When Carey Newman became director of Baylor University Press in 2003 it was teetering on the edge of extinction, as many university presses have in recent years. “I told the university it would take twenty-five years to build up the press,” says Newman. “Ten years to get one-third up the mountain and set up base camp. Ten years to get to the summit and five more to assault it.” A decade later, with net revenues “up 1,500%,” he is happy to state, “We are ahead of schedule.”
James Bennighof, vice provost for Academic Affairs and Policy at Baylor, says that prior to Newman’s directorship BUP was producing “only a handful of books each year, many authored by faculty, and without a unified publication philosophy.” He adds that due to Newman’s “visionary leadership” that number has risen to 35 titles annually published under a cohesive mission statement.
“Dr. Newman has refined our general institutional interests into specific thematic emphases, and aggressively developed relationships with authors and other partners who would help us to achieve our goals,” says Bennighof. “The volatility of both the publishing industry and the economic environment during this period of time has complicated this process considerably, but Dr. Newman has addressed this situation by being willing to act decisively while at the same time being ready to change course when this has been indicated.”
Armed with the full support of the university, Newman—who holds a Ph.D. in biblical studies-New Testament --built his initial list slowly and carefully by nurturing collaborative relationships with serious scholars. After the success of his first big title in 2004, Building Jewish in the Roman East by Peter Richardson, he says, “Authors started asking me if I could do for them what I did for Peter-- and one good book led to another.”
Newman describes the ideal Baylor author as “vocationally driven, whose work, institutional identity and personal lives line up like plumber’s pipes.” He adds, “We publish books with a moral arc, books that do good. That’s who we are as a press. If an author comes to us and sees a book as an economic vehicle, I steer them to another press.”
Collaboration is key, says Newman who prefers to co-create books with his authors whenever possible. “A book is an excuse to invest in a scholar’s career. It’s not an object, it’s a relationship. We are stewards of someone else’s ideas that grow up and have a vocation of their own.”
John Kutsko, executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature, says,“Carey brought a set of skills that met at the right juncture of university press standards and trade publishing innovation. Publishing has always been relationships, and his respect for the author helped build a loyal and stable market for the press.”
Top sellers during Newman’s tenure include Gospel of the Living Dead by Kim Paffenroth, Ancient Letters and the New Testament by Hans-Josef Klauck, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction by Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury), and Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously by Barbara McGraw and Jo Rene Formicola. But beyond the very scholarly titles, Baylor has also published books with broad trade appeal, such as Monsters in America--Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and Haunting by W. Scott Poole and The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra by Adam C. English. Newman has high hopes for his lead fall 2013 title, Appletopia: Media Technology and the Religious Imagination of Steve Jobs by Brett Robinson.