This is the 500th post on our blog since it first began in 2011! We started the blog seven years ago, not long after our website was updated. In this post we reflect on the blog and share some special highlights and interesting facts with you.
Our very first blog post…
…was written by our Editorial Director, Anna, who wrote about the Mobility Language Literacy conference she attended in Cape Town in January of that year. Since then, we’ve published hundreds of blog posts: interviews with authors and staff alike, guest posts written by everyone from our sales rep to Tommi’s mum, blog series such as an A-Z of Publishing and Publishing FAQs, conference reports, authors introducing their new books, visits to suppliers, our thoughts on issues in the industry, such as Brexit and the pricing of ebooks…and much more!
The majority of people who read our blog are in the US and the UK, but we have readers all over the world, in 146 different countries!
In addition to this, Sarah and Anna, who joined the company within months of each other back in 2002, celebrated their 15 year anniversary working at CVP/MM. Of course, the occasion called for a blog post, and we published an interview with both Sarah and Anna looking back on their first days, biggest achievements and favourite memories.
Our blog was originally created as a place to share news, but it has become so much more than that. We hope that it gives readers an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and allows them to get to know us and the company a bit better. We look forward to the next 500 posts!
This year marks 35 years since we published our first book. Naturally, this has got us all feeling a bit reflective, and in this post we wanted to share how each of us ended up working at CVP/MM, from Tommi’s story that arguably began at the age of 6(!), to Alice who joined us at the beginning of this year.
We’ve told the reasons behind the founding of Multilingual Matters several times before, so I won’t go into those details. I have always done some work for the company, whether it was helping to stick labels onto envelopes aged 6, or processing subscription renewals and sales after school aged 15 to earn a bit of pocket money, so the family business was very familiar to me and I was always interested in how the business of publishing books actually worked. On finishing my literature degree at Essex University, I knew I wanted to work in the book trade. I also knew that I didn’t want to work for the family business as that might feel too much like pressure. My parents were also adamant that they did not want to employ their children, for much the same reasons, they did not want us to feel like we were being pressured into the business. As I was living in Colchester at the time, I would often meet Dad at the Independent Publishers Guild monthly seminars in London. It was a nice chance for us to catch up, and for me to learn a bit more about independent publishing. After one of these monthly meetings Dad and I went for a drink in the pub close to the meeting rooms. It was clear that they were looking to recruit someone, and I was still looking for work myself. We avoided the subject for the first few drinks, and after the third drink one of us floated the idea of me coming to work for the family business…we were both a little sceptical as to whether we could actually work together without constant argument or worse, but agreed to give it a go for 6 months and then have a family meeting to decide whether or not it was a good idea…we never got around to having that meeting!
Why it’s Useful to Know More than One Sarah Williams
I am actually a Multilingual Matters’ reject! On a snowy spring day in 2001 I arrived for what turned out to be my first interview with Marjukka, Ken and Mike. I felt I had made a good impression but was concerned that my lack of a coat (it was April and I had a suit jacket?? 😃) and bus timetable may have counted against me! I was disappointed to learn that I’d narrowly missed out on the job. This left me to carry on at my government office job. I also moved house and changed telephone number shortly afterwards.
