If you’re interested in the publishing industry or simply want to have a closer look at Oxford University Press Southern Africa – look no further than our recurring Publisher Profile feature. Publisher Profiles are brief Q & A sessions with our Publishers which aim to give insight into the mechanics of the Publishing industry, shed light on what it takes to be an Oxford University Press Southern Africa publisher, and give expert advice to anybody interesting in joining the world of Higher Education publishing in South Africa.
1. How did you find yourself following a career in publishing?
I had decided not to pursue my PhD and university textbook publishing seemed like an allied profession. I appreciated the opportunity to work with the intellectual property of others and help shape and structure ideas into accessible text.
2. Describe your work day, what does your job entail?
It includes a bit of everything. It usually depends where we are in relation to a commissioning meeting as I could be either preparing to present new book proposals or planning author workshops following the successful proposal of the new books. I work with the Development editor on my team to carry out market research and to do quality assurance of manuscripts. I also work with the Senior editor on my team to ensure the books in production are on track. The books we work on usually span three years as they are in different stages. I send and receive a lot of emails and work with programs such as SAP, Qlikview, Tracker and Salesforce to keep abreast of the sales and adoptions of the books on my list. I also travel fairly frequently to meet with current or prospective authors and to attend conferences in my area of publication.
3. What key traits do you think make a great Publisher?
The ability to create a strategic vision for your publishing list and to implement it with absolute enthusiasm and commitment (to improving tertiary education in Southern Africa).
4. What is the biggest challenge you would say in being a good Publisher?
Let’s just say that when an author team shares your enthusiasm and commitment, keeps to deadline, and goes the extra mile to produce quality work it is a dream. When this doesn’t happen (because we are all human) it is a challenge. As publishers we need to remain patient and supportive as well as innovative in devising contingency plans to ensure that a quality book is still published on time.
5. Books vs eBooks? What is your opinion?
Oxford textbooks are offered in both formats. The same amount of market research and development goes into producing the content. The difference of format (print or e-book) is a personal preference. I enjoy both formats when reading for pleasure. I personally think that print books are easier to study from unless the e-book offers significantly more features and you are adept at using the functionality.
6. Is there anything you would like to say to any aspiring authors considering entering the educational publishing industry?
Writing a textbook and lecturing or teaching require different skills but if you are able to write the way you teach (in a manner that is accessible to students while carefully pedagogically scaffolded) then you should be on the right track. We look forward to hearing from you.
7. What book project experience did you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoy different projects for different reasons. Easy projects (where a manuscript reviews well the first time and everything goes perfectly to schedule) are a pleasure. However, it is even more rewarding when a project which cost blood, sweat and tears comes to fruition, especially if it is one where the publisher was closely involved with its conceptualisation and provided a huge amount of input along the way.
8. In your opinion, what value does a Publisher bring to the process of publishing a good book?
We have a few books where the author brings an unsolicited manuscript but most books are commissioned – where the publisher conceptualises the idea for the book and creates the vision and the pedagogical structure, informed by market research. The publisher then selects an author team to contribute to, develop, and implement this vision. So the value is in the conceptualisation and leadership of the book. Even when the original concept is brought by an author or there is a strong content editor or author team driving the project, the publisher’s input is necessary to ensure that the vision for the book is realised.
9. Do you advise against self-publishing a book, and why?
I would not advise against it but I think there are many advantages to publishing a book with a publisher. The publisher can ensure that the book reflects the needs of all institutions (or segments of the market). The publisher’s team also develops the book and takes it through a peer review process. In terms of after publication service, a publishing company would take care of sales, marketing, warehousing and distribution.
10. What additional support does an Oxford Publisher offer their authors, and why is this important?
Most authors appreciate our author workshops where the detailed planning of the book is undertaken. Our author teams also work closely with a development editor who guides them through the writing process and provides feedback every step of the way and motivates them to keep to the deadlines. Our Marketing team gives authors updates about the adoptions and sales of the book and I also share any news on the book I may receive with the author team. We are always available to assist and support when our authors require it.
11. What makes you proud to be a Publisher?
The satisfaction of a job well done – a pedagogically sound, rigorous, well-written book which makes a meaningful contribution. It is wonderful to receive positive feedback on one of your books from lecturers and students and to learn how your book has helped them.
12. On a personal note, what is your favourite book?
I love anything historical as I enjoy imagining other times and places.