Written by Prajakta Gupte, NEH SHARP graduate student assistant, Spring and Summer 2022
I had the fantastic opportunity to work with the Marketing Department at the University Press of Florida. I was hired as a Graduate Assistant under the NEH SHARP grant. One of the main reasons I wanted to work at the Press was to learn about the publishing process. As a Ph.D. student, we are taught how to write and pitch book manuscripts based on our research. Once a press picks our manuscript for publication, our job as an academic seems complete. But I had always been curious about how a manuscript is turned into a book that we buy from bookstores. During the span of two semesters, I became acquainted with the process of book publishing, starting from how the Press acquires manuscripts to how the book reaches bookstores. Needless to say, this was an extremely valuable learning experience.
As mentioned above, I was part of the Marketing Department where I helped mostly with drafting advertisements for our conference booths, blog posts, content for social media platforms, and pre-publication discount and subject emails. I also sent emails to academic journals, podcasts, and other media outlets, asking them to consider our books for their review section. These seem to be simple tasks but each of these tasks is crucial for ensuring that the right consumers – individuals, bookstores, scholars, and librarians – get to know about our books.
Furthermore, I learnt that all these tasks need to be undertaken at particular times and with specific intervals for them to be effective. For example, blog posts about new book releases were posted every Friday on the Press blog. Similarly, pre-publication discount and subject emails were sent once every month. This ensured that our consumers were being regularly informed about our books and how to buy them.
Moreover, working at the Press was doubly beneficial for me because I got to work on publications that dealt with the social and political issues of Latin America and the Caribbean. My doctoral research partly examines Latin America and during my time at the Press, I discovered several scholarly works that focus on this region. For instance, while making Authors in Conversation videos to promote our books at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Conference, I learnt about the works of Barros, Ocasio, and Willis (The Dissidence of Reinaldo Arenas), Manley (The Paradox of Paternalism), and Mirabal and Hennes (The Letters of Minerva Mirabal and Manolo Tavárez: Love and Resistance in the Time of Trujillo). These books discuss different aspects of social life under the authoritarian regimes in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Since my doctoral research looks at civil society under authoritarian rule, it was helpful to know about these books and scholars.
Similarly, I was able to try my hand at writing copy for some forthcoming books on Latin America, for example, Revolutions in Cuba and Venezuela. This was a great learning experience because it forced me to think as a consumer of these books – rather than as a scholar who wants to share her research by highlighting only its findings – and what information I would want to read before deciding whether or not to buy/read the book.
As you can tell, working two semesters at the Press was highly enlightening for me. I became aware of all the different processes that go on behind publishing and making a book available to the consumers. My time with the Marketing Department showed me that an effective marketing strategy, including promoting books at conferences, on social media, writing concise copy, and using discounts and offers is equally important in ensuring that the book is a success. While writing an engaging and coherent book is vital, marketing and promoting it in a well-planned manner is also necessary. After all, if people do not know about a book or where to buy it, then how will they read it! As I work on my doctoral dissertation, which I hope becomes a book someday, this was a crucial lesson I learnt.
Lastly, I want to thank Rachel Doll and Jenna Kolesari (and Rachel Welton) for teaching me all these tasks. I also want to highlight that the work culture at the Press was brilliant – everyone I met during meetings, water coolers, or otherwise was very kind, helpful, encouraging, and appreciative of my ideas, questions, and concerns. This made my time at the Press very enjoyable.
Prajakta Gupte is a Ph.D. student in political science and her doctoral research investigates why some military businesses privatize after democratization but others do not.