Interested in Publishing?

An interview with Dr. Suzzanne Kelley: Editor in chief of NDSU Press

The NDSU Press, or the North Dakota State University Press, according to their website is, “the press of choice for scholars and writers of the plains and prairies.” The Press covers a wide array of topics, from news and events to advice for upcoming authors. Its purpose is to “stimulate and coordinate interdisciplinary regional scholarship” without limiting the scope of publications. For almost three decades the NDSU press has published things like trade books, reference books, anthologies, reprints, papers, proceedings and monographs. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get to sit down and interview Dr. Kelley about the NDSU Press. Dr. Kelley is the editor-in-chief for the Press as well as a professor here on campus.

Q: How long has the NDSU Press been running? How did it begin?

A: The NDSU Press began back in the 1950s with only four faculty members and a dream. The dream began with two missions, archives and publishing. With its 70th anniversary coming up in 2020 the Press has come a long way. Back in 1950, the NDSU Press published about one book per year, and since then it has actively been publishing around 6 to 10 books per year, sometimes more. 

Q: Where are the NDSU Press books available?

A: The NDSU Press books are available online on the NDSU Press’ store, as well as on Amazon. Zandbroz also carries NDSU Press Published books.

Q: What books have been published thus far?

A: A large variety of books have been published through the NDSU Press. The Press publishes fiction, non-fiction, scholarly books and young adult novels. The young adult novels, in particular, have done really well. 

Something fun that both the state of Michigan and North Dakota do with the Press is they pick books from the Press and read it for a competition. Students then vote on which book they liked the best, which leads to the Flickr Tale book award here in North Dakota. For example, our book, Apple in the Middle, is a story about a 15-year-old girl who has mixed-race parents. It is an authentic story with authority from the author who is an indigenous woman.  

Q: What does the process look like for publishing a new book like the most recent, “Sons of the Wild Jackass?”

A: The author will send a manuscript and we will do an in-house review. In this review we consider things like, does it meet our mission? Is there marketability? If the manuscript passes these tests it is sent to a blind peer review. The reviewers will then decide if it needs more work or if it should continue in the process of being published. During this time validity will also be checked. Reviewers will then either say to publish the manuscript, reject it or say to resubmit it once changes are made. From here, the editorial board checks to see that it went through the required steps. In most cases, this process takes about two years from the beginning to being published. 

Q: What is your best advice for writers wanting to get published?

A: The first thing I would say is to research publishers. It is important to investigate the press in which you want to be published in order to determine if it will be a good fit and to see if your piece is what they are looking for. The second piece of advice I would give is to utilize social media. Before you even finish your book you should be working on acquiring a social media platform. Publishers want to see that authors already have an audience, they want to see that there is already an interest. 

Q: What is the most rewarding thing you get out of publishing for the NDSU Press?

A: Back in 2016 I started teaching publishing classes. For me, it is so rewarding to see the students stand back and look at all they have accomplished. They work on marketing, publishing, metadata, distribution and events, and I love seeing the transformation of how far they have come and what all they have learned. I love working with students who are writing their first book. They experience all the steps and changes and I get to help coach them on how to present their book. Watching them develop from writer to author is great fun. My passion is being a teacher and helping my students work through the process of creating. 

Q: What is the publishing certificate? What can students do with it?

A: Undergrads take four classes in order to obtain the publishing certificate. The certificate allows them to learn how to publish, market and communicate. It allows them to build a portfolio. The publishing certificate lets students get hands-on experience in publishing the old fashion way. We go to an actual printing press factory in Canada, spending the afternoon touring the facility and taking in how different publishing is now compared to how it was back then. 

Through the publishing certificate process, students learn about profits and loss statements, while understanding important issues like the ethics of publishing. The process works by assigning students to manuscripts. With these manuscripts, they do copy editing, work with the author, clean up the manuscript, etc. Our students create vital pieces of the work like the summary of a book. Through this, the student’s name goes in the book and they get two free copies of the book they helped to publish. The publishing certificate is 12 credits and in the spring semester students will work in a group with 3-4 other people and will bring a book into production.

I have had students that I have taught who obtained the publishing certificate go on to work for companies who have won the national book award. Another one of my students got an internship at Copper Canyon Press. I have had a student who went to New York and now works for publishers, dealing with contracts. Another is a copyrighter for a health magazine, one is in New Jersey and works for a magazine transforming the physical magazine into a digital format. With a publishing certificate comes a variety of jobs and experiences. A lot can be done by obtaining it. 

12/05/19 – Previously Suzzanne’s name was incorrect and has since been corrected. ‘Apple in the Middle’ was published in 2018, not 2016, and the certificate is 12 credits and will take longer than a semester to complete due to the fall/spring semester.

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