Thursday, December 17, 2015

Erika Gaffney returns to academic publishing

Erika Gaffney, who was a commissioning editor at Ashgate's US office in Burlington for over 20 years, will now be Senior Acquisitions Editor in Early Modern Studies for the three-press consortium of Medieval Institute Publications (MIP), Arc Medieval Press, and Amsterdam University Press (AUP).
Congratulations to Erika Gaffney and to MIP, Arc Medieval Press, and AUP!

According to the press release, Gaffney already has a new email address and is accepting proposals for
books and new series. This consortium maintains standards of peer review, markets globally, promises timely production, and is committed to fair pricing and open access. Their submission guidelines also allow for ilustrated books, promising "almost limitless black and white images,... [and] color images, when the scholarly argument requires color, but not for esthetic reasons."

 In every respect, this is the best possible news. A wonderful editor has returned to academic publishing and early modernists have another alternative to consider when seeking potential publishers.

Many comments on the petition express appreciation for Gaffney's contributions while at Ashgate. I hope readers who work in late medieval and early modern studies will consider sending your projects for consideration so that she can begin building a new list.

I hope this will be the first of a series of joyful announcements as Ashgate's staff find new positions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Email from Routledge Senior Editor to Ashgate Literary Authors

The following e-mail message was recently sent to Ashgate Literary authors. It was forwarded to me by an Ashgate author and I am posting it for those who have not yet seen it.  Though it offers little new information, it clarifies one rumor: whatever the future holds, and whoever is working there, Ashgate will now operate out of offices in New York (US) and Milton Park (UK).

Dear Ashgate Author,

Firstly, please allow me to introduce myself as a Senior Editor for the Literature list at Routledge. Please excuse the form nature of this email, but I wanted to be sure to communicate to everyone on Ashgate’s impressive Literary Studies list before the holidays.

As you know, we acquired Ashgate publishing in July of this year. Following the initial announcement about the acquisition, we have been in a period of transition which is now coming to an end, so I am writing to you to let you know of our post-acquisition plans for the list, and also to reassure you that your book(s) and the Ashgate lists are in good hands.

We are delighted with the recent acquisition of the Ashgate business. The lists are well-aligned with our Routledge Humanities/Socials Sciences portfolios, and we are confident that the Ashgate books will have an excellent future with us.

I am sure you were working with various folks at Ashgate on your books, and as a result of the acquisition, some of those key contacts will be changing. Any such acquisition, however smoothly handed, creates disruption, both for the authors and the editors involved. Most notably, we have offices in both the UK and US already, and so as part of the acquisition, it was necessary for us to relocate the Ashgate business to our own premises (in New York in the US, and Milton Park in the UK).  I would like to reassure you that all Ashgate editors were given the option to come and work for us, with the option for home working, and indeed, all those staff who did express an interest are now working for us. Ultimately some Ashgate staff chose not to take up these options.

The changes brought about by the acquisition do not mean that we will cease to publish in any areas. The business is in a period of transition, and where necessary, we are in the process of recruiting new staff to ensure the lists in question do not suffer. We bought the Ashgate business because we want to expand our publishing program in these areas, so you can rest assured that we are committed to publishing the Ashgate frontlist, and to continuing the good momentum of the lists and series.

Now that things are finally somewhat settled down, we will be redoubling this focus on publishing and on taking the lists forward. We have plans to expand the excellent portfolios developed by Ashgate, publishing, and we are actively seeking new book proposals and series ideas.

Shortly, I will be out of the office for the rest of the year due to the approaching holidays, but I look forward to working with you and will be in contact.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Pickering & Chatto- information needed

I have been contacted by some P&C authors and former editors. I'm posting now because we as an academic community all need much more information about what is happening. Like Ashgate Publishing, independent Academic Publisher Pickering & Chatto was also purchased by Informa in 2015. Pickering & Chatto also specializes in humanities and social sciences with strong lists in Early Modern Studies. However, the situation there is very different. Their website,  now forwards to a Routledge page. The former detailed online catalogue has been posted in a different organizational scheme with much less information present about books. Authors report that their book prices have also been raised to $150 without prior notice and review copies are no longer being sent out. Worst of all,  authors are getting auto-replies and bounced email messages from the editors they are trying to contact and those they've spoken with at Informa offices do not yet have any information about who is now in charge of their books.

Pickering & Chatto seems to have been completely and absolutely absorbed by Routledge. But how can Routledge claim to be able to better market P&C titles to a global audience when these are their first actions?

I am pasting below the notice Informa sent to Pickering & Chatto authors about their acquisition of the press.  If you have additional information about what is happening at P&C that you feel safe making public please send it in.


