Meet the Press: Debra Diehl

Few things are more interconnected with the University Press of Kansas than Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager Debra Diehl.

Diehl’s responsibilities at UPK extend far beyond those covered by her job title. She’s the resident expert on Press history, official favorite person in the office of visiting kids, and long-time recruiter of local wildlife.

“Deb is easily one of the most warmhearted, generous, and sincere people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Kelly Chrisman Jacques, managing editor. “She carries her good nature with her through every aspect of her position and fosters genuine connections with UPK staff, authors, customers, and vendors.”

Diehl has extensive experience that reaches beyond UPK’s walls. She’s represented the Press at meetings across the country and made sure books have traveled to events large and small. If there’s an event at which UPK books might be displayed, Deb knows about it.

“Deb is hands down the best exhibits manager I’ve worked with in over thirty years in publishing,” said Joyce Harrison, editor in chief. “It’s such a joy to come into an exhibit space, with tables to be put into place and boxes to open, and know that all of the books and supplies you need are there. Exhibits require a lot of advance work, and Deb goes about this work with stunning efficiency, especially considering the number of conferences we attend each year.”

1. What do you do at the Press and how long have you worked here?

I’m part of the marketing department team. My responsibilities focus on promoting our books via the mail—postal and email—and arranging for them to be on display at conferences and events. I’ve been at the Press since (gulp) 1986. It is my second full-time job after graduating from college in 1985.

2. What is your history at the Press? What other positions have you held?

Originally I was hired as an office assistant and did work for every department at the Press. It was the perfect way to learn about the publishing process. My degree is in journalism with an emphasis in advertising. When the Press was able to increase its staff, a marketing assistant position was created and I was hired for that. Eventually the marketing department added another position, and I became the direct mail and exhibits manager.

3. What about academic publishing appeals to you?

I’ve always loved books and discovering good writers that were new to me. After working in the advertising department of a daily newspaper, I knew I wanted to be back in an academic environment. I didn’t know much about book publishing at the time I started at UPK, but in just a short while I felt like I had found “my people.” The projects and authors I learned about were interesting and important. They still are.

4. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Something that has become more challenging in recent years is getting direct access to individuals through a mailing list, whether it’s a postal address or an email. Many academic associations, as well as small organizations, do not rent their membership lists as they did in the past. We continually work on building our in-house lists to promote our books as well as the Press itself. We’ve recently started offering publishing services and that adds another category of customers we want to reach.

5. What are the most rewarding aspects of working at UPK?

I’m glad that I help market a quality product. Seeing a book “do well,” whether that’s defined by sales, an award, or getting the author’s next project, is gratifying. But the most rewarding aspect of being at UPK is that I work with great people— people that I respect and like and admire. That’s been the case since day one. After many years, I still feel lucky to be here.

6. When not at work, how do you spend your time?

I spend a lot of time with dogs! My husband and I have two dogs that we take on walks and rides and sometimes on vacation. I enjoy being with friends (and their dogs!), going to live music, and spending time with my mom.

7. You’re a townie. What’s something about Lawrence you want everyone to know?

Lawrence has an amazing off-leash dog park and outstanding breweries.