Guest Post: James Engelhardt on Working for Authors

James Engelhardt

As I start this project, I want to thank 49Writers for the opportunity to be a guest on their blog. 

I arrived in Alaska in early June, 2011. I had just driven from Lincoln, Nebraska, and I was dizzy with light. Over the next few months, I had a crash course in Alaska: people, history, politics, literature, and so much more. I brought with me very few preconceived notions (I believe in letting the place teach you about itself) and a sense that I was at the University of Alaska Press to work for Alaska authors—academic and not. 

During my stay, I’ve made my share of mistakes (from the first summer: When are the Fourth of July fireworks? Answer: New Year’s), but I’ve spent my time learning Alaska. While I haven’t done a lot of quintessential Alaskan things—too much time behind a desk, reading—I have had experts and artists and visionaries come to me to teach me about their love of the state. It has been an extraordinary education, and I expect to keep learning more for years to come. 

What has kept me behind the desk, too, has been that desire to work for authors. Also with authors, but I’d like to explore that “for” a bit. I don’t know about every press, but at UAP we do a lot of work to help authors succeed. And not just our authors but Alaska authors. We’re trying to find great books in order to stay in business, of course, but we’re also thinking about the long haul, and our books will succeed if the name “Alaska” means something more than what we see on reality TV. So we think of our books as a way to keep telling the rest of the world about the great stuff happening up here.

Of course, we also spend a lot of time working with authors. We’re a small publisher, so when I say we work with an author, I mean we’re talking a lot. First with my office, then in production, on to marketing, and even well after the book is finished. What that means—and this is useful to understand—is that finding an author carries a bit of match-making with it. Publishing is like a marriage, so authors and editors need to be comfortable with each other. It’s important for authors (as well as editors) to remember that.

Over the years, I’ve met amazing Alaska authors. Great people with great projects. Some of the projects weren’t for us, but they did get published in other places. And I continue to be happy for them as their dreams get realized and Alaska gains a new voice. With each new voice, I get a chance to learn, too, about this great state we all call home.  

James Engelhardt is the acquisitions editor at the University of Alaska Press and a former managing editor of Prairie Schooner. His scholarly and creative writing appears in numerous literary journals and anthologies.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: James Engelhardt on Working for Authors”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top