Dear [name of author]:

 I am writing to let you know that the Taylor & Francis Group have acquired Pickering & Chatto Publishers.
 Taylor & Francis, through its Routledge imprint, is a leading book and journal publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology, Behavioural Sciences and Health, and Built Environment subject areas. Please take a few minutes to visit our website:
We  are confident this will be a positive move for authors. Please be assured that your contractual and other arrangements are unaffected by the change in ownership. All agreements will be honoured in full.  Routledge pride ourselves on the highest standards, as well as a friendly and personable service and we are committed to developing strong and flexible partnerships that offer you many benefits: 
Thorough evaluation of proposals and sample material, with constructive feedback provided by experienced editors and peer reviewers       
Involvement and support from your editorial team throughout the writing and development process
Consultation on design, production, and marketing
High-quality book production
Creation of e-books and other online products to provide content in formats that customers want – print and digital
Global promotion, marketing, sales and distribution for each title supported by our main offices in New York and Florida in the US, in Oxfordshire in the UK,  and in Singapore, New Delhi, and Beijing.
We are now in a transition period where the book titles will be transferred to our systems and details of the books will appear on the Routledge website. However day-to-day business and sales to customers will continue as usual and the books will remain available from Pickering & Chatto.
For now, any questions about the transition should be directed to Rob Langham at
We are delighted to have you as one of our authors and we welcome you to Routledge.
 Yours sincerely,

Jeremy North
Managing Director – Routledge Books
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7017 6197

Tweet your Ashgate Images #TheAshgate40

Ashgate has maintained a commitment to producing illustrated books of the highest quality, at a reasonable price, at a time when very few other publishers are able to do so, and many refuse to even consider submissions with images. Ashgate had a dedicated production process for heavily illustrated books that retained quality while maintaining a reasonable price. Ashgate even allowed authors to publish up to 40 images without a subvention. One frequently cited concern on the petition is whether or not Informa will continue Ashgate's laudable practices for illustrated books.

Worryingly, reports are coming in that authors with manuscripts under review at Ashgate have been told the will have to reduce the number of illustrations.

If you are an Ashgate author whose books included images and you active on twitter, join me in tweeting the illustrations from your books using the hashtag #TheAshgate40

Of course you should  only tweet out those images that are in public domain or that you know you have permission to tweet- we should all know to respect the copyright of image owners and the budget pressures of museums and libraries!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

News Roundup, December 3rd, 2015

almost 100 more signatures have been added to the petition in the last two days. Yesterday, the  Chronicle of Higher Education and Seven Days Vermont covered the Petition and closure of the Burlington office. The Seven Days story includes comments from Ashgate's Seth Hibbard on the history of the Burlington office and excerpts from an email interview with Dr. Julia Wright, Professor of English at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose tweet alerted us all that the Burlington office was about to close. Wright states what many of us know to be true, that Ashgate's reputation was about more than the quality of their books. She writes: "[T]hat is one of the reasons many of us liked working with the publisher — it was an ethical choice as well as a scholarly one."

Today the Bookseller reported that Lund Humphries has relaunched as an independent publishing company after splitting from the Ashgate during the Informa buyout. They have recruited Commissioning editor Val Rose from Ashgate and Eleanor Hooker, formerly marketing manager at Pickering & Chatto.If any of you work in academic publishing or know someone who does, encourage them to hire the talented editors formerly employed by Ashgate & Pickering & Chatto.

I will try to keep this blog and the Facebook page updated with news coverage so please sending me links to stories I may have overlooked.

Finally, keep the letters coming and keep sharing the Petition. If you haven't started yours yet, I set out some guidelines on the Petition. To that you may also wish to add requests for specific information about the future of Ashgate. Informa still has not made any public statement responding to our concerns for the future of Ashgate. We must maintain our momentum.

Thanks! -Rabia

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Letter of Concern from Governing Board and Membership of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America/BSNA

We, the Governing Board of the Byzantine Studies Association of America, the leading professional organization for our scholarly discipline in the United States and Canada, are writing, on behalf of our hundreds of members, to convey our deepest concerns and objections regarding the planned closing on November 24th of Ashgate Publishing’s North American office and the firing of its staff members. We also write to express our gravest concerns about the possible closing in December 2015 of Ashgate’s office in the United Kingdom. As an interdisciplinary organization of art historians, historians, archaeologists, theologians, and literary scholars, we rely on Ashgate's high-quality leadership, innovation, and outstanding monographs and reference works. Few academic presses of such high quality have such an interdisciplinary reach.

For over fifty years Ashgate Press has been a leader in publishing the most groundbreaking scholarship in our discipline, with over two hundred English titles to date produced by the leading academics and university faculty in North America and the United Kingdom. Ashgate's mission is consistently aligned with key elements of our society’s own charter: to foster diverse perspectives, to provide a venue for rising scholars to share their most promising work, and to support collaborative projects. In these efforts and many others Ashgate has excelled, making an indelible and world-recognized mark on global publishing.

