From Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll to Youth Violence. All in a day’s work for Sandy Shepherd, UCT Press publisher
Many people do not really understand what the position of a publisher entails. What is a typical day like for you, Sandy, as the UCT Press publisher?
I manage a list of scholarly books, and in any one day this could involve commissioning new titles, assessing book proposals, identifying books to copublish, and sending them to the Editorial Board for approval. I am also involved in the production of these titles (everything from advising the author on the manuscript, to arranging and chasing peer reviews, editing, designing and printing), as well as in the sales and marketing. As a publisher, I manage the budgets for these books, too.
Who is UCT Press?
UCT Press is an imprint of the academic publisher Juta and Company Ltd, but it works closely with and is guided by an Editorial Board comprising UCT faculty.
Your thoughts on the perception some people have that publishers are greedy, hanging from the coattails of their authors, adding no value to society?
Greedy for money? No one enters publishing to make lots of money. It is a notoriously risky industry with low revenues. Greedy for ideas? Yes we are – we are constantly looking for new research, new concepts and new authors. Publishers who create scholarly books serve a very important role in showcasing the latest research and intellectual thought, and provide the bridge from the campus to the community.
Is publishing a dying business worldwide because of the drive for open access to content?
The picture around open access is still not a clear one. The big question is, open access to what? If it is to raw research, then there are strong arguments for making that freely available. But a publisher adds a lot to this when turning it into a book – for example, improving the language and structure, designing the look of the page, indexing – and this makes the content more user-friendly to a wider group of people, who I think will still want it in this value-added form. Having invested in these improvements, why should a publisher give it away for nothing?
How have technological developments such as the introduction of iPads, Kindles and e-books into the market changed the publishing industry and how are you and UCT Press adapting to the changes?
The e-book developments mean that information can be made available to readers in more ways than before. They have had greater impact on fiction publishing than on scholarly publishing – the uptake of e-books in our field is very small. But we are selling our books in both print and electronic formats to provide as many options to our readers as possible.
How did Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll come about?
The Australian publisher of this book gave me a copy at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year to consider for copublishing in southern Africa. I read it with growing fascination. Although it is authoritative and scholarly on the topic of evolutionary biology, it draws into the subject aspects that all of us — not just academics — are interested in, and uses South Africa for some of its examples. It is also written in a very readable style, which persuaded me that it would be of interest to a wide readership here. The author is South African, by the way, but has relocated to New South Wales.
What must a potential author do to publish with UCT Press?
Look at our catalogue to see if we are the right sort of publisher for the manuscript, and if so, complete a publishing proposal form – available on our website www.uctpress.co.za – and send it to me.