What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
In addition to popular history, food studies, art/architecture, and a few other areas, I acquire books about the natural world and the environment, a traditional area of strength for the University of Georgia Press. We publish nature guides (we’re looking forward to Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs by Lynn Frierson Faust in spring 2017), a series of guides to the rivers of Georgia with the Georgia River Network, and nature writing both in established books series and as “stand-alone” books. While the UGA Press will always publish in regional ecology, we’re moving toward books that acknowledge the interconnectedness of the global ecology. A distressing thing I’ve noticed among the writers of our most recent nature guides, for example, is the increasing difficulty they have in describing the distribution range of the animals, plants, insects, etc. that they’re describing. All of these communities are in such flux due to climate change. Perhaps a future guide will be The Polar Bears of the Southeast.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would love to see books that tap into areas that the UGA Press already publishes in, particularly music, decorative arts, and food, but with a fresh take. For example, the UGA Press has started an exciting new partnership with the Library of American Landscape History to publish crossover scholarly works on the history of landscape design movements and practitioners such as Thomas Church and Ruth Shellhorn. I’d love to see more popular takes on garden design and home gardening to complement those books. Likewise, the UGA Press is gearing up with a series on the history of popular music and I’d like to consider books about rock, folk, Americana, and roots music that are accessible and fun for a general reader. I particularly like working with journalists. They combine a sense of narrative with solid research—and know how to meet a deadline!
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Lawyers’ memoirs and collections of columns by local journalists. I can’t, I just cannot.
Have you worked with self-published authors?
In a previous position at a small trade house, yes, and the UGA Press some time ago took on a self-published sports history title, The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball by Tim Darnell, that is, I think, a model for a book that goes from self-publisher to traditional publisher. Written by a journalist, it combined top-notch archival and photo research with a well-told tale. I think the thing that is important for self-published authors pitching to a trade or university press editor to know is that they’ll be starting at square one when trying to sell their books. I would still need all of the cover material, synopsis, etc. called for on the UGA Press’ online submission guidelines, in addition to verifiable sales numbers, post-publication reviews, a description of the permission situation of the book and its constituent parts (photo permissions, excerpt permissions, etc.), and a summary of the authors’ social media presence, in addition to a copy of the self-published book itself. For any work of popular history, the bibliography is very important and must be up-to-date with current sources. Frankly, I’d consider the self-published book a manuscript subject to review, revision, and reformatting.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I love the combination in the university press segment of publishing highly researched books about popular or accessible topics. After the rigorous review and careful revisions are over, let’s have fun!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think it’s very important for agents and self-published authors to really spend some time with a publisher’s catalog and website to know what kinds of books the press does before querying. Familiarize yourself with the backlist, and particularly in the case of university presses, with the books the press does in series. If the publisher doesn’t do first books of poetry outside of its poetry prizes (or at all) or doesn’t publish unsolicited novels or short story collections, for instance, don’t waste the pixels pitching to it. Using an email blast to pitch random titles to random publishers is another giant time-suck for everyone involved. It might make a client feel good when an agent reports that he or she has made 300 pitches, but that shotgun approach is sloppy and inefficient.
Patrick Allen is acquisitions editor at the University of Georgia Press in Athens. He has over 20 years in magazine, small press, and university press publishing experience. For the UGA Press, Patrick acquires trade and scholarly titles in regional history, ecocriticism, environmental history, food studies, landscape studies, nature guides, architecture, and fine and decorative arts.