Welcome back to the University Press Week blog tour! Today’s theme is Selling the Facts, and features posts about booksellers and book selling in today’s challenging political climate. Today’s post is by our Sales Manager Jennifer Schaper. Schaper has over ten years of experience in book publishing. Before coming to Duke University Press, she was the International Rights Manager at the Perseus Books Group.
Visiting the 2017 Frankfurt book fair this October was a unique opportunity to sample the bookselling climate in the age of Trump. Of course, the US wasn’t the only nation to experience political upheaval on a nearly-surreal level—there was a consensus that during the US election, the Brexit vote and France’s election, as well as several other nations facing pivotal national decisions, book sales were dipping. The theory is that everyone was glued to, and bingeing on, media coverage of the state of their home countries and the world. After the results were in and the dust settled, people had a chance to absorb and process the outcomes, and then slowly but surely returned to the solid, non-fake news world of nonfiction to figure out what happened, to piece together why and to figure out what to do about it.
The general book fair atmosphere was somber, and it was not a year for taking publishing risks for the larger, non-university publishers. It felt reminiscent of the 2008 book fair post-market crash, when publishers felt uncertain of the financial and political future, and their publishing programs reflected a fiscally cautious approach, returning to safe mainstays.
But as this new normal sets in, there seems to be a renewed interest in nonfiction as an antidote to fake news. Particularly concerning politics and philosophy, readers are hungry for well-researched, trustworthy sources of information and informed opinion. People are attending activist author events and readings and sales at left-leaning bookstores are strong. Activist, feminist bookstore Bluestockings in New York City is near the top of Duke University Press’s bestselling booksellers list. There is also a return to interest in classic philosophy and political thought as the current state of things seems muddled, unpredictable, and in danger of falling apart. Perhaps readers are looking for comfort: something solid and intelligent to revisit or reconsider.
In these dystopian-like times, when reality is disorienting, readers are looking for wisdom and reassurance, rediscovering political and philosophical works and searching for real, educated guidance in current non-fiction, to make their way through a sea of fake news and political turmoil. Politically engaged, deeply informed nonfiction publishing is more important than ever and remains a source of knowledge and inspiration to inspire informed conversation and action.
The blog tour continues at the University of Minnesota Press, where they interview a few of their favorite booksellers. The University of Hawai’i Press offers a round-up of interesting, peer-reviewed facts published by their journals. At Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore indie bookstore The Ivy Bookshop writes about selling in the Age of Trump and working with JHUP. Columbia University Press offers a post by Conor Broughan, Northeast Sales Representative for the Columbia University Press Sales Consortium, discussing making sales calls during the 2016 presidential campaign. University Press of Kentucky features a guest post by UK Libraries exploring the societal benefits in university presses continuing to publish and readers continuing to have access to well-researched, low-controversy, long-form published content in an age of distraction, manufactured outrage, and hyper partisanship. University of Toronto Press has a post on the day in the life of a Canadian higher education sales rep, selling books on US campuses. And University of Texas Press also has a post.
Check back here tomorrow for more on the University Press Week blog tour. Don’t forget to use the hashtags #LookItUP and #ReadUP!