University of Minnesota Press sees record book sales

The Press, founded in 1925, usually sells about 250,000 books per fiscal year.

Danielle Nordine

The University of Minnesota Press has seen record sales in the past six months, despite a still-struggling economy. The Press, founded in 1925, usually sells about 250,000 books per fiscal year. In the six months since the start of this fiscal year, the press has already sold nearly 165,000 books, marketing manager Emily Hamilton said. Some of the recent success is due to the re-release of âÄúA Single Man,âÄù a book that was made into an Oscar-nominated film released last fall, Press Director Doug Armato said. More than 35,000 copies of the book have sold, totaling more than $500,000. Sales to libraries, which usually make up about 20 percent of all sales, have been shrinking recently, Armato said. However, he said sales to individuals and bookstores have been steady or increasing across all areas of publication. The Press operates as a nonprofit and receives about $300,000 of its funding from the University âÄî 6 percent of its $5 million budget. The rest comes from sales and is funneled back into publishing new books, Armato said. âÄúOur goal is sustainability rather than paying shareholders,âÄù he said. âÄúWe use the money from the successful books to pay the costs of the ones that are important but might not make back their investment.âÄù The books are printed at various presses throughout the world, but the Press does all of its designing and editing on-site. Authors generally come to the Press because of its specialties, which include books about Minnesota and the Midwest, as well as the topics of race, gender and sexuality, cinema studies and social and cultural thought, Editorial Director Richard Morrison said. About 15 percent of the authors published by the Press are affiliated with the University, Armato said. The Press receives about 2,000 submissions each year and publishes about 110 of them, Morrison said. There are 86 university presses in North America, Armato said, including one at each Big Ten Conference school. Before the recession, the Press had been planning to expand the types and number of books published. Despite the economic downturn, the Press has continued to take new submissions and try to publish as many as possible, Morrison said. The Press works with authors on revising and improving manuscripts before publication, Morrison said. âÄúWe see ourselves as being involved with our authors in the development of their work, instead of just packaging and selling what they submit,âÄù he said. Gayla Marty, a communications staff member at the University of Minnesota Graduate School, recently published her book âÄúMemory of TreesâÄù with the Press and said she appreciated the collaborative nature of the staff. Her book, which was released April 11, is about growing up on a farm in Minnesota and about the experience of losing that farm, as well as the changing agricultural landscape of the United States. âÄúI shyly submitted my manuscript thinking I wouldnâÄôt hear anything from them, but they ended up being a really good match for my book and brought a lot to the project,âÄù Marty said.