As a result, university presses nationwide now publish more soft-cover books, which are less expensive to produce. Many presses strive to place their books in large chain bookstores or have them listed by online booksellers. It’s a route fraught with some unexpected—and expensive—pitfalls. “To get books into those markets, we have to give higher discounts,” Mandel says. “To publish books that appeal to those audiences, we have to pay higher royalties, bigger advances, and mount more expensive promotional campaigns. Even though some university presses have moved into trade books to compensate for the loss of their traditional market, we’ve learned there are a lot of downsides to that tactic.”
      Instead, SU Press formulated a publishing program designed to break even. “We know some books will lose money, because they are scholarly books meant for academics,” Mandel says. “But the topics of those books are essential for the exchange of ideas, and that fulfills the major role of a university press.”
      Balancing such books in the ledger are those that do make money, such as Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time, the memoir of Jess Oppenheimer, who created the I Love Lucy show. As part of SU Press’s series on television and popular culture, which is edited by Professor Robert J. Thompson of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the book is used in college courses, but also appeals to readers interested in one of the most beloved TV comedies of all time.
      Another successful SU Press strategy is to reprint commercial books that have gone out of print or were never published in paperback. Such reprints include two books by Israeli Nobel Laureate in literature S.Y. Agnon, Shira and A Simple Story. The press also has reprinted four works of fiction by author Cynthia Ozick and playwright Arthur Miller’s only novel, Focus. “These books have been well-reviewed in the media,” Mandel says. “They are in areas that we publish and are already tried and tested.”
      Fund raising also has become an increasingly important part of the survival equation for SU Press. Individuals, corporations, and foundations donate money to underwrite publications, helping keep costs down. Each year, for instance, SU Press receives funds from the John Ben Snow Foundation to support books written about New York State. Businessman Ahmad El-Hindi of Manlius, New York, established a fund in honor of his father, Mohamad El-Hindi, to help finance books about Arab culture and Islamic civilization. “One thing we intend to do is look for someone to underwrite books on sports history, geography, or Jewish studies,” Mandel says. “We think that can be accomplished because people can relate to the importance of books in those categories.”
      Computerization also has helped the press save money by cutting the time needed to get books from manuscript stage to finished product. Mandel sees all these tactics as ways to stick to the bottom line yet stay true to SU Press’s main priority. “Achieving excellence in scholarly publishing has been the press’s goal since its inception,” Mandel says. “Syracuse University Press is changing with the times, but it will maintain its original mission—producing the very best in scholarly research and reflection.”

SU Press's 1999 Bestsellers

-Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How
I Came to Create the Most
Popular Sitcom of All Time

by Jess Oppenheimer with
Greg Oppenheimer:
4,695 copies sold

-Hostile Skies: A Combat
History of the American Air
Service in World War I

by James J. Hudson:
3,352 copies sold

-Catching Dreams: My Life
in the Negro Baseball Leagues

by Frazier "Slow" Robinson
with Paul Bauer:
2,153 copies sold

-Rastafari: Roots and Ideology
by Barry Chevannes:
1,864 copies sold

-Scattered Like Seeds: A Novel
by Shaw Dallal:
1,606 copies sold



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