance meeting at BEA. These books and these events complement our reputation as a publisher of high-quality scholarship.

I’ll end with a quote from Mark Naison, Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University, who wrote about the importance of university presses for the 75th anniversary of the AAUP. He said:

“University presses not only provide the only outlet for those who produce serious scholarship in history, the humanities, and the social sciences; they provide an opportunity for innovative manuscripts written by people outside of universities to see the light of day. I have not only published two historical works and a memoir with a university press, but I have also helped two authors—one a public school teacher, the other a professional basketball player turned banker—publish extremely well-received memoirs that commercial publishers would have never invested in. University presses keep serious intellectual discourse alive in a nation where the profit motive holds greater and greater sway.”

Empire State Editions proves this is true.


This year marks the second annual celebration of University Press Week, coordinated by the American Association of University Presses.  For more great content during University Press Week, follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

And don’t forget to check out today’s tour stops at Syracuse University Press , UNC PressUniversity of Nebraska PressUniversity of Mississippi PressUniversity of Alabama PressUniversity of Kentucky Press, Louisiana State University Press, and Oregon State University Press. A complete blog tour schedule can be found here!