NIU Press sends books abroad

By Katrina Kelly

With accomplishments reaching to the faraway cities of London and Tokyo, the NIU Press has published more than 125 works since its creation in 1965.

Two foreign offices in England and Japan generate sales of books published by the press. Published works range in subject from Russian history to political statistics of the state of Illinois.

Mary Lincoln, director of the NIU Press, said only about one-half of the books they publish are written by faculty. “A lot of times people think that faculty are published more,” Lincoln said. “We try to publish the best possible books we can find.”

The press sends catalogs featuring new books and paperbacks to foreign sales offices in London and Tokyo.

“Our books are generally well-reviewed,” she said. “We send them to The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others.”

Lincoln said authors interested in having their works published write to the press and send a manuscript which, in the case of some faculty works, is reviewed by two scholars in the related field. If the reports on the book are good, then the work is brought to the attention of the University Press Board.

A majority vote by the board is the ticket to publication. The 13-member board is comprised of a representative from each NIU college.

Lincoln said only about one-tenth of the books sent to the press for consideration are published. “We receive manuscripts from all over the country and abroad,” she said.

In the past five years, the NIU Press attempted to expand their library of Midwest and Chicago-related works, Lincoln said. “The Corn Belt Route: A History of the Chicago Great Western Railroad Company” by H. Roger Grant was published by the NIU Press and won the Railroad History Book Award in 1985 from the Smithsonian Institution.

Another novel of local interest published by the NIU Press was written by Paul Kleppner, director of NIU social science research. “Chicago Divided: The Making of a Black Mayor” is currently in its third paperback and second cloth printing.

“We seem to do best when we stay in special fields,” Lincoln said. Most of the books relate to the humanities, and Russian and American history are often featured.

Lincoln said the amount of works published has grown rapidly in the past years. Eighteen books, hardcover and paperback, were produced by the NIU Press last year.

Each book is edited, proofread, typeset and laid out in the Williston Hall offices by a staff of eight before being sent out of state for printing.

“Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, it is my job to see that it is done,” Managing Editor Susan Bean said. Books usually take one year to complete the publication process.

Creating the book cover and determining the size and layout of each book is the job of designer Julia Fausi. Fausi said a book’s size and format are based on cost, readability and the desired placement of pictures and other graphics in the text.

Sample pages take four to six weeks to finish, she added. “The closer you get to the last stage, the less changes can be made,” she said.

Fausi also decides on the style and size of type to be used. Typesetter Debbie Thomas assembles the book on a computer, which stores information about changes to make in each book.

“Most books are not designed primarily as texts, but sometimes paperbacks are ordered for use as supplemental texts,” Lincoln said.

Editorial Assistant Mary Eckel said, “the pace (at the NIU Press) is deluge—either we have all kinds of things going on or none.”

The NIU Press is one of three state-supported presses in Illinois and has been a member of the Association of American University Presses since 1972.