Producing Books that Matter; University Press Week, 2017

Admittedly, we like to think we’re unique. But, according to UPK Managing Editor Kelly Chrisman Jacques, the University Press of Kansas is different than many university presses (perhaps, especially, those that are larger).

“I didn’t realize how different our process is compared to the majority of other university presses, until I went to several AAUP meetings and talked with colleagues,” explains Managing Editor Kelly Chrisman Jacques. “Our production department is a cross-section of editing and design. Karl, our Art Director, designs all the book covers, ads, and marketing material. The manuscript and production team handles the editing and proofreading, and also the interior design of nearly all of our titles.”

Chrisman Jacques and her department, which includes Production Editor Larisa Martin and Production Assistant Colin Tripp, guide a manuscript from copy-editing to books in warehouse. All books are copy-edited and proofread by freelancers (“it’s so much more efficient for our staff size,” Chrisman Jacques explains), but trim, interior design, and layout are handled by her staff.

“We have a catalog of about 30 book layouts that are specific to our press,” she says. “When we receive a manuscript from the editorial department we have to ask how to best present the work. Some of our authors have established their work to a degree that they know what layout and typefaces we will use. Most of the time we work to make the layout the most efficient and attractive for the topic.”

While the staff at UPK is small and departments collaborate on projects, production staff and editors don’t cross lines often. Editor in Chief Joyce Harrison says her team of acquisition editors know how important it is to trust the production team.

It’s very important, because they know their side of the business so well,” Harrison says. “That allows us to know what we can and can’t promise authors, especially when it comes to schedules. Kelly’s team also works closely with the marketing department. So we all work together to produce outstanding books, but we have standards and schedules and plans that have to be followed.”

Chrisman Jacques and Harrison agree that the wild card in production isn’t design or typeface or a printing schedule… it’s authors.

“It’s critical for my team to have open and honest dialogue with the editors in order to keep authors on track,” Chrisman Jacques says. “We know that the editors will have our back if we have any issues with an author disagreeing with a copy edit or a layout choice. It’s nice to hear from an author who spoke to their editor and heard that, in fact, my team knows what we’re doing and have the author and the book’s best interest at heart.”

Jacket Required: On Book Cover Design

9780700620012As Art Director and Webmaster, I’m responsible for all matters pertaining to graphic design at the University Press of Kansas. I design everything you see with our name on it, including books, ads, catalogs, flyers, conference booth signage, and website graphics. The one aspect of my job that readers and authors seem to be the most curious about, however, is book cover design.

In my 16 years here at the Press, I’ve designed the dust jackets or paperback covers of over 500 published books. A book cover serves two purposes. The first is to sell the book, and the second is to educate potential readers of its contents. To accomplish the first objective, a cover has to look attractive, legible, and effortless. It has to be eye-catching and readable whether it’s viewed from across the room at a bookstore or scholarly conference or as a thumbnail image on Amazon. To educate the reader, each book’s cover needs to accurately convey not just the subject matter but also the author’s approach to it. Because one person (me) designs all our covers, to some degree a Kansas “look” is inevitable, but it’s far more important that content drive the design of each cover. A good designer is like a chameleon that blends into the background, or an actor who gets lost in a role. While graphic design is often described as a “creative” profession, self-expression doesn’t make for great book covers. The designer’s job is to be an advocate for the book, and to present that book in its best light. Effective visual communication is essential to realizing the university press mission of promoting scholarship, advancing research, and disseminating knowledge.

Designing for a university press is a dream job for a book lover. You never know what unforeseen subject matter is going to show up on your desk. Military history, political science, and the Great Plains are my bread and butter, but I’ve also done books on birds, bears, greyhound racing, organic farming, UFOs, the Harlem Renaissance, fat studies, fish, and football. Though some subjects are bound to repeat themselves (in my case: the inescapable William Howard Taft), each project is unique in its own right, and that’s what makes the job interesting. To each idea its book, and to each book its cover.

–Written by Karl Janssen, Art Director and Webmaster, University Press of Kansas

The Future of Scholarly Publishing

FB-cover-UPKThis is University Press Week, a time to understand the important role of our not-for-profit scholarly publishers. One need only look at the most recent catalog of books published by the University Press of Kansas (and our many sister presses) to see that university presses are publishing exciting, thoughtful books that help lead us closer to wisdom in so many areas of human endeavor. Some of what we publish is, as Niko Pfund stated in The Scholarly Kitchen, “intra-tribal publications” that are written by and for scholars. Other books are efforts to reach outside the academy and bring the best insights of our scholars to bear on the challenges we all face. While we must deal with rapidly changing technology, dramatic alterations in the way books are bought and sold, and the challenges of funding that face higher education, all of us in university press publishing are united in our desire to overcome these challenges and continue to publish exciting writing and ideas for scholars and the general public. And I think we are doing this better now than ever.

-Written by Charles Myers, Director of the University Press of Kansas