Should You Consider a University Press for Your Next Book?
For years, university presses have focused on scholarly monographs and college textbooks. But that is changing. More universities are publishing popular non-fiction and fiction, in part because there's money in it. University presses can easily turn a profit from a press run of 10,000 to 15,000 books--figures that would cause a traditional trade press to turn up its corporate nose in disgust.
That is good news for historical writers looking for new markets.
Which of the university press should one approach?
Start with the Association of American University Presses at aaupnet.org. The website includes a resources section called For Authors & Faculty. The Finding a Publisher section includes a grid which shows which publishers are interested in fiction, biography, folklore, sociology, American history and other topics. Some publishers prefer fiction that targets their region. They are less picky when it comes to nonfiction.
The worst thing you can do is send out a blind query letter--a sure path to rejection. Instead, try to develop a relationship with an editor who buys books in your field. For fiction or less scholarly fields such as folklore, consult the press’s website. Look for editors interested in your topic and send them a query letter and a proposal.
For faculty, the process is easier. Most university presses send acquiring editors to conferences sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the History Society and regional groups such as the Western History Association or the Southern History Association. University presses often display their latest books at booths at the different conferences, and conference goers can pitch a book idea to an editor on the spot. This is of immense value to an author, and may culminate in the editor asking the author to send him a proposal. Be sure and mention your earlier conference meeting in the subsequent query letter.