After six years working here in the publishing department at Oak Knoll, the time has come for me to say goodbye. My last day as the Oak Knoll publishing director will be November 21. I am about to start a new adventure: parenthood! My husband and I will be adopting a baby soon, so I am taking a few years off from full-time publishing work to take on something that is totally different, but probably equally challenging. I’m also planning to stay busy doing some freelance editing as well as working part-time as a bookkeeper for my church.
I have learned so much in my time at Oak Knoll, about books and also about work in general, since this was my first job out of college. Thank you, all of you, for making it such a pleasant and valuable experience.
Bob Fleck, president and founder of Oak Knoll, will be taking over the publishing director responsibilities himself, so please contact him at email@example.com if you have any questions about the transition or about any future projects.
All the best,
Bailey and I had a great time representing Oak Knoll at the Ladies of Letterpress Conference last weekend. We learned a lot, admired beautiful examples of printing (and even bought a few!), met some nice people, and ate some great food. It was our first time in Asheville, and we loved the city. We will have to go back when we have more time!
Here are some of the pictures we took at the conference:
Thank you to the Ladies of Letterpress for putting on such a great event. We look forward to seeing you again in October for Oak Knoll Fest!
~ Laura Williams
A few months ago, we put out a call for manuscripts in our monthly email newsletter, and we were overwhelmed by the response. It is good to be reminded of how many people are still hard at work writing books about books. Since then, we’ve received suggestions for several bibliographies, books on how to do book collecting, printing history of various parts of the world, and more! So keep an eye out for some great new titles to be published in the next few years.
I also wanted to let you know that we are still (always!) looking for more. I am especially interested in seeing more books on topics like bookbinding and papermaking (either history or how-to), as well as typography and book design. So please keep them coming!
Oak Knoll is excited to kick off 2012 with a set of New Year’s resolutions. We have each taken time to think of ways we can improve over the next year, and we wanted to share our ideas with you. Check out what we plan to do in the upcoming year.
Ah, there are so many that I should have made but didn’t. At least I haven’t broken any of them yet.
I need to learn to smile when a person is standing in my book store and asks “Do you buy books?” I guess they think that my books breed with each other in the late evening hours.
I need to learn to smile when the phone caller asks me the value of a book that has been in the family for decades but they can’t remember the full title or author. Bless Jim Hinck and vialibri.net as now I can just recommend that they visit that site.
I need to learn to smile when the person on the phone says that the book must go out that day, as it is a birthday present for his or her husband/wife/child in two days hence. Nothing like advance planning!
But wait – I’m actually smiling all the time because I have the greatest group here at Oak Knoll and have loved being a bookseller for 35 years. I smile when I come to work – how many people can say that?
Rob Fleck (Antiquarian & Library Sales)
Last year, we purchased two exciting collections from two long-time Oak Knoll customers. These collections helped make 2011 a great year for us and for you, our customers, by adding many important and rare books to our inventory. Our main goal for 2012 is to branch out to individuals or institutions that have collections that they would be willing to part with. We hope that 2012 will be the year of collection acquisition for Oak Knoll. It’s actually all very exciting to me! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a collection that you’d like us to see.
This year I would like to discover more manuscripts and encourage more potential authors to write new books on the history of the book. We are particularly interested in new manuscripts on bookbinding, book collecting, printing, and typography, but please feel free to propose any project that could be considered a “book about books.” If you have a manuscript or a book idea, please check out our website and send me an email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you, so don’t hesitate to contact me! I also plan to continue on the tradition of being the Oak Knoll party planner (or as Bob calls it “the Oak Knoll social butterfly”), as it’s one of my favorite roles here at work.
Danielle Burcham (Publishing and Marketing Assistant)
It’s been almost two years since I started working at Oak Knoll, and I have learned quite a bit since my first day! While at first it seemed like it took all my time just to learn the ins and outs of the book business, this year I plan to really focus my attention on expanding our audiences. This means finding new businesses and individuals who would have an interest in our books but haven’t yet heard of us. I hope to find more organizations and journals who would like to review our books, and I plan on using our social media platforms to facilitate this. If you haven’t hopped on the social media train yet, what are you waiting for? Follow us through facebook, twitter, and our blog. There is a lot to learn about us just through these sites alone!