In the summer of 2002 MM/CVP had another opening but no way of getting in contact with me. Around this time I bumped into the other Sarah Williams from the government office in the supermarket (she lived on the same road, had the same middle name and her sister was also called Catherine). She told me that some place ‘possibly beginning with M’ were trying to get hold of me about a job. I called the MM office, spoke to Marjukka and the rest is history! 😃
I have always loved books, so a career in publishing should have been an obvious choice. However, in idiotic early-20s fashion I thought it was a bit of a cliché for someone with an English degree and so I loftily avoided all the publishers at the university careers fair (I have no idea what else I imagined I might do!) I met my partner at University and as he was staying on do a PhD, my main concern was to find a job that allowed me to stay in Bristol. Being utterly unqualified for and uninterested in the main Bristol industries of finance and engineering, I applied for every job in the local paper that I thought might have me, including training as a librarian at UWE and setting the crosswords for the Bristol Evening Post. One of those jobs, and in fact the only one to even ask me for interview, was journal editorial assistant at Multilingual Matters. I made my way out to Clevedon on the bus, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Coming from a very rural area, options for graduate level work experience were severely limited, and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do when I left university. One day, I was sitting in the university library completing the references section on an essay, when the place Clevedon caught my eye. I had a feeling that Clevedon might be near Bristol, just about a commutable distance from my home. I looked up the company Multilingual Matters and promptly wrote to Tommi, asking if there were any work experience possibilities. I was immediately (and politely!) turned down flat – the company was too small and they didn’t need any extra help. A couple of months later, out of the blue came another email saying that they’d reconsidered and might be willing to have an intern. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and spent 2 months over the summer doing the work experience, as well as commuting 4 hours each day to get there and working evenings and weekends in a pub! I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the office, learnt a great deal and headed back to university with an interest in publishing and new skills, but also the knowledge that my placement wouldn’t lead to employment as the company was too small. The following February, as I was back in the library, another email from Tommi popped up. This one had the title “An Enquiry” which I thought sounded quite ominous and deduced that they were trying to sort out some mistake I’d made back in the summer! Luckily for me it contained a job offer, which I didn’t need to think long about accepting. I went down to the lobby to call my mum and stood next to the machine where users return books. On top of the stack of returned books was one of ours, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, which I’ve always thought as a very strange but good sign!
I had just graduated with a degree in French and Russian and not quite knowing what to do with myself, I decided to move to France. I found a job teaching English to adults, got a CELTA qualification and lived there for two years. But I missed Bristol and eventually started to think about coming home and what I could do once I got there. Although I had enjoyed it, teaching wasn’t quite the right fit for me, so I began to think of other options – casting around for ideas, publishing was something I kept coming back to. Once back in Bristol, I did some work experience with a literary agent, but I was doubtful that there would be many opportunities in publishing for me in my hometown, having heard that ‘all publishing was in London’. Then one day my mum, an avid Googler, came across Channel View’s website. I sent Tommi a speculative email, not knowing that there did actually happen to be a (rare!) vacancy for an internship at exactly that time. To my surprise and delight, I was invited to come in for an interview and a couple of days later I was in the supermarket when I got an email offering me the internship. That was over three years ago now – time has flown!
I graduated from the University of Bristol just over two years ago, with a degree in History. Following my graduation I decided that I couldn’t leave lovely Bristol so stuck around and considered what I’d like to do job-wise. I had publishing in mind but couldn’t find anything that suited, so for the first year I tried a few different odd jobs – working in a pet shop, as well as for The Green Register (a not-for-profit organisation who promote sustainable building) and volunteering for a number of charities, before finally moving to London to give marketing a try. After a 3 month internship I headed off to India and then came back to Bristol with a fresh head. This time I was lucky – in my search for academic publishing roles I came across Multilingual Matters… I applied and got the position! I was particularly drawn to the small size of the company and the topics of publication, as I’d just begun a TEFL course. First impressions told me I’d come to the right place, with lots of quirky questions, tea, biscuits and entertaining playlists.
This month Anna and Sarah are celebrating their 15 year anniversary working at Channel View/Multilingual Matters. In this post we ask Anna a few questions about the last 15 years…
What made you apply for your first job at MM?
I’d love to say that it was a burning desire to work in publishing and a long-held interest in multilingualism. However, the truth is that I finished my degree and knew I wanted to stay in Bristol, so I applied for every job in the local paper that I thought might be interested in an English and Philosophy graduate, including setting crosswords and training as an academic librarian. Multilingual Matters invited me for an interview, and the rest is history!
Do you remember your first day?
My first day was spent ‘celebrating’ the departure of my predecessor Berni, who had worked for Multilingual Matters for 17 years (such a long time!) I made a banner out of old printer paper, and then we went for a very nice lunch with plenty of wine. So not an especially taxing day, but quite a good introduction to the culture at MM.
How has your job changed over the years?
I started as an editorial assistant for the Multilingual Matters journals. The office was very paper-based at the time – we printed out everything – and emails came in once an hour. I can still remember the excitement of the day the internet was on all day for the first time! We used t-cards to keep track of what was where at every stage in the process, which involved scissors and Pritt Stick, and I did some typesetting using an MS-DOS program that was probably older than I was.
Gradually I managed to badger my way into being allowed to work on the books, and when we sold the journals and Marjukka retired in 2008 I took over as Editorial Director. Now I commission books for 12 book series, as well as overseeing the strategy for our whole publication programme, and keeping an eye out for new and exciting things for us to publish. I also attempt to make Tommi do his editorial admin occasionally!
