Confessions of an NYU Press Intern

Hello. My name is Eric Brach, and I’m an NYU Press intern.

Now, before you get all excited – before you start google-stalking me, offering me your facebook friendship, or attempting to buy your way into my head and heart by offering me delicious chocolate confections – let me tell you this: I cannot get you my luxe job.

Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way.

That aside, what I can do is tell you all about what it’s been like working at NYU Press all summer. Joe has graciously allotted me a bit of space today to reflect on what it’s been like to dampen my feet in the rooftop pool of the academic publishing world – the deep end – and that’s what I plan to do.

NYU Press is interesting to me in that it’s a commercial enterprise with a decidedly non-commercial bent. We’re not looking to put out the next Harry Potter; what we strive to do is publish first-rate scholarship, a world of the written word that is not generally at the top of casual readers’ lists. That said, the Press needs to be cognizant of dollars and sense; this leads to an interesting balancing act: how do we focus on mission A, introducing to the world the best academic work we can, while not losing sight of somewhat opposing (OK, nearly diametrically opposing) mission B: generating enough income to stay focused on mission A?

The answer? It’s tough. I worked in Washington, D.C. for a number of years, and I always marveled at the similar mental and financial gymnastics undergone as a matter of course by the myriad non-profits in that city on a hill. Now I’ve had the chance to see how it plays out, and I’m starting to understand: it requires savvy and a very, very steady hand.

But far more interesting than the balance sheets – no, wait. I shouldn’t say that. I love the balance sheets. In fact, that’s been one of the best things about working here. I’ve gotten to do everything. I’ve worked on marketing projects, book proofing, and research both external and internal. I’ve gotten to do very artsy, bookish, right-brain work – like considering news hooks for stories based aspects of the outstanding text of our upcoming book by Guantanamo Lawyers – as well as hard-core left-brain stuff, like Excel modeling of our author community over the last decade.

As a current and future writer, learning how a press functions was crucial to me. I knew that there would be proofing involved, and publicity, and someone to work with the printer. What I did not consider – or, I should say, among the many things I failed to anticipate – were: jacket design (we’ve got a guy for that), the difference between marketing and publicity (two related but very different fields), how to sell books (amazing that never came to mind, no?), how books are sourced and bought, getting rights permissions, accounting and budgeting… the list goes on and on. And while I certainly wouldn’t say I am ready for the life of the publishing magnate, now, by any stretch, I do think I have a much better idea of how the whole business works. Which was, of course, the point.

High points on the summer? Meeting Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz while we discussed their upcoming book, and talking with a friend whose interests lie in a related field. Getting to learn more about the field, and meet all the great people who work here. Boning up on my criminology. Writing this post.

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