List management is the area of commission editing I learnt more about in today’s session. A list is devised by editors for the purpose of publication. As well as maintaining strong relationships with the authors already on their list, they work with agents [in Fiction publishing], and scour newspapers, magazines and blogs to find the best new writers around, often having to pitch against other publishers for acquisition. (Penguin Careers, p.6).
However, in academic publishing, list management is somewhat different despite acquisition similarities. Most often, as Tony Mason explained, list management considers books already published. looking at sales, deciding whether you need to reprint, digitalise, or make new editions. Or of course, pulp it – i.e – dispose of stock. In groups, we were given a list of such information for a few books and we aimed to choose the right course of action for the future of individual titles. Below is a picture of our decisions compared with Tony Mason’s. This was a very useful, proactive exercise for me as I was able to think logically about what the appropriate response would be. I think, as a group, we did well.
A significant aspect of list management is the contract with the author. Deadlines of manuscripts from authors are important, but it is rare for authors, in the case of Manchester University Press, to actually meet that deadline date. Why the delay? Well, there are several reasons. Some may include promotions, illness, a change in personal circumstances but the main reason is the busy nature of academics’ lives. For one, the financial gain is minimal – the average payment is £200 for writing a book, £40 to peer review, so the motivation won’t be there in many cases. Secondly, they have occupational tasks on hand which makes spare time to write or review proposals quite low down on their list of priorities. And then there is the added effort of confining finished works within the required word count. Even things like getting permission to use photo’s and illustrations may take time.
Backlist management was another area that was covered. Primarily these are the books that prove to be big money makers for a publishing company. For example, at MUP, the book ‘Beginning Theory’ is a consistent stream of revenue as it makes 5% of MUP’s yearly revenue alone each year. In the table provided, the data for this book is evidenced. Such production of lists would most likely be done by the sales and marketing team to give to the commissioning editors. ‘Birthday books‘ also relate to backlists; this involves looking at a books life over a year to see how well it is selling, which is then a good indication for the future.
This session has taught me a lot about the management of lists and makes me more confident going into the assignments. As for my own improvements from previous sessions, I did contribute to discussion so I am happy on that front. I aim to continue to develop my contribution now as well as research more around studied areas, which will benefit my self-progression even further.
Penguin Careers. http://gs12.globalsuccessor.com/docs/images/175/6/1/PENCAREERS09.pdf. [accessed 23 October 2015].