Texas A&M University Press, a longtime member of the Association of University Presses (AUP), is proud to celebrate University Press Week (UP Week).
UP WEEK BLOG TOUR THEME FOR Wednesday, November 16, 2022: What Author Is #NextUP (First-time UP Authors)
To the most esteemed members of the Judging & Rules Committee for the Association of University Presses’ 2022 Next UP Blog Tour; to my fellow Wednesday Bloggers; to everyone globally celebrating University Press Week; and to any other stray recipients of this attestation: On behalf of Texas A&M University Press, I ask only for you to trust my sincerity when I affirm there are no nefarious intentions behind this slight transgression of today’s official blog topic; specifically, that part about “first-time authors”.
Verily, I was a first-time author with Texas A&M University Press, though it be a few years back, before the world changed through viral means. Yet if you stay with me I think I can trace for you upon the sands of reason why a second-time author with the same university press remains essentially synonymous with today’s theme—and indeed brings extra value and enigma to the Blog Tour as a whole.
Therefore, by way of proceeding, let me urge the most inspiriting and forthright Judging & Rules Committee to withhold any professional reservations, much less any financial penalties, concerning the content of this Promethean post.
(P-s-s-s-t: If there are problems, it was all their idea.—A.H. )*
*From TAMU Press in self-defense: Anthony’s Gen X humor can make him, er . . . interesting to work with, but he really does write great books so we smile and nod and feed him a steady diet of compliments. Please tell him you like his blog. Thank you in advance.
By the time I found myself searching for a publisher with which to partner on a new project, it was 2017 and I’d already been published commercially and had even churned out one book all by myself. But I was nearly feverish about the presentation aspect of my current subject, and smartly admitting it was too much to undertake on my own, cast my lure over the transom and into an ocean full of unsolicited slush—all in hopes of catching an unsuspecting editor’s attention.
You know where this goes: No commercial or independent publisher nibbled the line.
Interest for my book came exclusively from public university academic presses.
I was nervous. I’d written a manuscript about San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño, one of America’s most important pioneers of the Chicano Arts’ movement’s breakout period (1960s-80s). His murals are all over San Antonio, including the Spirit of Healing, which covers a nine-story wall of the downtown children’s hospital. The critical fact that Jesse lost his dominant hand to a combat injury sustained in the Vietnam War and then trained himself to paint left-handed before he began producing such world-renowned art was the editorial treasure waiting within this story. As a writer I couldn’t fathom why there wasn’t already a biography of Jesse out there, and I felt duty-bound to produce a book worthy of his legacy.
The editors at Texas A&M University Press told me they felt the same way. I was still nervous. I didn’t write a textbook or a PhD thesis, after all. I was telling the story of a man’s life and through it I was conveying color and dreams, war and anger, defeat and redemption—for goodness sake, Jesse’s paintings reside in three presidential libraries, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and wherever King Charles of England keeps his art—and the remarkableness of all that needed carry through from my words to the book’s design, production, and handling.
I didn’t realize anything at the exact moment, but when I first held a copy of Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño in my hands, I chose to work with Texas A&M University Press again. I had gone through that first-author/UP process, discovering satisfyingly high levels of collaboration, which is good for me because I can be exacting, impatient, even contentious about my words. (I’m likely the only writer on earth who feels this way, right?)
The book was beautiful.
But that first-author period certainly doesn’t end with the book’s release. It phases into sales, marketing, and distribution arenas, and for me it proved the opportunity to work with a team nimble enough to shift along with this individual author’s quickly changing needs.
Allow me to assure first-time university press authors that what you have learned and endured through your initial experience pays off during the next. You now know what you want to do and you know how you previously did it. Time will be spent more efficiently and resources will be utilized to a greater degree next time around if you remember the lessons of the past.
Choosing to return to Texas A&M University Press for a second book came directly from the experience of being a first-time author with them. (It should also be noted by the most esteemed Judges that I chose to become a second-time Texas A&M University Press author while I was still, technically speaking, a first-time author with them.) I had another incredible tale to tell, but despite the clarity in my mind of its gravitas, it was one of those ideas that had no true predecessor in book form—or any form really. I was nervous. Still, I knew an eager audience was waiting for it.
Texas A&M University Press, renowned for publishing works by some of the most respected historians and experts in myriad important fields of scholarship, such as military studies, is a recognized leader of academic publishing. There’s an immediate recognition of integrity that comes with every book it publishes because of its thorough peer review process as well as a necessary thumbs-up needed by its faculty advisory committee. To be counted among their published works is an honor not to be taken lightly by any writer who cares about “accuracy and atmosphere” (my shorthand for a “thoroughly engrossing work”). I felt an immense humbleness to have contributed an artist’s biography worthy of their catalogue.
So then I pitched them a book about Texas dive bars.
