George Mason University Press to Publish Two More Books This Spring

Posted: February 3, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: February 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm

By Rashad Mulla

A display case outside Dean Jack Censer's office shows the "new" George Mason University Press titles. Photo by Rashad Mulla

Reborn two years ago, George Mason University Press is ready to add to its list of four books already published. According to Jack Censer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), two more books are due out in April — the “Almanac of Virginia Politics 2010” and a high school civics book for Fairfax County Public Schools, “Governing the Commonwealth.”

Censer and Kathleen Clare, assistant dean for CHSS undergraduate academic affairs, worked to restart the press, which had become defunct in 1995. Currently, Censer and Clare handle press duties on a volunteer basis. In addition, they are assisted by an editorial board that includes Provost Peter Stearns, whose support for re-establishing the press has been essential, they say.

While the 1980s−early 1990s model of George Mason University Press published multiple books and dealt with all aspects of marketing, editing and publishing, the new George Mason University Press looks vastly different.

The old George Mason University Press began in the early 1980s, publishing its first book, “The Legacy of George Mason,” in 1983. It ceased operations when its costs exceeded its benefits — the amount of money needed to fully fund the editorial, marketing, distribution and sales operations required that George Mason University Press publish many more books per year. Economic viability for such an operation, Censer estimates, comes at 50 titles a year.

“Our focus is to publish books that are integral to the mission of the university,” Censer says. “We saw the need for the university to [publish] some hard copy works that were contributing to the university or the university’s immediate community that wouldn’t get out otherwise.”

George Mason University Press now publishes one or two books a year and handles only the editorial process. To facilitate this work, George Mason University Press has developed a relationship with Spectrum Creative, a Fairfax company that assists in the editing, layout and printing.

While there are no publishing restrictions based on authors’ points of view, Censer says all submitted works must be deeply researched and undergo a painstaking review process.

“We send manuscripts to two or three readers — professionals in the field — and we require revisions if we don’t get a positive enough report,” Censer says.

But while the operation is relatively small compared to the previous George Mason University Press, the operation is both cost effective and educational, Censer says. While profit isn’t the main goal of the outfit, more than 3,000 copies of books have sold since 2009.

“It’s a purpose- and quality-driven operation,” Censer says. “If it doesn’t match our standards, we won’t publish it.”

The distribution and promotion of the books falls to University of Virginia Press, which, through a contract with George Mason University Press, makes a profit depending on the number of books sold.

Last year, George Mason University Press published “The Fight for Fairfax” and the “Almanac of Virginia Politics 2008.” In 2008, it released “Agent-Assisted Center of Gravity Analysis” and “250 Years in Fauquier County.”

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