While the nature of my job has changed quite a bit since I first started, I’m still working with a lot of the same authors and editors: Colin Baker, Viv Edwards and John Edwards have all been constants throughout my 15 years, and authors whose journal papers I worked on 15 years ago are now writing books and editing book series for us.
What has been your biggest achievement/success?
That’s a really hard question! The recent publication of the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism represented the culmination of five years’ work and it’s a book I’m very proud of, although the authors are both such a dream to work with that my input was minimal. It’s always nice when books you’ve worked on win awards, or we publish something really ground-breaking and innovative. But actually what gives me the most satisfaction is the smaller, on-going successes: when I talk down an author who is on the point of giving up because of a critical peer-review and help them see a way through it; or when we’re overwhelmed at a conference by people wanting to tell us how great our books are and how important it is that we as a company continue to exist. I also love doing workshops/talks for PhD students and it always seems like a real success to get lots of follow up emails and book proposals as a result.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of my job is my lovely colleagues, some of whom I have now known for a VERY LONG TIME. It’s an absolute joy to work in such a friendly, supportive office where all kinds of eccentricity are positively encouraged, and where the tangents go on for longer than the meetings. As with all groups of people who spend a lot of time together in a confined space, there are days when I could cheerfully murder the lot of them, but those days are few and far between. If they fired me I would probably keep on turning up for work anyway!
What’s your favourite memory (together?) of the last 15 years?
One evening in Frankfurt that may have involved a bottle or two of wine springs to mind, or a karaoke session in Leeds that got hijacked by an entire conference. To be fair there is never a dull moment sat next to Sarah! She once crushed a wine glass with her bare hands, her driving rage is terrifying, and she can run 100m faster than Usain Bolt if there’s a pigeon anywhere near her…
Here’s to the next 15 years! Check out Sarah’s interview here.
This month Sarah and Anna are celebrating their 15 year anniversary working at Channel View/Multilingual Matters. In this post we ask Sarah a few questions about the last 15 years…
What made you apply for your first job at MM?
I had done an English degree so publishing was one of the more obvious routes to take. I remember seeing the ad in the paper that specified a ‘seaside office’ which appealed to me as I’m from a seaside town. The ad also promised the possibility of travel which seemed very exciting!
Do you remember your first day?
Hmm, not the details but first impressions – everyone was very friendly and welcoming, it was a very quiet office and it was very nice to have a walk along the seafront at lunchtime! I also remember being excited but slightly awed by the amount there was to learn and how global the company was.
How has your job changed over the years?
I was a journal editor for my first few years and it was a good way of getting to know a lot of people in the field. I started helping with some proof-checking on the books and eventually took over supervising the cover design process and ebooks. I was also doing admin for some of the book series. When we sold the journals in 2008 I became production manager and commissioning editor for Tourism and Cultural Change. I’m now also commissioning editor for The Future of Tourism, currently looking after all the tourism series while Elinor is on maternity leave and get to one or two conferences every year.
What has been your biggest achievement/success?
When I worked on the journals the biggest achievement was getting all issues published in the year they were meant to come out! With book production (and this involves the whole company not just me!) steadily increasing our output from 39 books in 2008 to 60 books in 2016 felt like a big achievement. On the editorial front, I think any time you’ve actively commissioned a title and it goes into production is a great feeling!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Production and editorial is a nice balance of detailed work with a more creative side. This is pretty much a dream job working with and for amazing people, so hard to pick one thing. Obviously getting to travel to conferences and hanging out with all our authors across the world is very cool!
What’s your favourite memory (together?) of the last 15 years?
Ha, Anna and I don’t get to travel together much (I have no idea why??!) but we have had one or two memorable trips – including one particular evening in a bar in Frankfurt and a karaoke-session in Leeds with a few of our authors/editors! We’re very good at celebrating at MM/CVP so any occasion is pretty memorable!
Congratulations Sarah! Watch this space for an interview with Anna about her experience of the last 15 years.
We at Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications are very active on social media and have built up substantial communities across all our accounts. We enjoy interacting with our authors, publishing contacts, readers and people with a broader interest in the topics on which we publish, and have strong followings on both Facebook and Twitter, with nearly 2,000 contacts across our Facebook pages and over 15,000 on our two Twitter accounts.
