The American Literatures Initiative is a collaborative book publishing program, supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to create opportunities for publication in under-served and emerging areas of the humanities.
This five-press publishing collaboration—New York University Press, Fordham University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press, and the University of Virginia Press—will confront the publishing crisis in literature and literary studies, where the annual number of university press books has declined steeply in recent years, placing younger scholars at a disadvantage when writing their first books.
The American Literatures Initiative, which launched in January 2008, will be an innovative, entrepreneurial, cooperative effort to expand the number of books published in literary studies and increase audience reach by using common resources available to the five Presses through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each press will continue to acquire and develop titles according to its own needs and editorial criteria looking for high-quality first books by promising scholars, seeking out the best scholarly work about English-language literatures of Central and North America and the Caribbean.
The submission of a manuscript or a proposal simultaneously to multiple ALI presses is not permitted. Scholars are asked to identify the Press most suited to their work, and submit the work in the first instance only to that Press. If that Press declines the project, scholars are then free to approach other ALI presses with their proposal.
The innovative aspects of the initiative include:
- First books by scholars.
- Royalty advances paid to authors for work accepted for publication
- A shared, centralized, editorial office managing the production of the books and ensuring high quality copyediting and design.
- A collaborative, high profile, and aggressive marketing program consisting of major academic journal and other media advertisements, direct mail and e-marketing campaigns, publicity, academic conference exhibits, and award submissions.
- An additional goal of the initiative is the creation of a sustainable model of scholarly publishing in the humanities. The collaborative production model will create permanent efficiencies and will also enable the Presses to experiment with innovative print and electronic publishing models.
- “The project has the potential to give literary scholars an important vehicle to publish the kind of research that currently does not have adequate publishing outlets,” said Rosemary G. Feal, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association. “It’s a twenty-first century approach to this problem through a collabora tive strategy designed to engage publishers, faculty members, and administrators. The fact that each press will be able to maintain its individuality and utilize its own strengths, while at the same time cooperating with other presses, is a unique and laudable feature.”