2023 AUPresses Directors Residency Report: Angela Leppig

Angela Leppig, Gallaudet University Press, reports on visiting Fordham University Press.

The AUPresses Directors Residency was an incredible experience and one of the highlights of my professional life. My primary goal for participating in the program was to gather information about how to sustainably grow Gallaudet’s publishing program; I wanted to identify the foundations that support a successful program and how best to allocate resources. I was hosted by Fordham University Press, which I consider an aspirational press due to its very strong catalog and title output.

Fordham’s ratio of frontlist titles to staff members is quite high, and I felt there would be valuable lessons available there in terms of how to approach different workflows and processes. Indeed, because of Fordham’s generous and highly skilled staff, I was able to gather insightful and actionable information about sustainable growth and much more to bring with me back to Gallaudet.

Fred Nachbaur, Fordham’s director, created a schedule that allowed me to meet one-on-one with his staff members over the course of three days. He also set aside blocks of time to meet with me directly, which was very helpful in closing any gaps in what I had learned, plus it gave me multiple opportunities to get his feedback on questions, ideas, and more. Th opportunity for extended conversation really made this experience meaningful and unique. It allowed for a much deeper understanding of workflows than what we usually can access via UP Commons, conference chats, webinars, etc. By meeting with staff members across departments and having time to discuss their work in detail, I came away with a broader perspective of how workflows intersect and are balanced across the team–in addition to the specific details about each department’s operations. Fred also scheduled a dinner for us with two other directors at larger presses, and it was a real treat to learn more about how they approach their challenges and manage their day-to-days.

One important takeaway I learned from the residency was to lean into our strengths as a publisher, identifying areas that are already successful or potentially successful based on stakeholder feedback, and using them as a foundation for growth. Another important takeaway was to pay close attention to the pipeline of new projects and clarify which books we want based on how they will help us reach our publishing goals. The challenge is finding that balance between list-building and being selective due to limited resources.

In addition to these more strategic ideas, I got a lot of nuts-and-bolts recommendations. From rethinking monograph printing to getting suggestions for marketing vendors and tips on translation funding and rights opportunities, each meeting gave me something to think about. Of course, it was also just really great to exchange stories and commiserate on shared experiences.

The exchange of ideas, tips, challenges, and successes was energizing and helped me realize the value of building relationships with colleagues outside of our own presses. It’s difficult because we’re busy, but I will say that this experience gave me a boost and made me excited to get back to work. Being in that headspace of positivity and forward momentum is everything. For all these reasons, I want to extend my gratitude to AUPresses and Fordham University Press for providing me with this opportunity.