Bucknell UP’s partnership with Rutgers UP a way for small presses to #KeepUP with the times
Like many citizens of the UP community, Bucknell University Press proudly participates in several collaborative relationships on and off our beautiful Lewisburg, Pennsylvania campus. Locally, we copublish a book series with Bucknell’s Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures, celebrating the art, culture, and history of African America and the African diaspora through textbooks, poetry, fiction in translation, and groundbreaking scholarship. Further afield we partner with the Goethe Society of North America on the New Studies in the Age of Goethe book series, and with the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society on their book series, Studies in Eighteenth Century Scotland. We also team with Bucknell’s Bertrand Library to make our new books fully and freely available to the Bucknell campus community through our institutional repository.
But perhaps our most significant collaboration is with a fellow AUPresses member.
In 2017, Bucknell University Press’s then-director Greg Clingham made the vital decision to dissolve BUP’s relationship with commercial academic publisher Rowman & Littlefield in favor of a new partnership with Rutgers University Press for the production, promotion, sale, and distribution of our books and journals. At a time when economies of scale are so critical, particularly to smaller, underresourced publishers trying to do business in the age of powerful conglomerates, partnering with a like-minded, mission-driven university press has brought measurable advantages.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, new Bucknell University Press book projects became fully integrated with the Rutgers University Press workflow from manuscript transmittal to bound book and beyond. Bucknell University Press authors and editors now benefit from the experience of Rutgers UP’s project editors, publicists, designers, and marketing staff, as well as its business relationships with printers, foreign sales agents, and the Chicago Distribution Center. Through Rutgers, Bucknell University Press, which publishes about 20 new books annually, has been able to professionalize its own in-house systems through access to Firebrand’s Title Management bibliographic database, and can retrieve and track granular sales data 24/7 at the touch of a button through the CDC.
Most meaningfully—particularly to our authors!—this partnership allows Bucknell University Press to bring out its books simultaneously in affordably-priced paperback, cloth, and multiple eBook editions for a range of readers. This materially supports our mission to disseminate new scholarship as broadly and accessibly as possible.
Notably, this innovative partnership frees Bucknell University—a small, liberal arts college for which a fifty-year-old university press might seem a luxury—from many of the typical overhead costs (think printing, binding, warehousing, shipping); instead, we can focus efforts and resources on signing and developing exceptional books in the humanities and expanding our editorial list thoughtfully over time.
This collegial relationship has also been a synergistic one. Rutgers University Press director Micah Kleit offers, “We are proud to be Bucknell’s publishing partner. BUP’s books are of the highest scholarly quality, and have added luster to our own list, allowing us to keep company with each other in significant ways, through conferences, domestic and international sales, and through heightened awareness of our programs. Our books speak to each other, and in so doing have made both presses stronger.”
Rutgers UP editorial director Kim Guinta suggests that for the larger press, such a partnership “extends what we can offer our authors—Rutgers’ Latin American studies list tends toward the social sciences, for example, but I can suggest that people with Latin American projects in the humanities talk to Bucknell, thus increasing your pipeline but also highlighting our usefulness to authors.”
She remarks further about the collaboration that, “It’s fun. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the BUP staff, and our willingness to work together and figure out solutions to problems makes us all more connected to the UP world. I really enjoy the camaraderie and the feeling of team-building involved.
“The partnership has also given me a better appreciation for the hurdles small presses face. I think that the way we’re working can relieve some of that pressure of having to go it alone or be taken advantage of. We hope the partnership makes BUP feel instead part of a supportive web of university press publishing.”
It does indeed. Ours is not the only big press/little press collaboration in the UP universe, certainly. That such partnerships among AUPresses members are becoming more common may speak in part to the need for mission-driven university presses to distinguish themselves from commercial academic publishers by—among other things—strategically aligning with their peers. Three years into the Bucknell-Rutgers partnership seems a fitting time to take stock of this successful and mutually beneficial initiative, and to highlight it as a financial and organizational model—at once practical and congenial—that could help to ensure the sustainability of very small presses into the future.