University presses are silos joined in many ways by bridges of varying strength. We’re connected through what we do, who we publish, the genres in which we publish, our missions, and our sense of the importance of scholarly publishing. But we’re also disparate, competing, in a sense, against each other, hoping to sell our books to the same people that are interested in another university press’ titles. We market to the same groups, often using similar techniques. This competition forces us into a silo whereby we have to withhold information or data because there is a belief that we will lose our edge if we share such commodities. But what if university presses took a different approach?
What if, instead of keeping marketing information and data separate we actually opened our silo doors and let those crucial marketing leads and contacts leak out? Maybe we could use these leads and contacts, send them outside of the silo to see what they might find and return to us; a set of marketing carrier pigeons, if you will. Can we, in essence, market multiple university presses at once through a combined system of shared marketing efforts? The simple answer is yes. There are few reasons that cannot be skewered with logic and reason and considered argument. The simple reality is that there seems little inclination at this point to do so.
At the recent AAUP meeting in New Orleans collaboration ran the show. It was all everyone talked about. But as a few panelists noted there is little actual, real collaboration. Danny Bellet, publicity manager at Penn State University Press (PSUP), pointed to efforts they have undertaken on their own to use books from other university presses as their “also of interest” titles. PSUP believes it makes sense to highlight these competing titles because of the power of cross pollination but also because if a customer does like one of those books from the other press there is a better chance they’ll like the one from Penn State as well. Simple. And yet this is a relatively isolated incidence. MIT, Nebraska, Florida, and Purdue came together recently to create the “Up In Space” campaign and this has demonstrated some value but it is static and so rather limited in what it can do.