While I will continue to maintain my responsibilities cataloging books, taking photographs (in our new and updated style), and providing customer service, I also plan to use my research skills to help our publishing department. I will explore library holdings and assist libraries in finding titles to add to their collections, while also finding new groups who might have an interest in our titles. I may even get more involved with our shipping department, helping to pull and pack books. I guess you could say I have my hand in a little bit of everything that goes on here at Oak Knoll.
Considering that I was raised in the image of Mary Poppins, (you know, “Practically Perfect in Every Way”), I failed to see the need for any New Year’s Resolutions. Fortunately, my colleagues quickly disabused me of that notion, so here I sit pondering my role at Oak Knoll and trying to understand how I can make your interactions with us the best possible. First of all, I will put a smile on my face before answering the phone. I once read that this simple action carries through in your voice, making it more welcoming. I will also try to remember if it is morning or afternoon, although I don’t seem to have much luck with that as frequent callers can attest. Yes, I’m the one who says Good…with a long pause…before the next words are out of my mouth. Maybe, I should just say “Hello?”
All kidding aside, each one of us here understands that without the support and patronage of our bibliophile friends, Oak Knoll would be no more than a memory. We come to work every day enthused and convinced that we will either help one of you find that long desired treasure, get the newly required text book for your latest class, or finally see your name in print as the author of a scholarly text. So, bring on 2012! We welcome it and you with smiles on our faces.
One of the best things about working for a small company like Oak Knoll is the opportunity to do a little bit of everything (also see Rob’s post on photography!). In addition to the day-to-day tasks involved with my job as publishing director, like drafting contracts, checking proofs, and correspondence with authors, editors, and designers, I occasionally have the chance to try my hand at some design work. This summer in particular, I’ve been able to get my creative juices flowing by designing dust jackets for two of our upcoming titles, Arthur Miller: A Descriptive Bibliography and Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly.
At Oak Knoll, every project is different in terms of schedule, budget, and project logistics. Sometimes our authors design their own jackets, sometimes we hire freelance designers who do the book and jacket design, and sometimes we have the privilege of doing it ourselves, in house. While I have no formal training in graphic design, I’ve picked up a lot of tips during my time at Oak Knoll as I’ve reviewed and imitated the work of more experienced designers. The two jackets below were a lot of fun for me to work on. Let me know what you think!
- Laura Williams, Publishing Director
The future of the book has been the subject of many stimulating conversations in the Williams household. As the publishing director for Oak Knoll Press, I am invested in the plight of the physical book. Not only do we publish high-quality printed books at Oak Knoll, but we publish on the history of the book, celebrating the book as an object valuable for its history and artistic qualities. In contrast, my husband Ian is a computer programmer who enjoys being a part of an industry working to make the world more digital and electronic. He argues that the printed book will be eventually replaced by a free and open pool of information available electronically.
Yet, both of us can see the other side to a certain extent. Neither of us owns a specialized e-reader, but we both have downloaded the Kindle app on our smartphones. While I still prefer reading a paperback to reading on my phone, I can’t argue with the convenience of always having a book with me (as I’m never far from my phone). The fact that so many of my favorite classics are available for free is a benefit that is hard to turn down. And Ian, while he argues that the information is the only important part and that the delivery mechanism is irrelevant, is surprisingly protective of his books and has been known to berate me for dog-earing the pages.
Ian likes to refer to printed media as “the manual transmission” of communication. Like an automatic transmission, the e-book has advantages in terms of convenience. And yet, automatic transmissions have been available for more than fifty years, and still a sizeable percentage of the population prefers to do the shifting themselves. I think that books are the same—readers will opt for the superior reading experience (the manual transmission) over the convenience (the automatic transmission). In fact, I think that true book lovers will be driven to an even greater appreciation for books as objects, as they start to notice things that they had taken for granted, such as high-quality materials and typography.