Social media has also become an integral part of our marketing campaign for each book that we publish. In the weeks and months leading up to and following a book’s publication, we in the marketing department use our various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, this blog and YouTube) to announce its publication and publicise it as much as possible. It’s the easiest and most effective way of getting news to lots of people at once and on top of that, it allows people to engage with and discuss our publications, both with us and amongst each other. Of course, social media doesn’t come at the expense of our traditional marketing strategies and we still follow usual marketing techniques such as catalogue mailings, email newsletters, sending information to the book trade, attending conferences and book fairs and so on, but it does offer something new and different to our marketing repertoire.
When using social media to market a book, it’s a real advantage if we have an author who is active themselves on social media and can help us to spread the word. Authors are best placed to reach their book’s key audience as their own colleagues and peers are likely to be those interested in the research. We often find that some of our bestselling books are ones where the author hasn’t been afraid of get stuck in! For example, you could create a Facebook page for your book like our authors Christian W. Chun and Leanne White did, where you can keep people up to date with the book’s progress and share useful information and news, including the 50% preorder discount flyer we create for all our books. In addition, if there are any relevant events that tie in with your book’s publication, do let us know! For example, we’ve previously promoted Hongliang Yan’s book,Heritage Tourism in China, in conjunction with World Heritage Day. Facebook is also the main place where we post photos of office goings on, so your book may well end up in a photo like the one above of our commissioning editors with their books published in January. If you have any ideas for a relevant photo opportunity for your book, just let us know and we’ll see what we can do!
Twitter is a great place to get book news out to the right people, and we do try to “mention” relevant accounts with publication news where we can. If you have any ideas about popular hashtags used by the community you’re trying to reach or users who would be especially interested in your work, let us know on your AQ and we’ll include them in our marketing plans. Each of our books are assigned three or four tweets during the month following its publication giving a taster of what to expect from the book, and we also announce it on both Twitter and Facebook on publication day. By using relevant hashtags, the word about a new book gets out to people who might not have heard about it otherwise, and we often see people mentioning friends or colleagues with recommendations of our books.
We ask all our authors to write a piece about their book for our blog, which we schedule to coincide with its publication. This is a really good way to publicise the book and provide interested readers with a “behind the scenes” insight into how the book came about, giving authors a chance to sell their book beyond the blurb on our website. If you can send us photos or even videos to include in the post to grab readers’ attention, even better! We always announce new blog posts on Facebook and Twitter ourselves, but again, the braver authors are about sharing their post and telling the world about their work, the greater the number of views and the more engagement we see.
Nowadays social media is an invaluable tool for getting publication news out there, and we do our best to publicise your book as much as possible, but there’s no doubt that the more active the author is in promoting their book through their own channels, the better. So get Facebooking/Tweeting/Blogging/YouTubing!
As a small, independent publisher we are fortunate that most of our publishing decisions can come from the heart (‘do I like this book?’ ‘is it important?’ ‘is it new?’) rather than the head (‘will it make money for our shareholders?’ ‘will it help me hit targets?’). However one of the downsides of being such a small operation is that our margins for error are not huge, and when things go wrong, or the market takes a downturn, we don’t have a large university or a multinational conglomerate to cushion us: we stand or fall by the quality of the books we’ve published recently and the number of people prepared to buy them.
Until relatively recently we were unusual in publishing virtually all of our books in both paperback and hardback, with the paperbacks appearing at the same time as the hardbacks. If money were no object this is undoubtedly how we would choose to publish our books: making quality research widely available is why we do what we do, and publishing any other way is a wrench for us. I hate telling authors that they aren’t getting a paperback of their books, and none of us like to stand behind a conference table and hear how students can’t afford to buy our books. There’s little joy in publishing if your audience is small and getting smaller.
But about 18 months ago we were hit by the perfect storm of the continuing effects of the financial crisis on both library and individual budgets, increasing costs, and library ebook deals which meant that we were often receiving a tiny percentage of the income we did 10 years ago for providing the same product. In effect, large numbers of our books were no longer selling enough to cover our costs in producing them, let alone make us a profit. We were faced with a decision: do we throw our hands up, accept that there is no longer a role for independent academic publishers, and go and do something else? Or do we make changes to ensure that most of the books we publish at least pay their own way? And it’s sad but true that it’s easier for us to cover our costs on a book where we sell 80 hardback copies than where we sell 30 hardbacks and 100 paperbacks.
We recognise that this means we are producing books that are unaffordable for some people who might want to buy them – what do we do to try and make our books as affordable as we can?
We still publish over half our titles in paperback and hardback simultaneously.
We offer many and varied discounts and promotions. Anyone who has ever written for us is entitled to a permanent 50% discount on everything we publish.
When only a hardback is available, we price the ebook as if there were a paperback – not all publishers do this.
We offer substantial discounts at conferences, bigger than those of most of our competitors.
We review all of our books 6 months after publication and if sales of either the hardback or the ebook suggest that there might be a bigger market than we anticipated, we produce a paperback. We also take into account feedback from readers, librarians and our sales reps: if enough people are asking for a paperback, we produce one.
We keep prices down on our most popular books, rather than charging as much as we could for books that readers have to buy for courses or to keep their own work up-to-date.
As an author, you can give your book the best possible chance of being published in paperback by keeping the widest possible (realistic!) audience in mind when writing – might your research be of interest to teachers, policy-makers, parents? Are you writing to make your research accessible to scholars from other disciplines? Are you linking your research to wider debates so it will be of interest to readers not specifically working in your particular research context? When the book is written, let us know if there are specific courses that might use your book. And after the book is published, pass on feedback to us – if people are asking you for a paperback, tell them to ask us.
We’re always very happy to discuss any ideas our authors and customers might have for making our books more affordably or widely available. Please get in touch with me if you have any thoughts! Every decision to publish a book in hardback only is accompanied by a good deal of soul-searching in the CVP/MM office, but I do believe that if we are to continue to publish important books, to innovate and lead the field, and to be a small force for good in the world, we do sometimes have to take hard decisions.
In February we welcomed Alice to the Channel View/Multilingual Matters team as our publishing intern. In this post we find out a bit more about her and what she gets up to in the CVP/MM office.
What attracted you to the internship initially?
I had been thinking a lot about academic publishing and was really keen to gain some experience and discover if it was for me. After spending a lot of time googling various companies and positions, and how I could get involved, I stumbled across the internship with Channel View. This seemed perfect for various reasons. Firstly, I loved that fact that it was with a small company, where I could hopefully gain a better understanding of how everything worked. The topics of publication also drew me in – especially as I am currently undertaking a TEFL course, which many of the books relate to. Furthermore, the company is based in my favourite city (Bristol), the role seemed varied and interesting, and I felt that the 6 month length would be sufficient to really get involved.
Is it what you expected? Has anything surprised you about publishing?
I’ve always found it hard to imagine how everything works in publishing, so it was difficult to know exactly what to expect. It’s so interesting to see how everything is run and to see each step from the proposal of a book, to its production, completion and marketing. One thing that I found surprising – or impressive – is how small the Channel View office is and yet how much seems to get done and so smoothly. I’m also amazed at how much travelling is involved – someone always seems to be jetting off somewhere exotic to a conference!
What does your day-to-day job involve?
The first and foremost thing that I do in my day is to check the info box and reply to any emails. This is the main email address for Channel View/Multilingual Matters and so it can receive a variety of emails from people all over the world. The most common emails that I receive are from lecturers requesting inspection copies of books to review for courses that they are running. In this case I check the information that they have sent and arrange for the inspection copy to be sent out to them. Other emails range from queries from prospective authors, people asking to be added to our mailing list, questions about the website and order enquiries. Once I have seen to these, I move on to another task, which can vary depending on what is needed at the time. Examples of what I get up to include completing the CIP data (the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress for a book prior to its publication) for books that are in production, adding contacts to our database, confirming orders that people have placed online and putting together contracts for authors/editors.
What’s your favourite part of the internship?
Perhaps my favourite thing is that I always seem to be learning and taking on new tasks. Even when responding to emails in the info box, the variety of requests and queries means that there’s often something I haven’t come across before! I especially appreciate being given more responsibility as time goes on, and getting an insight into everyone’s roles and how it all comes together.
Do you prefer ebooks or print books? What are you reading at the moment?
I definitely prefer print books – getting a used book out of the library is the best. At the moment I’m reading ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ by Haruki Murakami – I find his writing style to be very unique and really enjoy all of his books.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?
I grew up in Dorset, going on walks with my parents and spending time by the sea, so I spend a lot of my time outdoors. This naturally fits in with my love of exploring and travelling – I’m always trying to get away to new places and see new things. When I’m not outside I am very happy to be spending my time cooking, seeing friends, felting, reading or doing yoga. I also work part time at a small pub, which is fun and sociable!
With the recent publication of the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, we hit a real milestone and published our 1000th book since the company began. In this post, Tommi reflects on the last 35 years leading up to this point and discusses how the company and wider world of publishing has changed over time.
At the recent AAAL conference in Portland, OR, we celebrated the publication of our 1000th book, the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. Since I remember the publication of our very first book in 1982, Bilingualism: Basic Principles by Hugo Baetens-Beardsmore, this led me to reflect a little on what has changed at Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters (CVP/MM), in the world of academic publishing, and attitudes to bilingualism since then.
Many of you will know that CVP/MM is a family business, founded originally by my parents in response to being told by our family doctor not to speak Finnish to my brother and me, stating that “they didn’t know what damage they were doing”. Fortunately, being a formidable combination of a stubborn Finnish mother and an entrepreneurial Essex-man father, they not only refused to take such unwelcome advice, they took it as an opportunity to find and publish world-class research focusing on the many positive benefits of bilingualism. Although we now publish in a very wide range of topics – including applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, educational research, language disorders and translation studies under our Multilingual Matters imprint and, under our other imprint Channel View Publications, tourism studies – language rights and positive attitudes to bi- and multilingualism remain at the heart of what we do. We believe that no mother or father should ever be told not to speak the language of their heart to their children without extremely well-informed reasons for doing so.
Although in many cases attitudes towards bilingualism may have switched towards the more positive and even aspirational, this is often only the case if the languages you speak are privileged western languages, and in many cases only if you are of the majority population. It is fine and admirable to learn Spanish or Arabic if you are white, but society might be less positive about you retaining your Spanish or Arabic if you are an immigrant. There is still much work to do in changing attitudes towards languages where these languages are associated with immigration or are minority indigenous languages.
Some of my first memories include sitting under our dining room table, “helping” my parents stick the mailing labels onto envelopes that would carry our first catalogues out into the world. Among the many addresses we sent catalogues to, 252 Bloor Street West stuck in my mind. As a 6 year old child I struggled to understand how so many people lived in this one house! In the years since then I have come to know the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) well, and have got to know the very many authors and friends who are based there. We no longer pack and mail our catalogues ourselves, this is one of those tasks that computers and automation have simplified, but as the editor of my local orienteering club newsletter I have to pack and mail all the copies to our members, so I like to think that I have retained those valuable skills!
In 1982 we were already using computers for journal subscription processing, but all correspondence with authors and editors was by mail. We used to do so much mailing back and forth that the local post office gave us our own postcode! All of our records were kept in large filing cabinets and a system of racks, T-cards and folders would track the process of book and journal manuscripts from initial proposal to published book. Sales reports from our distributor would be couriered once a month to us in a large box, and even as recently as the late 1990s we would wait with excitement to go through the monthly sales reports and see how well our books had been selling. These days everything we do is reliant on computers, the internet and data. We only have to log in to our distributors’ reporting sites to get the sales figures from the day before, and we can communicate easily even while travelling. This availability of data and immediacy of communication brings with it a new set of demands and challenges. There is a sense that we must respond to everything as quickly as possible and that we absolutely have to know how many books were sold in the last 24 hours. A lot of time is taken up by responding to queries that in the past would have waited for a single letter, and of course we put the same pressures on to other people.
In the early days of our company the only reliable way to purchase books was via the bookshop, or to put a cheque in the post with an order form from our catalogue. These days the rise of companies like Amazon, Books etc. and the Book Depository, as well as our own website, means that wherever you are you should be able to order a print copy of our books and have it posted to you quickly. If you choose to purchase an ebook, you can place an order now and have the full text, even in some cases with embedded video files and links to relevant websites and resources, delivered direct to your computer, tablet or reading device within seconds.
Libraries are able to buy one multi-user license of a digital book, which does not degrade with age and usage, and are able to share this with multiple users of the library, even off-site users of the library, at the same time. Shelf space is making way for more computer spaces and learning environments, and university campuses are changing accordingly. Of course the downside of this is that the number of copies required to service the same population has fallen, and so in general across the publishing industry we have seen the total number of sales of any one academic title fall quite dramatically in the past 10 years or so. Since the majority of overhead and fixed costs of publication have not fallen, this means that book prices have risen much faster than inflation in order to cover those costs.
While it is interesting to look at what has changed, it is also very instructive to consider what has stayed constant over all this time. Digital technology and distribution has meant that the barriers to entry into the publishing industry have fallen dramatically. In a world where anyone can write, typeset and publish a book relatively quickly, easily and inexpensively, the role of the publisher in providing a measure of review, revision and quality control is just as important as it was in 1982. It is arguably even more important now, given the recent attention to fake news stories and alternative facts. CVP/MM has always believed in reviewing manuscripts thoroughly and as transparently as possible, and while peer-review is not a flawless system, it is a vitally important step in ensuring that the books we publish can be trusted by students, researchers, parents and policy-makers.
We continue to grow as a business, this year we will publish 60 titles across all of the various subject areas, where just 10 years ago we would schedule 30 titles. But we remain a small and friendly operation with approachable staff. We have fostered an atmosphere where we can thrive and grow within our jobs, and so our staff turnover is extremely low. It is highly likely that you will deal with the same people through the life of your book project, if not your whole career! You will have seen me at every AAAL for the past 19 years, but you may not be aware that Sarah and Anna will this year celebrate their 15th anniversary of working for Multilingual Matters, and Elinor and Laura are not that far behind. Our most recent full time colleague, Flo, already feels like part of the family, and our intern, Alice, reflects the values that we all share.
Although my father, Mike, is no longer around to see the progress we have made since he and my mother, Marjukka, retired, he would still recognise everything that we do and be proud of how we have continued to build on what they started 1000 books ago. We would not have been able to publish 1000 books if it wasn’t for the many authors, series editors, reviewers and readers who have contributed in so many different ways. There are too many to name here, but I hope you know just how important you are to us. It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I hope that you will continue to partner with us, to work with us and to hold us to account when we do occasionally get things wrong, so that as we go on to publish books together we can all grow and improve, and look back on the next 1000 books with just as much pride!
This month we are publishing our first open access title, Second Language Pronunciation Assessment, edited by Talia Isaacs and Pavel Trofimovich. In this post, Talia tell us about her experiences of researching the once unfashionable topic of pronunciation as well as the importance of open access publishing.
When I started doing dissertation research on pronunciation assessment in 2004 during my Master’s degree, this topic was drastically out of fashion. Pronunciation in language teaching had had its heyday earlier in the 20th century, culminating, from an assessment perspective, with the publication of Lado’s seminal book, Language Testing, in 1961, which is viewed as signifying the birth of the language testing field. There had been little sustained research on the topic in the years since. In my early days as a postgraduate student, when I stated that I was researching pronunciation assessment to members of the language assessment community, I remember thinking that reactions from some, however polite, were similar to how some passersby might respond when looking at an odd relic in a museum through protective glass—that this topic may have had some use or merit once in a misguided way but is now decidedly passé. Pronunciation carried much baggage in assessment circles and within language teaching and applied linguistics more generally as a symbol of the decontextualized drills targeting linguistic forms that had been left behind during the Communicative era.
I could not have foreseen, at the time, that pronunciation would gradually begin to embed itself in some of the discourse and have growing visibility in scholarly fora (e.g. Language Testing Research Colloquium), at least on the periphery. Spurred by trends in researching pronunciation in other areas within applied linguistics, where developments happened earlier (e.g. SLA, sociolinguistics), modern work on pronunciation shifted to a focus on intelligibility and listeners’ evaluative judgments of speech and was at the heart of developments in automated scoring of speaking. Assessing pronunciation was, thus, informally rebranded and was able to establish some contemporary relevance.
Fast forward to 2017, with the publication of Second Language Pronunciation Assessment. This book breaks new ground in at least two respects. First, it is the first edited collection ever published on the topic of pronunciation assessment. Although the volume is far from comprehensive, it begins to establish a common understanding of key issues and bridges different disciplinary areas where there has historically been little conversation.
Second, it is Multilingual Matters’ first “gold” open access book. Tommi Grover shared his thoughts on open access in a recent blog post, and it is exciting that our book is at the forefront of what we believe will be a growing trend in monograph publishing in time.
When we first learned that our external research funding could pay for open access costs for a monograph to a maximum amount pre-specified by the funder as part of a post-grant open access scheme, we broached this with Tommi and Laura Longworth. It is a luxury to have a world-renowned applied linguistics publisher practically on my doorstep in Bristol, UK, where I currently reside. Tommi mused about some of the pros and cons and the likely logistical challenges aloud over coffee, and I am sure that the flies on the wall were intrigued. It was clear that pursuing open access entailed a degree of risk for the publisher, as the open access maximum payment from the funder alone would not cover the full production costs and overheads. We were delighted that, ultimately, the Multilingual Matters team decided to treat our book as an experiment and go for the open access option to see how it would work.
Thus, with the publication of our book, a scenario that once seemed hypothetical has now become a reality, and our contributors were also very happy about this development. The push for open access within the academy is to ensure that publically-funded research outputs are also publically available free of charge where possible. From the readers’ and authors’ perspective, it is generally preferable to be able to access the official versions with professional typesetting than to have author-approved unofficial versions with different page numbers floating around. We believe that, through the availability of our publication for free download, it will reach a much wider readership than it would have had the access costs been levelled onto the consumer. The print version has also been sensibly discounted for those who still wish to purchase a softback copy. In this way, it will hopefully reach the interdisciplinary audiences of researchers and educational and assessment stakeholders that we feel would benefit from knowing about this book and inform further research and practice.
My co-author, Pavel Trofimovich, and I could not have envisioned a more positive experience working with the Multilingual Matters team from start to finish. As Pavel wrote in an email, reflecting on the publication process, “I cannot think of any publisher who [is] so professional, hands-on, and also human in their interaction with colleagues.” We are extremely grateful for the tremendous help and advice in navigating all aspects of the publication of our book, including dealing with the unexpected. This process has been enriching and the production tremendously efficient. We would highly recommend that any prospective authors in applied linguistics, new or experienced, consider Multilingual Matters as a venue for publishing their book. If you have internal or external funds available or could budget for open access costs for a monograph into a grant application, it might be worthwhile pre-empting a conversation with Tommi about open access. This is an option that the team is clearly open to and which may, in time, revolutionize the publication of monographs, as it already has with academic journal articles.
Talia Isaacs, UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK
Pavel Trofimovich, Department of Education, Concordia University, Canada
With academic publishing becoming more competitive, we need to fight to keep our place among the larger publishers. We are proud of our independent status and of the values that we represent. This post gives a bit more detail about why authors should choose Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications as their publisher.
We are a small, independent company wholly owned by our Managing Director, Tommi Grover, his brother Sami and the staff who work for Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications. This means our publishing decisions are made by and for people with a knowledge of, and passion for, languages, multilingualism and tourism studies. We are free to publish books we believe in and to treat our authors, customers and staff with integrity, as ultimately we answer to people who care about the areas we publish in, rather than to people who are uninvolved in the day-to-day running of the company and are more concerned with profits.
Publishing with us is a positive choice to support an independent, ethical company, and a responsive, compassionate way of doing business. Publishing with us doesn’t mean you can expect ‘less’ than from a bigger publisher – in fact we’d suggest you should expect more from us:
Because our staff feel valued and cared for, they stay for a long time. So it’s highly likely you will deal with the same person from proposal to publication and beyond. All 7 of us are involved in the decision to publish every book, and so whoever you speak to will know about you, your book, and why it’s important.
We travel a lot (and we were off-setting our carbon footprint before it was fashionable). This means your books will be seen by people all over the world, and that our staff are at specialist conferences where they meet new authors and customers. In the past year our team of 7 has been to: New Zealand, Japan, the US (lots of times), Canada, France, Poland, Australia, Sweden, Lapland, Germany, Italy and several UK conferences (and this has been a quiet year on the conference front!).
We offer open access publishing; everything we publish is available as consumer ebooks; and we continue to publish as much as we can as affordable paperbacks.
We are proud of the help and support we offer authors publishing their first book: we have been doing this for years, and we do it because we believe in developing new talent and new ideas, not because we need manuscripts to pad out our publication program. Our first-time authors receive the same care and attention as their more experienced colleagues.
We are constantly looking out for new topics and ideas and we are pleased to be often the first publisher to take a risk in a new and emerging subject area.