Jerry Craven is the Press Director and editor for the Lamar University Press in Beaumont, Texas. He is also the author of more than twenty-five books, Press Director of Ink Brush Press, and Editor-in-Chief of Amarillo Bay. In addition to those responsibilities, he is a member of the writing faculty at Lamar University and a member of The Texas Institute of Letters, SFWA, TACWT, and CCTE. You can learn more at: http://www.jerrycraven.com/
Here is a portion of that interview:
With all of the demands on your time as a writer, instructor, editor, and Press Director, why did you decide to help form a University Press? Setting up a press for Lamar University was Dr. Jim Sanderson’s idea. He observed the success of my own small literary Ink Brush Press, and he suggested I take that press to Lamar University. But I wanted to keep Ink Brush, so my counter suggestion was for me to set up a press at Lamar based on the IBP model, that is, for the Lamar press to make use of all the latest in technology for book production and distribution. We knew it would be a hard sell to university administrators given the recent closings of university presses because of the expense of maintaining them and the fact that Lamar was at the time in the midst of a financial crisis. Still, we figured we had in Ink Brush Press good evidence for our being able to open a press that would promote the university by publishing good books without being a drain on resources. Dr. Steve Zani, then Head of the English Department, liked the proposal that Dr Sanderson and I came up with, and he, Sanderson, and I went to the dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Brenda Nichols. She liked our idea for a university press, made some useful suggestions for making our proposal more effective, and suggested we take it to the university provost, Dr. Steve Doblin. He was also enthused about the idea for a new kind of press. One of the things he said was, “Even in times of financial exigency, the university still needs to move forward, and this press would be such a move and would cost very little.” Within weeks he had approved the project, and I began soliciting manuscripts.
What are some of the advantages of publishing with a UP instead of traditional or self publishing? If by “traditional” you mean the large East coast publishers, then the answer is simple: most such presses are effectively closed to literary books, for they do not sell. Self publishing is certainly an option for many writers, but self-published books strike many readers as books produced by vanity presses. There is a significant difference between self publishing and publishing with a vanity press. A vanity press is one that will publish any book regardless of quality if the author is willing to pay for getting into print. But many readers think of self publishing as a route for amateur writers to get into print without having anyone vetting the quality of their books. University presses do serve as a means to winnow out the poorly written self-published books that these days appear in such huge numbers in bookstores such as Amazon, so many readers are much more likely to pick up books from university press over self-published books. Most writers who care about their reputations as literary artists will avoid both self publishing and publishing through vanity presses.
I understand LUP only accepts submissions in June. Why? The editorial staff of Lamar University is made up of volunteers, and most of them are university professors in various Texas universities; some are Lamar graduate students. June is the least busy time for many university professors, so I chose that month. Experience with Ink Brush Press told me that if the press had a year-round open submissions policy, we would get so many manuscripts from around the country that we would be doing little other than evaluating submissions. Thus, the one-month open window. We get most of our submissions from the members of the editorial staff recommending manuscripts they have read, and now that we have some 30 books out, some of our writers now recommend manuscripts that we examine for publication.
What type of manuscripts will LUP consider? We are interested in well-written books in many genres. We like fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, history, memoirs, and we are open to other kinds of books. Our catalog of books includes so many books of creative writing–fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction—that our emerging reputation is that we are a literary press, which is quite unusual among university presses. Most will either publish none of the creative writing genres or will limit such publication to only a few books yearly.
For more information: http://www.lamar.edu/literary-press/