The books on its impressive roster all have a shelf life due to their venerable history, beauty of design, and tactility of the page, as well as their scholarly merit and content quality.
The Life and Letters of Kate Gleason; The New Medium of Print; Claude Bragdon and the Beautiful Necessity; From My Seat on the Aisle: Movies and Memories, are just a few of the titles RIT Press has published.
Cover to cover, there's a never-ending story behind RIT Press, and since its inception 13 years ago, the university's academic publishing house has an impressive back catalog of 80 books in inventory.
Self-publishing a book in the digital age is like a roll of the dice—but there are plenty of advantages to working with an academic press.
- Authors who might have never published before have the opportunity to share their research. All manuscripts are peer-reviewed by similar experts in the field for quality and content.
- The Press' self-contained service offers the highest possible design and production standards—professional editing, copyediting, indexing, custom design, and targeted marketing and promotion.
- Due to its size, authors receive personalized attention from a staff of four professionals: Director Bruce Austin, Managing Editor Molly Cort, Design and Marketing Specialist Marnie Soom, and Business Manager Laura DiPonzio Heise. The Press also employs outside contractors and student workers who gain valuable training in the publishing field.
- And there's longevity—all the books published at RIT Press since 2001 have remained in print.
Located in the striking Alexander S. Lawson Publishing Center that opened its doors in 2007, RIT Press is a highly visible, all-glass panoramic enclosure on the second floor of The Wallace Center.
David Pankow, former curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, initiated RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press in 2001 as an experimental academic press that focused on titles about graphic communication, printing history, and bookmaking. Operating under startup funding from the Provost's office, The Wallace Library and the Cary Collection, Cary Graphic Arts Press released its first title Digital Book Design and Publishing. In 2007, an additional imprint, RIT Press, was established to broaden the editorial content—embracing all disciplines at RIT as well as community-based regional subjects and local history. As of 2013, all publications carry the imprint of RIT Press.
"We still publish printed books," said Austin, who has been at the helm since May 2013. "RIT Press is a full-service publisher, specializing in titles for niche academic audiences, trade editions for mass-market audiences, occasional limited editions with unique aesthetic standards, as well as gift items."
According to Austin, RIT Press has two major pluses: It's a "relatively youthful, energetic, and nimble" publishing house, which means authors receive prompt, responsive, and personalized attention. And second, unlike template-driven, self-publishing operations, all of the titles are custom designed.
Austin says every book is different and comes with its own challenges. "We are a young publisher, and RIT Press is fully conversant with contemporary publishing and distribution methods including traditional print, print on demand, e-books, and enhanced e-books."
Authors Therese Mulligan, administrative chair of RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, and Scott Pitoniak, seasoned journalist and sports columnist at Rochester Business Journal, have published with major and mid-sized publishers and both agree RIT Press delivers something special—the personal touch.
"RIT Press is a standout in my experience," said Mulligan. "It provides a collaborative environment of creative and scholarly encouragement in which an author, whether first time or experienced, can realize the very best publication."
Pitoniak has written, co-written, contributed to, and/or edited 21 books. Several have been Amazon.com best-sellers.
"RIT Press has a first-class team," Pitoniak said. "Being able to talk to your editor in person is a big plus, particularly when you are running into the inevitable roadblocks that occur during the researching and writing of a book."
Publishing a book typically takes 10 to 12 months before its completion. As managing editor of RIT Press for the past six years, Cort maintains a one-on-one relationship with the author while juggling the schedules of freelance copy editors, proofreaders, and indexers—and the rewrites that ensue—while keeping an eye on the printing schedule.
She said first-time authors are usually concerned with editorial control and what might change in terms of their writing. "We tweak and hone the material but we don't necessarily manipulate the book into a different voice.
"Queries from authors have multiplied in recent months," said Cort. The Press does not accept all submissions that are received, however. "Unlike a commercial press, which is all about the numbers and what's popular, an academic press looks for unique, quality content that brings new research to life that wouldn't necessarily have had a chance to get published."
Books chosen by RIT Press must also fill a market need, and to that end, Cort says that RIT Press has met success with a diverse array of titles.
The Press also developed seven series—including the recent series on popular culture, the Comics Studies Monograph Series, edited by Dr. Gary Hoppenstand.
"One of our gems is HAYDN, the online digital journal of the Haydn Society of North America, edited by Michael E. Ruhling, professor of music and conductor of the RIT Orchestra," Cort said. "It has all the bells and whistles subscribers can expect. The internationally distributed professional journal is published by RIT Press twice a year and the sixth issue will be released this May."
Soom has spent the last 10 years working on cover and interior book design for RIT Press. "One big advantage is our location within The Wallace Center," she said. "We are surrounded by books, so I start with those points of reference for each new title."
Working with the text document and images, Soom drafts a sample chapter for review—concentrating on the trim size, typeface, and layout; the choice of paper stock; the inclusion and selection of illustrations, charts, and graphs; and even the color of the binding. "I have to consider whether this is a traditional type of book or it needs to be edgy or contemporary," Soom explained.
Based on the price of the book and overall production costs, DiPonzio Heise budgets a personalized marketing plan that embraces promotion, publicity, advertising, sales to chains such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, book signings, and individual sales as well.
"An added advantage is that many of our books are printed here at RIT. And we are our own distribution center, which means we package and fulfill customer orders on site."
When looking at trends, Cort said readers still tend to enjoy high-quality books even though they are expensive to produce. "The book is an art form, a place holder in time," she said. "Our customers enjoy the scent of a new book in their hands and appreciate the quality of paper that contains beautifully organized images. I don't think this aspect of the book process will go away. Although we are a niche publisher, we are looking to become an innovative digital publisher."
Austin said disseminating the researcher's scholarly contribution is key to the purpose of RIT Press. "We believe research information is to be shared, not hoarded. Part of our strategy is to seek strategic partnerships with cultural institutions and organizations that can provide content aligned with our interests in scholarly publishing across all media platforms."
Austin explained there are no multiple layers of bureaucracy one needs to go through to have an informal chat about a book idea. "We are your publishing resource at RIT; we offer in-person, first-hand guidance on how to craft a proposal that can lead to issuing a contract for your book."
What is Austin's best advice to authors? "I know you want to discuss the research and your book at great length, but you should be able to encapsulate your idea and its reader appeal in a one- or two-sentence elevator pitch.
"That's a good beginning; we will work with you on the ending."