What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I am hearing more about chefs who are either stepping away from the restaurant or leaving the restaurant altogether and exploring food events in more unique ways: pop-up dinners, baking classes, unique food experiences in homes or on farms. An example is the Four Coursemen. Several years ago, a group of local chefs and wine experts here in Athens, Georgia, opted to introduce a dining experience beyond the restaurant with a monthly meal introducing unique menu items served at various locations, homes, and farms around Athens. There are other examples where pastries, cocktails, unpasteurized cheeses, and offal are some of the many foods being shared by chefs in settings other than restaurants. I would like to read more about these events: what inspired the food selection, techniques, the reasons why and where they are taking place. I want more information. I think of it as the next obvious topic in the farm-to-table revolution.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is celebrity biographies, but that sounds a little snobby now, doesn’t it? The truth is people have their own taste in reading, and if they are reading then that is great in my opinion. I am always amazed by the wide range of topics found in publishing, and clearly there are readers for every topic. What topic don’t I ever want to see again? I suppose I could do without political policy books for the foreseeable future. You can understand why.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Open access. This runs contrary to trade publishing. Open access is the unrestricted access to the research published in articles, journals, and books. The content is available online and accessible to everyone at no cost. The academic world realizes the value of this and is keen to see more books adopted into open access. The scholarship of one made available to many. Students are burdened by huge costs in education, so giving them access to information and research in this way helps nurture future scholarship without the financial burden.
What excites you about university publishing?
I have been a fan of university press publishing for years. I have discovered some of the most exciting work being published by university presses. University presses offer detailed histories in an astonishing breadth of topics, microhistories on subjects ranging from the legacies of universities and slavery to the first woman to sail solo across the Pacific. I am all over the board when it comes to subjects of interest in my reading, from the old federal roads of the early 19th century to oyster farming. The books published by university presses are as varied, and accessible, as trade titles. I realized long ago that I could rely on a university press to have published a book on the unique topics I was interested in reading. University presses are also publishing more aggressively in trade genres, including food, music, gardening, and nature.
Booksellers are inundated with catalogs and books each season, and it is a challenge for them to digest all the titles being presented to them. I would urge them to take a second look at what Cornell, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Georgia are offering this season. These lists are offering excellent trade titles that are ripe for readers. University press publishing isn’t just for academia, and it certainly isn’t boring or inaccessible.
Steven Wallace is the marketing and sales director for the University of Georgia Press, based in Athens. He is a former sales manager for Unbridled Books. He was the Southeastern divisional sales director for Random House Adult Trade Sales. He came to be in publishing by way of bookselling in the independent bookstore he shopped in as a child. He is a graduate of Auburn University and lives somewhere between Atlanta and Athens.