So I see a future where e-books and traditional books co-exist comfortably, side-by-side. The advantages of an e-book will make it the convenient choice in many circumstances, but it will not soon replace the tactile experience and the pride of ownership that a physical book elicits.
We recently announced that Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Price won the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. It was chosen as the most significant contribution to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation in America. A book of this excellence takes years of research and work. Read about Lois Price and her journey in creating such a fascinating work.
This book began with a search for information that was not there. As a paper conservator working at a busy regional conservation center, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia, I never knew what kind of material would appear on my roster of treatments, and it was impossible to ignore the increasing number of architectural drawings and blueprints that entered the lab in the late 1980s. The wonderful images, unfamiliar materials, and mysterious reprographic processes piqued my curiosity. They reawakened a somewhat dormant interest in architecture that began in my undergraduate days during a course in American art, continuing through my senior honors thesis on American architecture and even into a few additional graduate courses. Interest renewed, I began a largely unsuccessful search of secondary sources looking for information about materials and techniques. Collection curators had some answers but not in the depth and detail I needed. Architects were distinctly uninterested in discussing the craft of creating their drawings, though I learned a lot about design theories, competitions, and the big one that got away. And so, the odyssey through original source material— drawings, trade catalogs, builders and drafters manuals, and technical treatises on the manufacture of specialty materials, began.
Fast forward a decade and a half through many libraries, a job change, several research grants to a manuscript, and a list of possible illustrations, and enter Oak Knoll Press in the person of John Von Hoelle. He had much encouragement and a commitment for publication. Little did I know that another odyssey was just beginning. With Oak Knoll’s encouragement, the list of possible illustrations grew to over 350, including images that illustrated every facet of the text. Securing them and writing the captions was a huge and time consuming challenge that took almost five years, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography and the generosity of several institutions, particularly the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, everything finally came together. If you can call a motley collection of black and white prints, color transparencies, 35mm slides, and a large stack of CDs, together.
When my manuscript was finally ready for editing, Laura Williams took on the task, and began making sense of the daunting stack of images. She patiently saw the manuscript through two rounds of copy editing and finally typesetting and design. That first look at the text in print and the stunning design will remain a memorable moment. Next, we traversed several rounds of galley proofs as I fretted about typos, color accuracy, and image resolution. The best part of the editing and publication process, of course, was the need to visit Oak Knoll in New Castle on a regular basis and peruse the bookshelves. I occasionally brought my students and we never left empty handed.
I still see the transformation of my initial vision of what we needed to know about architectural drawings to a beautifully printed book as rather miraculous. Oak Knoll is a small press and things do take time, but there is a real commitment to working with the author and getting it right. For that I am extremely grateful.
We want to congratulate Lois Price again on winning the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. We are excited to see all of her hard work pay off!
Click here for more information on Line, Shade and Shadow.
In early 2006, however, John told me that it was time for him to retire. I had known this time would eventually come (though I had been hoping he would work into his 90s!). But when he talked about the books he wanted to write and the travel he wanted to do, it was hard to come up with a convincing argument for postponing retirement. I then had to make yet one more decision. I was going to turn 60 in February of 2007, so perhaps it was time to think about slowing down and eliminating some of the stress in my life. I knew that my stress level could only increase once John had gone, as he was going to be hard to replace. My time at the beach house was so relaxing that I could visualize a lighter work load with more vacation time. I loved reading and collecting (especially in the field of Delaware history). Was this the time to sell the publishing business?
Months went by with different possibilities being discussed on a daily basis. I had a publishing director who wanted to retire and was only hanging on to keep me from being without a competent person to run that part of the business. It occurred to me that I had a smart young man named Mark Parker Miller working for me as a book cataloguer in the antiquarian side of the business, and that he might have the makings of a publisher. Mark had finished the course work for his PhD in art history and was in the process of writing his thesis. I had very good experiences in hiring art history graduates from Delaware (Andy Armacost being the prime example). I asked John if he would take a month to train Mark, and he gleefully agreed, finally seeing the beginning of his retirement on the horizon. The training took place in the spring of 2006 and Mark is now going full throttle with 24 books under his belt (with John’s help) in 2006, 16 in 2007 and 21 to-date in 2008.
