John Sherer: The 2017 UNC Press Annual Report

UNC Press Annual Report 2017
Click the image to read the 2017 UNC Press Annual Report

The 2017 UNC Press Annual Report

In its more than nine and a half decades of existence, the University of North Carolina Press has never created a comprehensive annual report. We have steadily published seasonal catalogs and more recently, a donor report recognizing their invaluable support for the Press. These records have created a collective archive of our publishing outputs. So why do we need something more now?

The scope of what we do today is broader than it’s ever been. In addition to the publication of more than 100 new books and 11 journals in 2017, there’s a remarkably diverse set of publishing activities under way here. At the Press, we’ve dramatically expanded the definition of what it means to be a university-based press in the twenty-first century. This report is an attempt to capture that richness and share it with you.

I want to introduce the report by offering a summary of how I see things from the director’s desk. Despite persistent challenges in the publishing and academic landscapes, the Press is being truly opportunistic and ambitious. After several years of volatility, our sales patterns are stabilizing and improving, which is allowing us to better forecast results and plan investments. Our list of books remains as strong as ever. But at the same time, we’re expanding our publishing activities to broaden impact and to diversify our revenue models. We’re collaborating with other presses to leverage the economies of scale that are so essential in modern publishing. And we’re focused on new digital workflows and formats to help our authors find their readers.

Books Published and Promoted in 2017

Under the UNC Press imprint, we published 118 new books in 2017 (see page 12), the highest annual total in our history. We received more than fifty awards (see page 24), which means that more than half of our new academic books are winning awards. Most prestigiously, the Press won its third Bancroft Prize in eleven years—a feat unmatched by any other trade or university press. These awards are a testament to the cutting-edge quality of our books, as well as to the extraordinary care the Press takes to copyedit, design, and market them.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve the ways in which we connect writers with readers, the marketing department revamped our website this past year. The department has also undertaken a number of initiatives such as using social sharing, the creation of online forums to host conversations with our authors, more investments in the digital discoverability of our books, and an expansion of our reach and impact with traditional book review and media platforms.

Office of Scholarly Publishing in Third Year

Now in its third year, the Press’s Office of Scholarly Publishing Services (see page 28) is thriving. Developed explicitly to support campus-based publishing activity throughout the seventeen-campus UNC system, OSPS has collaborated with more than thirteen campuses to date.

Longleaf Expands Services and Partners

Our wholly owned affiliate, Longleaf Services (see page 27), is a collaborative back-end platform created to provide scaled publishing services for UNC and other university presses. With the aid of a $998,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we have been able to triple the number of presses we work with, allowing us to dramatically increase the number of services we offer while driving down costs.

Importance of Friends of the Press

Underlying the continued strength of our list and expanding publishing activities is the invaluable support of our friends (see page 30). Private support through our endowments, special initiatives, and Press Club covers close to 14% of our operating expenses. We could not undertake our ambitious plans without these investments.

The Future

Looking forward, we expect continued growth at the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services and Longleaf Services. We’re beginning to focus on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Press in 2022 with the launch of our Second Century Campaign. We hope to extend our work with the Mellon Foundation to design and implement an open-access monograph pilot.

But most important, we will continue to be one of the country’s best presses—acquiring excellent work and publishing it with a singular focus on quality. In an environment where facts are questioned and distractions are abundant, we intend to be a trusted authority and a source of pride for the people of the state of North Carolina.


John Sherer is Spangler Family Director of UNC Press. Follow him on Twitter @jesherer.

To read the 2017 UNC Press Annual Report, click on the image above, or click here.