This new project wasn’t a tacky guide book. It wasn’t a snarky look at the drinking classes from any supposedly elevated societal position. It was an honest look at daily life in one of the most ignored segments of the hospitality industry not to mention proper society in general. It was to show the humanity and fellowship and good humor that I knew perfectly well was abundant at the corner bar.
It’s a novel idea for a book, but I would never treat it like a novelty. Everyone has a story to tell, and hanging out in local dives only proved the point. And it’s a d— shame more such stories aren’t even allowed such opportunities to be told! I believe public university academic presses are going to become more essential as being the places where true America is remembered.
Long story cut short, I was told, “If you write that book we’ll publish it.” It was one of those declarations that felt like it came with an extra-helping of “Now get to work, we’re eager to see it.” That really put some wind in my sails.
And then I remembered the first time I held Spirit in my hands.
Texas Dives: Enduring Neighborhood Bars of the Lone Star State was published in August by Texas A&M University Press. It’s a beautiful book.
An incredible, history-making book tour followed with my co-author/photographer Kirk Weddle and myself heading right back to the same bars we covered in the chapters. The book and tour has so far been featured in the Wall Street Journal (in the actual print edition) and seven Texas newspapers (Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman called it “solid gold”); it’s appeared regularly in assorted social media mentions, radio shows, and magazine coverage.
It’s been a resounding, fulfilling success thus far, which makes me happy because it’s the best thing I’ve ever written in my entire life.
As a final thought for all those first-time authors working so hard to research and write their next book: take my advice and always uh, always check your own publisher’s website before purchasing research research books. That author discount really is … uh … uh really is … a lifeline sometimes.
On Wednesdays … we serve tater tots?
Just as I suspected.
No one’s even reading this post anymore. Not all the way down here.
Too many words.
Too many ideas.
Not enough TikTok.
I don’t even have to indent new paragraphs if I don’t want.
Nobody reads. Nobody reads.
ECHO OOOO OO ooo oo ooo
I guess everyone’s moved on to the next event for today’s University Press Week promoted by the Association of University Presses. Though I wonder if anyone from there is still hanging around …? Nah. It’s a busy week and today they have to be in Chicago for a live talk by Jonathan Lear from 6 to 7 pm while simultaneously hosting a Zoom panel about fellowships, and then magically teleport to Lawrence, Kansas, for a 7 pm live panel discussion on other UP guests.
I’m guessing I’m old news by now. No one’s hanging around my post anymore. I figure I must have lost ‘em right around “it’s a d— shame.”
I’m alone. Again.
Aww, who cares?! I was just stalling for time anyway. I could never solve the conundrum of paragraph two. I admitted as much right there at the beginning of the graph, waving around “verily” like a flag of victory when it was really just a rag of distraction.
In the end, Spirit and Texas Dives are nothing alike. I mean …except for quite a few important things, including having the same publisher, and their high levels of quality.
… and …
You know, some writers tell me that every new project they undertake has to be unlike whatever they’ve produced before, and that means that along with taking new paths creatively, every post-manuscript variable that is up for grabs (but which doesn’t supersede contracts, of course) remains on the table. Open to new paths. New ideas. This sometimes means new agents and sometimes it means new publishers. For some, starting over means starting over.
So … really …
… if you put all that together with the widely held belief (I’m in total agreement here) that every book is new during every part of its journey—from idea inception onward—then that must include, on some level, the author as well…. And so it doesn’t really matter if I’m a second-time UP author who returned to Texas A&M University Press. It wouldn’t matter if I was returning for the 47th time. Every time I partner with Texas A&M University Press should be considered as monumental as—and yeah, I’ll go ahead and nail it down—equal to the first time.
Which means: problem solved. I am a first-time author with Texas A&M University Press who just so happens to have published two books with them.
How d’ya like them apples?
. . .
Oh yeah. Nobody reads.
Anthony Head has been writing professionally for more than thirty years, including covering high school basketball in Indiana, politics in Chicago, and the culinary arts in Los Angeles. He has been published in more than three dozen national and international publications like Texas Highways, Bon Appétit, Robb Report, and the Austin American-Statesman.
Although his early career was marked with success and exposure in the food & travel category, Anthony deftly pivoted to covering the world of beers, wines, and intoxicating spirits, as well as the people behind their production, distribution, sales, and enjoyment. A well-traveled correspondent, including internationally, Anthony focuses most of his work on the people, places, and history of Texas.
In the past decade, Anthony has authored several books, including:
Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño, which was a Finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest
From the Texas Cotton Fields to the United States Tax Court: The Life and Journey of Juan F. Vasquez, co-authored with Mary Theresa Vasquez, which was awarded Silver at the International Latino Book Awards for Best Biography (English language)
Papa Joe: A Life on the Court, a finalist in the Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest
Visit Anthony’s website.
Want a Copy of Spirit or Texas Dives?
Use code UPWEEK on our website for 30% OFF each title. Again, please tell Anthony you like them–and this blog.