The University Press of New England announced that it has reached an agreement with University of Chicago Press and Chicago Distribution Center to distribute UPNE’s backlist along with forthcoming titles from eight former UPNE partner presses, as well as Dartmouth College Press, and Brandeis University Press. The deal is one in a string of agreements reached in recent months by UPNE presses, affiliates, and imprints following UPNE’s April announcement that it would close at the end of the year, after nearly half a century in operation. The consortium had dwindled to two presses, Dartmouth and Brandeis, and 24 book partners; presses who handled distribution and sales through UPNE.
Brandeis University Provost Lisa Lynch said the agreement, “will provide visibility to our university’s outstanding publishing program and authors worldwide.” Lynch also put to rest questions about the future of the press, saying that the university is currently looking to hire a new director for BUP.
The future of BUP was not the only one in question following the Dartmouth Board of Governors decision to close UPNE, citing the financial unsustainability of the operation. The closure left many of the affiliate publishers reeling, and endangered fall sales.
Deidre Randall, publisher of Peter E. Randall Publisher, was preparing the fall release of the biggest book ever published by the press, when the news came through in April. Without a clear distribution path for Mary Ann Esposito’s Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy,” Randall turned to bookseller Debra Woodward for help. With Woodward’s advice and support, Randall took up the marketing of the book herself, attending the New England Independent Booksellers Association annual conference, and reaching out directly to booksellers.
“There was a lot of love for us from stores who knew that UPNE was closing,” said Randall, who recently signed a deal with Pathway Book Services for distribution, Northeast Publisher Representatives for sales, and Woodward for ongoing consulting. As for the Esposito book, which was published on November 1, Randall said she is on pace to sell out of the 10,000 copy first printing and is going into a second 10,000 copy printing.
Ken Keegan of Omnidawn Publishing, another UPNE client, found himself in a similarly difficult position to Randall, but ultimately went with University of Chicago for distribution. While sales have dipped with the lapse in representation, Keegan said the press was buoyed by the selection of Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of as a finalist for the 2018 National Book Awards. While the press suffered some losses, they were in line with what he predicted. Looking ahead, Keegan said, “in many ways this is an improvement, and so far I don’t see any disadvantages,”
Two soon-to-be-departing UPNE staffers are also offering up a solution to former UPNE affiliates. Douglas Tifft and Ann Brash are launching Redwing Meadow Book Services, an editorial, design, and production company that has struck agreements with Wesleyan University Press and BUP. In August, Wesleyan also signed a new fulfillment agreement with Hopkins Fulfillment Services. Northeastern University Press followed suit in late October.