Fredric Nachbaur is no stranger to university presses. The former marketing and sales director of New York University Press started on Feb. 17 as the director of Fordham University Press. He brings 20 years of managerial, marketing, acquisitions and sales experience to the University’s publishing arm at a time when an economic downturn promises unprecedented challenges. Nachbaur talked about his plans for the press with Inside Fordham.
Q. What are your new duties at Fordham University Press, and what are the greatest challenges that you face?
I have come on board as a CFO, a CEO and an acquisitions editor, but my major responsibility is to make sure that the books we publish are fiscally responsible. Even though we are a nonprofit, we need to be smart about what and how we publish, and to create a budget for each book to make sure it is fiscally sound. I am also looking to expand the program. Currently, we have sales of $1 million a year with about 50 titles—25 per season.
The economy is definitely a challenge. Academic publishing is probably affected less than commercial markets, because we are slow and steady, and sales are not dictated by big blockbuster titles. We have books that, hopefully, backlist and sell over time, and get picked up in courses.
Q. Fordham University Press specializes in the humanities and social sciences, with some general interest regional history. How will you expand the breadth of the catalog?
I’d like to better reflect the strength of the University. Doing some additional Catholic studies would be good, and exploring ethnic studies, as well as publishing proceedings from University conferences.
We’d also like to create partnerships. There are some strong local institutions in the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester—the Bronx Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Hudson River Museum. FUP has co-published with them and would like to expand those opportunities.
Q. A consortium consisting of Fordham and four other universities just received a $1.16 million Mellon Grant for scholarly books. How will that work?
We have two Mellon-funded series. One is called the American Literatures Initiative (ALI), and the newest one is the Modern Language Initiative (MLI). Both are designed to publish underserved areas of scholarship and first-time authors. A lot of presses have done away with areas that are not profitable, so a lot of voices are not being heard.
The ALI initiative focuses on literature of Central and North America and the Caribbean. The MLI focuses on high-quality scholarship by first-time authors writing about literary theory in other cultures.
Q. What is the future of print? And how is technology shaping the book of the future and how it is used in academia?
Print isn’t going to go away, but more and more people will be reading electronically. For university publishers, it is particularly important because a lot of researchers and students want information electronically—whether it be open access in the library, or on an e-book reader, or on their phones. The technology is clunky right now, but it is progressing.
Part of my job is to come up with FUP’s strategy for e-books. A lot of it happens in the production stage in the way you code or tag books, so that they are searchable online. We can create that tagging and coding now, and then later, the print books can be turned into e-books and searched. That’s something new at FUP.
Q. What is coming out in the Spring 2009 catalog?
We’re proud of the spring season, and there are two books I should mention: Dutch New York and The Hudson-Fulton Celebration. Recently, when I presented these two titles to a buyer, he was very excited. He said, ‘No one else has anything on this. This is going to be a big deal.’ These are exciting regional books that will generate a lot of publicity, author events and signings.