A Tribute to Mark Saunders
By Kate O'Brien-Nicholson
10th June 2019
by Fredric Nachbaur
Mark Saunders’s sudden death shook me. It shook the entire university press community. The outpouring of admiration and reverence for the man and his work was overwhelming. This blog tour is a way to channel our grief in a creative and considerate way.
I cannot remember when I met Mark. It must have been when I was marketing and sales director at NYU Press and he held the same position at the University of Virginia Press. We gravitated toward one another at an annual AUPresses — then AAUP — conference. We shared a beer or two or three and swapped stories about selling and marketing UP books, the havoc Amazon was inflicting on our beloved indies and the once-hated Barnes & Noble chain, and most important, our love of the industry. I became director of FUP in 2009 and he director of UVA in 2013, so we had a similar trajectory. I always admired Mark’s measured and thoughtful responses to questions I asked him and his willingness to share his expertise, especially on the constantly changing landscape of digital publishing. I learned a lot from him.
Whenever I ran into Mark, his first comments were always, “Fred, I really like what you are doing at Fordham. You have really made a name for the Press. How do you manage to do it?” I was always a little embarrassed by his praise and quickly thanked him and tried to change the subject. I certainly appreciated his generosity, but one person does not change or make a press. It takes an entire team of dedicated people to run a successful and well-respected university press. In honor of Mark, I would like to thank him for all his advice over the years and offer praise to our unsung heroes at Fordham: our student workers and interns. We couldn’t do what we do without them. I am so fortunate to have an incredible team of long-serving employees who share my mission, are willing to make changes when necessary, and adapt to new systems to help run a tight and efficient workflow. This is crucial to how we manage to publish 70 books annually with ten permanent staff members. However, for this piece I’d like to give a big shout-out to the paid interns and student workers who make invaluable contributions to our publishing program. In the ten years that I’ve been director we’ve had very little turnover, and the part-time workers have been the backbone supporting the work all of us do. I asked our editorial assistant intern, John, to give me his job description. This is what he wrote:
“My job as an editorial assistant at FUP is best envisioned as one that requires me to manage two separate but intertwined relationships: the relationship between the manuscript/book and the Press, and the relationship between the author and the Press. This requires balancing interpersonal interactions with a keen sense of detail and close attention to deadlines and timetables while working across the four major departments at the Press: editorial, production, marketing, and business.”
This introduction was followed by a bulleted list of tasks encompassing all aspects of his day-to-day responsibilities, including reviewing proposals and tracking peer reviews for editorial; generating transmittal memos and preparing manuscripts for weekly launch meetings for production; soliciting pre-publication blurbs and writing catalog copy for marketing; and submitting payments and receipts for cover art permission and license acquisition for the business department.
John is getting his Ph.D. in theology and has been with the Press for four years. I as a director who acquires, the editorial director, and our two acquisitions editors rely on John to help us manage the entire process, and he is very good at his job. He doesn’t want to teach after he graduates and has fallen in love with university press publishing. He could go to any trade or academic press and take on the role of assistant editor.
Our managing editor relies on his intern, Kem, to oversee a heavy workload of tracking 35 manuscripts per season. Kem checks manuscripts after author review, ensures page proofs are clean, and helps upload files to our digital assets management system. Kem was a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Fordham.
Our marketing and business departments rely on their intern, Ben. He handles a variety of duties including mailing and shipping gratis copies, scheduling tweets and posts for new book releases, and assisting with royalties distribution, including our recent transition to a new automated royalty-tracker system. Ben is getting his masters in philosophy at Fordham. His dad is a tenured professor of English at Fordham University.
John, Kem, and Ben are all treated as members of the FUP staff and we welcome their comments, suggestions, and input. I wish I could hire them all tomorrow as permanent staffers, but like most university presses, FUP is subsidized by the university, making it difficult to add new positions. As long as they are willing to help us accomplish our mission, we will continue to give them rewarding work, teach them skills that they can take anywhere beyond the Fordham walls, and treat them with respect and dignity as contributing collaborators to a scholarly press. So, Mark, that is the answer to your question, “Fred, how do you manage to do it?” I wish I had told you sooner.
Goodbye, my friend.
Please follow our blog tour throughout the week. To follow along on social media, use these hashtags: #ReadUP #WeAreUP
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University of California Press