A great help was the addition of Laura Williams in early 2007 as our Marketing Communications Specialist. Her skills at electronic marketing and PR have had a major impact on sales. [Update to 2010: Mark Parker Miller left Oak Knoll at the end of 2008, and Laura Williams has been enjoying her new role as publishing director for the past two years.]
So here we are in the year 2008 after 30 years of publishing in a very specialized field. The publishing world has changed a lot since I first started and will continue to re-invent itself in the future at an ever quickening pace. University presses are being told to make a profit for their universities, as the prestige of having a press is being diminished by hard financial times. As a result, more manuscripts are being offered to us. Oak Knoll has published books with CDs in the back and links to online databases, unknown technologies when we started. Short print runs and print-on-demand seem to be here to stay. Bibliography as a subject begs to be available online, as any good bibliography is always a work in progress. Where will this lead us?
Our marketing strategies have also changed. In the old days we bombarded our customers with letters—now we do it with email programs like Constant Contact. Our weekly strategy meetings are often more about the timing and extent of our email campaigns and an analysis of our Google statistics for the past week than planning the production of a book.
So how do I feel about our role for the next 30 years? Early this year  Oak Knoll Press was given the Institutional Award by the American Printing History Association in recognition of its services in publishing books that advance the understanding of printing history. When accepting this award, I reminisced about Oak Knoll’s past much like I have done in this short history and ended up telling a story of a recent sales call with a relatively new employee. The gist of that story was that the new employee was my youngest son Rob, who had graduated from college and was now working in the business. My other three children (Jenni, Paul, and Wendy) have each chosen other careers outside the book world. Oak Knoll may not end up being Rob’s life work, but for now—it is great to have him with me. Either way, I hope he will enjoy all of the fun, travel, and friendships that I have had for these first 30 years.
Last week I watched The Proposal with Sandra Bullock. She plays a high-powered Editor-in-Chief at a major book publisher, and her character is the stereotypical boss from hell (at least at the beginning of the movie. By the end… well, I won’t spoil it for you). Whenever she leaves her office, her assistant sends an instant message to the rest of the company, warning them that “The witch is on her broom!” I hope that my fellow Oak Knollers don’t feel the same way about me! Although, in a publishing department of 2 full-time employees, total, my assistant doesn’t have anyone to warn!
But it’s always interesting seeing how Hollywood depicts the book world. This movie was more accurate than most—we see Bullock’s character looking through proofs at her home while eating breakfast (I’ve done that!), and we hear of her attending the Frankfurt book fair (I’d love to do that!).
Has anyone else seen any interesting portrayals of the book world on screen lately?
- Laura Williams, Publishing Director
Even after working all day surrounded by shelves of books about books, the staff here at Oak Knoll still can’t resist the lure of the summer read– the opportunity to just sit back, curl up and enjoy the simple pleasure of getting lost in a book. Of course we share a common love of books, but we still remain different, each with our own special book interests. Check out the list of books the Oak Knollers are reading this summer!
- Laura (Publishing Director): The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, Corporate Capital: Wilmington in the Twentieth Century by Carol Hoffecker, The Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything by Tim Keller
- Rob (Library and Antiquarian Sales): Semper Fi in the Sky: Marine Air Battles of World War II by Gerald Astor
- Tim (Bookkeeping and Customer Service): DND Source Books, The Bible, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert. A. Heinlein
- Danielle (Publishing and Marketing Assistant): How Strong Women Pray by Bonnie St. John, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
- Chris (Cataloguer): Monsieur Monde Vanishes by Georges Simenon, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
- Marisa (Summer Intern): I Remember You by Harriet Evans, Take Four by Karen Kingsbury, Emma by Jane Austen
- Bob (President and Owner): The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James, Cape Cod Stories edited by John Miller and Tim Smith, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson, Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
What are you reading this summer? Let us know in the comments section below!