What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Diversifying the publishing workforce and authors is a hot-button issue. Publishing is a notoriously white, mostly female industry, and we want to see a change in our ranks. We no longer have any junior staff positions, but we are moving forward with an internship program that we hope will attract the next generation of publishing professionals. Diversity brings different perspectives about ideas, ways of doing things, and the books we publish.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’m in the early stages of starting a food studies list, and I acquire in African American studies. I bring in a host of books on environmental history studies. To round out the series more, I’d like to acquire titles that address food insecurity and social justice issues, which are problems related to the environment. There are farmers markets all over the city throughout the week. The food scene that is thriving in Pittsburgh gets reported on regularly, but not everyone can participate. Other than that, just about anything Pittsburgh related.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
It’s not so much that I don’t want to see any particular topic again, but I do have a pet peeve. Future authors, please look at the websites of the publishers that interest you so you can read for yourself which disciplines we publish in and what we want to see in a proposal. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. It’s as easy as pulling up our websites.
What do you want to change about publishing?
It’s no secret that there is an issue of pay disparity between women and men in the U.S., and it’s pronounced in publishing too. According to the Status of Women in the States website, in the state of Pennsylvania, which is ranked 23rd in the country in the employment and earnings category, women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. In the Publishers Weekly 2017 survey of people who work in the publishing industry, the average salary for men who responded to the survey was $87,000, compared to $60,000 for women. Salary equity remains problematic. As mentioned above, diversifying the workforce is a must.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
University press publishing is quite different from trade publishing. As acquiring editors, we actively seek out scholars in our various disciplines at conferences and through other channels. We seldom work with agents. Generally speaking, our authors don’t need the services of an agent. We accept unsolicited manuscripts (note my pet peeve above) and first-time authors. We publish 70 to 75 books a year with a staff of 14 hardworking and creative people. Our main areas are Russian and Eastern European studies, three series in Latin American studies, history of science and technology, history of medicine, the built environment, science and culture in the 19th century, Pitt Poetry, composition and rhetoric, and histories and ecologies of health. I acquire manuscripts on environmental history that crossover with history of science, Latin American studies, and Russian and Eastern European studies. My books go to the other three acquisitions editors’ conferences, which makes our marketing bucks go further and puts the books in front of all potential audiences.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I started my career in the marketing department at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in Orlando, Florida, in 1987. I later moved to Boston for a business-to-business publisher. I finally found my planet when I moved to the University of Nevada Press in Reno, and I’ve worked at two other university presses. I love university press publishing, as I can work closely with my authors and be part of a team that feels that making good books is an important endeavor. Despite my grumblings, I feel fortunate to be in this industry working with authors and my colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Sandy Crooms is the editorial director of the University of Pittsburgh Press and oversees the acquisitions department. She has wide-ranging experience in book publishing: first working her way through the ranks in marketing departments at academic and trade publishing houses and later moving into acquisitions at three university presses before joining the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. Her areas of acquisition are environmental studies, urban history, and African American history. She also acquires regional titles that inform and celebrate the history and natural beauty of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. One example is Butterflies of Pennsylvania: A Field Guide, which was chosen as the winner of the 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in the nature guidebook category. In keeping with an interdisciplinary model for acquisitions, she is drawn to those projects that connect two or more scholarly disciplines. Crooms started the series Intersections: Histories of the Environment, Science, and Technology to achieve that objective. The University of Pittsburgh Press welcomes first-time authors, edited collections, and single-author monographs.