This past spring, University of Toronto Press outgrew the office it called home for 30 years. As part of a long-term strategic plan, the company merged its Scholarly Publishing and Higher Education divisions to form UTP Book Publishing. Unable to find an existing office that could accommodate the expanded team’s needs, UTP executives took an unusual step for any nonprofit organization: they built one from scratch. The mezzanine of an office building in the heart of downtown Toronto was converted into the spacious, state-of-the art workspace where UTP has been based since April.
“Our new office is symbolic of the confidence we have in the future of scholarly publishing and in UTP itself,” says UTP’s chief executive officer, John Yates. “Consolidating the book-publishing teams will make us more nimble and puts us in a better position to respond to the needs of our authors and customers, both at home and around the world.”
The high-tech new office also reflects UTP’s commitment to developing its digital platform. The marketing department recently hired a social media specialist and a graphic designer to generate materials such as book trailers on a full-time basis. “Beyond trumpeting our wares, our goal is to develop digital supplements to our printed books” says Jane Kelly, director of sales and marketing. Kelly wants to turn the UTP blog into a forum where authors of topical books can post timely updates and interact with readers.
UTP is committed to the sort of monumental research projects that helped establish its sterling reputation, such as the Collected Works of Erasmus. However, there is a renewed emphasis within the press on finding new ways to engage general readers as well as specialists. “Our strategy is to grow sales and break into new categories, such as science and technology,” says Lynn Fisher, vice president of book publishing. “We’re adding more titles with strong trade appeal to our offering as a leading university press.”
For instance, the inaugural volume in UTP’s EthnoGraphic series, Lissa: A Story About Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution, by Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye, presents anthropological research in the form of a graphic novel. In under a year, Lissa has sold over 10 times as many copies as UTP’s more traditionally packaged ethnographies. “I’m truly stunned by the response,” says series editor Anne Brackenbury. “I can’t tell you how many academics and comic artists have thanked us for taking risks and creating a space for innovative ways of communicating ideas to the public.”
Partnership growth is another strategic priority for UTP. Joe Martin’s From Wall Street to Bay Street, for instance, is the latest installment in the Rotman-UTP Publishing business imprint. UTP is also actively recruiting an acquisitions editor to spearhead the launch of a new science and technology series with University of Toronto. Jane Kelly is heading to the Guadalajara Book Fair in November to give the press its first-ever physical representation at this event, and to add to UTP’s regular presence at conferences from Beijing to Kalamazoo.
“There’s no question that UTP is in a dynamic, growth cycle,” v-p Fisher says. “My only worry is that it won’t be long until we need to start building a larger office.”