During my time as Development Editor at Oxford University Press USA, I built and successfully pitched the business case for a new product line. Then, after creating the job, applying for the job, and finally being entrusted with the job, as a newly minted Acquisition Editor I planned, executed, and measured my own list strategy, including surveying customer needs, analyzing market and industry trends, identifying opportunities, hiring talent, managing editorial calendars and project budgets (P&L), all within the framework of a five-year business plan which was brutally scrutinized by the Editorial Board and University Delegates. This was the core of my job: To recruit, contract and direct authors, influencers, and vendors to create high quality, accurate, competitive content that would meet customer needs and resonate with the wider market. Here are some of the books and eBooks that I signed, developed, and published during my four years as Acquisition Editor at OUP USA.
How Writing Works was a big book and my big bet: I bet that OUP, a not-for-profit publisher, could publish a great new writing guide from top-notch authors, and it would compete with the big houses. OUP hadn't published any college-level content in the English market for 40 years. But with the right authors, the right content, and the right content marketing program in place, my big bet paid off for all of us.
One of two books I signed on the principles of good writing (the other being WHO SAYS?), which I signed, developed, and published while I was an editor at Oxford University Press: SO WHAT? teaches college students how to write compelling arguments and why the practice of argumentation is essential to academic writing.
This was my other book in my two-book series on writing principles. WHO SAYS? teaches students how to conduct college-level research, and why research and the process of inquiry is essential to academic work. Together with SO WHAT?, it made for some compelling conversations with professors. After all, these were the exact same comments they were writing in the margins of student papers all the time: "WHO SAYS?" and "SO WHAT?" As a result, these two books sold quite well.
I'm very proud to have been the first to publish a college-level anthology on the important and timely topic of sustainability. And I knew Carl Herndl, a thought leader in the rhetoric of science, would be the right editor for the job. His idea? In a nutshell, writing about the environment is difficult because of notions of scale: time and place escape our normal senses. But with each reading he presented to students in the book, he showed them how the author made the "invisible visible", and then he'd teach them how to do the same.
This anthology for college students explored the central questions around language: How does what we say shape how we think? For many Composition professors who were also English majors, this book was close to their hearts, and was a great book to teach from.
The public discourse around identity has only heated up since I signed and published this book in 2013. Who are we? Where do we come from? This compact and thought-provoking anthology has been a great addition to college writing classrooms across the country.
After the initial launch of Language, Sustainability, and Identity proved this series of readers would be successful, I quickly published anthologies on Technology and Food, in order too keep professors engaged with our list of offerings. (College writing classes are often theme-based, and professors switch themes nearly every semester).
Writing about food is one of the easiest ways to get students to write more critically about matters of culture: How does what we eat tell us about who we are? Does it matter where we get our food? How do we describe food and teach others about how to cook, etc.? And because this fifth reader also followed the same template and pedagogy as all of the other readers in the inaugural series, once professors learned how to teach from one of the readers, they could easily use any book from the series that they wanted to.
I was very proud to sign, develop, and publish the second edition of this diverse collection of American Poetry. The year it published, this two volume set won a presitgious design award from The Book Industry Guild of New York.
From the first to second edition, I increased the sales of this book by 150%. By the time I planned for the publication of the third edition, it had gone from 6th in the market to 2nd. I wish I could take more credit, but this great little guide was simply a diamond in the rough, which just needed the right attention and promotion. The authors' message to students, that "Nobody wants to read what you write" was incredibly resonant with professors trying to teach the importance of concision.
This fifth edition book was beloved by most professors already. Unfortunately, shortly after I became editor, I learned of the author's passing. The challenge was finding an author who could pick up the mantle. After a thorough search, I contracted a professor to complete the fifth edition, and also an updated instructor's guide, which had additional teaching lessons. This simple addition gave this mature book a second life.
To get the name "Oxford" in the title of this book required a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Ask me about it sometime.) In the meantime, I'm thrilled to report that after it published, this book sold 3x its projected goal.
To get students to see and appreciate all of the connections among academic writing, across all of the various disciplines and genres the would need to write in while at college, is, to say the least, an ambitious goal. As it happened, I signed an ambitious author. And together, we developed, reviewed and revised the manuscript until i it was nearly perfect. And just after it published (two versions, one with expanded readings), it took the market by storm.
What good is a creative writing class in college? Can you actually use what you learn in workshop in the real world? The answers to these questions might surprise you. And they're all here in this guide and anthology, which was a labor of love for both the author and for me, as editor.