The staff at Wesleyan
University Press will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at its
new location, 215 Long Lane, across from the new Physical Plant. Pictured in back, left to right are Eric Levy
’97, acquisitions editor; Stephanie Elliott, publicity associate; and Leslie
Starr, marketing manager. Pictured in front is Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS
’04, director and editor-in-chief.
"Hidden Gem" Opens Its Door
It's one of only 110 academic publishers in the
nation, and has produced more than 1,000 books by authors around the world.
But the Wesleyan University Press staff believes their publishing house
remains a hidden gem.
Formerly housed on Mt. Vernon Street, Wes Press moved to its new location,
215 Long Lane, last year. To celebrate its move and introduce itself to the
Wesleyan community, the staff at Wes Press will hold an open house from 4 to
6 p.m. Nov. 11
“We’re something of a secret on campus,” says Leslie Starr, marketing
manager for the 46-year-old press. “We’d love to have members of the campus
community stop by and see what we’re all about. “
Starr works at the press with Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS ’94, director and
editor-in-chief; Eric Levy ’97, acquisitions editor; and Stephanie Elliott,
publicity associate. They collaborate with the Wesleyan University Press
Editorial Board -- made up of Wesleyan faculty members from various fields
-- to decide what manuscripts to publish.
In America, university presses publish, on average, 9,000 books a year. Each
press publishes books in specific areas. Wesleyan University Press’s
editorial program focuses on poetry, music, dance and performance, science
fiction, film and television, and American studies. By next fall, Wes Press
hopes to begin publishing books for the general reader on Connecticut’s
cultural and natural history.
This fall/winter, the press is publishing books on creative writing,
acoustic effects in music recording, disaster movies, Australia’s Aboriginal
songs, and poetic meditations on exile. In November, the press will publish
the first modern and corrected English translation of Jules Verne’s The
Wes Press receives close to 750 poetry and book submissions a year; however,
it accepts few of these. Most authors are sought out, making the
acquisitions work quite active.
“It's far more effective, and we get better projects, when we seek them
out,” Tamminen says. “We are looking for books that make an important
contribution to their field, in lucid prose, and which fit into our
editorial program. In order to best serve the fields we publish in, we need
to have enough books in the area to have a critical mass, where the books do
a kind of intellectual work together.”
The press publishes 12 new books each publishing season - spring/summer and
There are currently 430 Wesleyan University Press books in print, four of
which have earned Pulitzer Prizes and two of which received National Book
Awards. Most recently, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop, by
Joseph G. Schloss, won the International Association for the Study of
Popular Music's 2005 Book Award.
“A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t just write a book, send it in
to a publisher and get it published,” Starr says. “We’re very selective, and
we need to be in order to maintain the mark of quality that Wesleyan has
earned over the years.”
Book selection and marketing are done in-house while all copy editing, book
design and printing are done externally. While books are being produced, the
marketing staff is preparing the seasonal catalog, producing fliers and
sending proofs to major publications.
“Getting a review published in publications such as Publisher’s Weekly or
the New York Times is a very effective way to get the word out about a
book,” Elliott says. “A lot of what we do involves cultivating relationships
The small staff also hires about 10 Wesleyan students each year. The
students gain hands-on experience writing press releases, sending out review
copies, soliciting book endorsements, and doing other office work. In the
last five years, nine of these students have gone on to work in publishing
Wesleyan University Press is a member of the Association of American
University Presses, the Association of American Publishers and the New
England Booksellers Association.
Since many of the books published by Wes Press are on specialized scholarly
topics, they often appeal to small audiences. And since the press operates
as a business, making a profit can be the small publisher’s biggest
challenge, Starr says. A book can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000
The press is constantly seeking grants and donations to help defray costs
while it meets the needs of the academic community, which is its primary
“We hope people will come to the open house to browse our bookshelves and
have some cider and a cookie,” Tamminen says.
Wesleyan University Press can be reached at 860-685-7711. It is online at
www.wesleyan.edu/wespress. The press offers members of the Wesleyan
community a 20 percent discount on Wes Press titles when they are ordered
through the press. For more information e-mail email@example.com.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection