City Spotlight: Publishing in Chicago
Pros and Cons
Publishing in Chicago, as in other cities, is marked by pros and cons. Although some local publishing professionals note that it is much more difficult to get a full-time publishing job in Chicago than it is in, say, New York or Boston, others note that the number of houses here makes it possible for freelancers to cobble together successful careers working for a variety of publishers, both locally and further afield.
Seibold believes that being based in Chicago has some other, intangible benefits. "There's never any risk of succumbing to the herd mentality that often afflicts major conglomerate publishing," he says. "Here, publishers are pretty free to make their own way."
In fact, local publishers often have to make their own way if they want to survive. Although Chicago has a rich publishing environment, its publishing scene is diffuse, with various interest groups, associations, and organizations spread far and wide. Despite its at times disparate nature, Chicago remains home to scores of publishers and thousands of publishing professionals. As the country's second-largest publishing center, it is an important cog in the wheel. The Windy City's publishing scene is defined by a lot of publishers, operating in numerous fields, creating books for many different kinds of readers.
Academic and University Publishing
Chicago is home to a number of academic and university presses that are based in such prestigious institutions as DePaul, Loyola and Northwestern. Of course, no discussion of academic publishing in Chicago—or academic publishing in general for that matter—would be complete without the juggernaut University of Chicago Press, the country's largest university press. Editorial Director Christie Henry finds in Chicago a cohesive, collaborative publishing community. With its unique position in the city, the University of Chicago Press, which this year will publish about 350 new titles, has devoted some of its resources to publishing books that focus on the region. "We made a strategic decision to more fully engage in regional publishing about a decade ago," Henry says. "For us, being the Chicago home team has meant significant advantages. It's wonderful to be here and understand the meat and bones of Chicago."
Chicago is home to more associations than any U.S. city outside of Washington, DC. The American Bar Association, American Dental Association, American Library Association, American Medical Association, for instance, are all headquartered here. Association publishing is big business in Chicago, with associations publishing myriad books, journals, newsletters and other publications. Although publishing may not be associations' primary mission, the hundreds of titles Chicago-based associations issue every year speak to the ever-growing importance of the practice to their members. Just as with trade publishers, association publishers are navigating the print–digital transition. "Like everyone else," says J. Michael Jeffers, publisher at ALA Editions, the publishing arm of the American Library Association, "we are trying to figure out what our customers want and in what format."