Chicago in December: Taking the Policy Press message across the Atlantic…

For a number of years now Policy Press and the University of Chicago Press (UCP) have had a ‘special relationship’ through which Policy Press titles are marketed, sold and distributed in North America. Assistant Director Julia Mortimer travelled to UCP’s annual sales conference  earlier this month to share valuable information with them about our lead titles for the new year and learn ever more about publishing in the American marketplace.

I must confess a shameful secret: I love Chicago best in the cold.

― Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Policy Press - 014During a bright, frosty week in early December I had the pleasure of returning to University of Chicago Press for a week of sales presentations and meetings. Policy Press works with UCP to market, sell and distribute our books in North America.

The partnership is a truly collaborative one and the UCP staff are a delight to work with as well as being wonderful hosts. As you might imagine they are incredibly knowledgeable about the North American market and very generous in sharing that knowledge to the benefit of their distributed presses.

So, what happens at a sales conference?


University of Chicago Press offices

The main purpose of my trip was to present Policy Press Spring 2015 titles to the sales and marketing team. Between them the sales reps cover visits to booksellers, wholesalers and library suppliers across the country from Washington State to New Mexico and up to Canada.

The sales presentations last all week and involve all of the UCP North American sales reps and members of the UCP sales and marketing team. They see all the key Chicago and distributed press titles for that season – it’s a full-on week for everyone, so cookies, bagels and strong coffee are in plentiful supply!

There is real concern in the US about growing inequality just as there is in the UK so our lead titles for the Spring season Why we can’t afford the rich by Andrew Sayer and Sixteen for ’16: A progressive agenda for a better America by Salvatore Babones were well received by the reps.

Both Sayer’s and Babones’ books provide the evidence for the need for change. Sayer’s book is a detailed exposé of the myths surrounding wealth creation, whilst Babones’ text is a clarion call for change in US social policy and will be particularly pertinent with the US elections taking place next year.

University of Chicago campus

University of Chicago campus

The marketing and promotions team are looking forward to working on these titles. As I left, the publicity staff were setting off to make their calls on the newspaper and magazine reviewers and a wide range of media outlets in New York including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and NBC.

Given the more regional nature of US media the team also work on covering outlets across the country, in addition to which they send out review copies of our books to a wide range of reviewers from magazines to academic journals.

Perfect partners

We’re passionate about getting the Policy Press message out internationally and the UCP team are perfect partners because they have the skills and expertise in terms of identifying just the right places to promote each book – the kind of knowledge it’s just not possible to foster as effectively from this side of the pond.

Consequently, we’re thrilled that several recent titles have featured in The Nation, the country’s foremost progressive monthly magazine as well as quarterly, The American Prospect and the New York Review of Books. The marketing team will also enter books for relevant North American prizes.

“…talking to the UCP team, learning from the wealth of experience they have, will really help as we develop our list…

The UCP team attend and promote our books at numerous conferences and meetings throughout the year, including the American Sociology Association, the American Political Science Association, Midwest Political Science Association and the Association of American Geographers. So if you are attending any of these events do go and meet them, they are a really lovely bunch of people!

During the week I also visited the Chicago Distribution Center where our books are stored  and had very useful meetings – though the plethora of reporting on sales and distribution available to us was enough to make my brain hurt with information!


As well as being a week of working hard, we were also treated to some fantastic Chicago food and drink

Face to face contact is so valuable. I’m confident that being able to go over and spend time talking to the UCP team, learning from the wealth of experience they have, will really help as we develop our list going forward.

The most important take home message for me from my visit was how domestic the US market focus is and how our content needs to meet this need in order to be highly relevant and sell well there, particularly for ‘trade’ titles.

Fortunately our reputation for quality, highly regarded books stands us in good stead and UCP are in no doubt that we are on track for our books to continue to be key purchases for the top research institutions.

However, we’re not resting on our laurels on this one. If you are an American author working in any of the areas we cover we would love to hear your ideas so please do get in touch with our commissioning team. Our website details which editors are responsible for which subjects areas so do have a look here and send an email across to the relevant person. We’re confident that our partnership with UCP will give your book excellent promotion in North America, and you have the added bonus of reaching UK and European audiences too!

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