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Mountain-Born Publishing: Western Press Books

October 20, 2015

Western Press Books has offered an annual anthology, Manifest West, for the past four years, a project that is manageable because of Western Colorado University’s affiliation with the UPC family.

Our anthologies focus on literature of the West, but each issue uses a different lens. For example, our most recent offering, Western Weird, features writings that challenge the usual stereotypes about life in both the Old and New West, and the collection includes first-time writers as well as acclaimed authors and poets. However, what makes the project really worthwhile from our perspective is its relationship to our graduate and undergraduate curricula at Western.

Our institution offers a graduate publishing certificate, and the anthology provides our students the opportunity to serve as associate editors through a complete one-year cycle that culminates with a published volume containing work selected from national submissions. Under careful mentorship, students shepherd the project from conception and acquisition to editing and prepress production.

Of course, they’re also taking courses along the way, but the chance to apply theory and foundational concepts to a practical final product adds an essential component to our curriculum. At the same time, upper-division undergraduates also have the opportunity to participate in the anthology as assistant editors who review submissions and perform copyediting tasks under the supervision of Western faculty and the grad-student associate editors.

We use book royalties to hire a graphic designer, who creates the cover (front, spine, and back) as well as the formatted interior pages, and then UPC vets and prepares the volume.

That final step in the project is essential. As mentioned earlier, the anthology is manageable only because UPC produces the end-user book, archives copies, and then handles fulfillment for us. That complex final step is beyond the scope of most beginning editors, and UPC’s involvement lets us focus on editorial skills while involving our student editors in the overall process required to create a professional volume they can hold in their hands—and use as a tangible bullet point on their resumes.

Could we do it all ourselves? Yes, with enough time and commitment, I suppose we could. But why would we want to? We’re not a bookbinding program; we’re writers and editors. And we’re immensely pleased with the way it’s all worked out. How often can any of us say that a proposed initiative—in our case, a publishing program and an annual anthology—were all we hoped it could become?

Mark Todd is the editor-in-chief of Western Press Books and professor of English at Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado.

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