The worldwide reputation of Ashgate Press contributes enormously to the intellectual profit and cultural capital of its larger publisher Taylor & Francis, and its parent company Informa. To be counted as a global press which dominates all markets and represents the foremost scholars in the most diverse disciplines, ensures that Taylor & Francis has the breadth and reach to capture any new market as it evolves, and to realize the potential of all new opportunities in its field.

To further strengthen the financial status and profitability of Ashgate Press, it is our recommendation that Taylor & Francis canvass the constituency that Ashgate has served so well for so long. These authors and audiences can certainly offer new, creative ideas to strengthen Ashgate’s economic viability so that it may continue the traditions of excellence that it is known for worldwide.

In closing, we urge you to reinstate Ashgate Publishing’s North American offices and strengthen its United Kingdom offices and we stand ready to partner with you to find ways to preserve and strengthen these outstanding gems in the Taylor & Francis crown of world-renowned publishing houses.

Thank you for your kind consideration, and please be in touch if we can be of further support in your efforts.

Signed on behalf of the Governing Board and Members of the Byzantine Studies Association of America/BSANA,

Sarah Brooks, Ph.D. 2015-2016 BSANA President

Associate Professor of Art History James Madison University
Phone 540-568-6642
Fax 540.568.6598

Original PDF Letters

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

7000th signature on the petition but still many unanswered questions

The Save Ashgate petition has just hit 7000 signatures. This is an overwhelming statement of appreciation for the accomplishments of both the US and the UK offices. We all know that persuading 7000 academics to agree on much of anything, much less getting this many of us to look up from grading and deadlines so late in the semester is just short of miraculous. Three of you have already written lengthy letters on short notice when I know you all are overwhelmed with letter requests from your students, mentees, and colleagues. I want to thank you all for your swift responses to the troubling news of the closure of Ashgate's US office.

When I posted the Save Ashgate petition two weeks ago, the only information I could confirm was that the Vermont office was scheduled to close just before Thanksgiving. I had learned this news from twitter, where a series editor had posted part of an email announcing the closure of the office. I launched the petition after confirming that information but I was not expecting such a quick or powerful response. Unfortunately, two weeks later we still know almost nothing about what is going on with Ashgate, though many of you have come to me with information I cannot confirm. Most troubling is the information that has come to me from multiple confidential sources that Ashgate's UK office is closing at the end of this week. My sense is that this is a closing of a building, not a closing of a press-- I know that the UK editorial staff is still working with authors, including close friends of mine. I also have heard that other authors with books in press or in progress have been transferred to editorial staff at Routledge or T&F. Academics may love gossip but we uniformly dislike being denied information.

Here are some questions of my own and questions raised by those signing the petition:

* Why the secrecy? Why send out an email to authors July 15 announcing a "Change in Ownership" and promising that "we will be back in touch with you to confirm future contact arrangements in due course," then no further updates? I realize that series editors were updated, and that authors with books still in production have been sent the contact information of new editors, but this information has come very late.

* What is Informa's plan for Ashgate? What is happening with the UK office? How many Ashgate staff will be retained? Rumors abound--Informa bought Ashgate to end competion for T&F in visual studies, they wanted to make money on the backlist, they are buying up every independent academic publisher in the UK... Surely they wouldn't spend a reported £20,000,000 just for a backlist?

* Why did the prices of Ashgate books increase so sharply and why weren't authors informed of this? How does this relate to the promise that authors' contractual and other arrangements will be honored in full? If the idea is that only libraries buy Ashgate's books, are they aware that most libraries are facing significant budget shortfalls due to the increased cost of electronic journal packages and databases? Libraries are increasingly cutting back on book purchases. What is the logic behind this price increase?

* Will Ashgate continue to produce high-quality illustrated books? To allow authors up to 40 images without a subvention?
* Will Ashgate continue to uphold the standards of rigorous peer review and remain a viable press for tenure standards?

* How will Informa/T&F market books in North America without the US office? Will they continue to attend North American conferences as Ashgate ? Will they be able to sell books from the backlist without editors around who know the books/series?

* Will Informa continue to respect authors' rights and academic labor as Ashgate has in the past?

* What commitment will there be to continuing to publish in areas Ashgate is strongest in? For instance, visual culture before 1800, crusades studies, medieval history, gender history, early modern history, byzantine studies? More importantly, what commitment might there be for continuing to publish quirky books, specialized books, the work of first time authors, and other projects that might not at first seem commercially viable but are nonetheless academically important? For how long will Ashgate/Informa continue to publish in these areas?

* Are there UK or US laws regarding monopolies that might have some bearing here as Informa purchases more humanities publishers? Or laws regulating for-profit companies making money from publicly funded research (many Ashgate authors receive subventions and grants from government agencies)? The July 15 email to Ashgate authors announced that "Together, Taylor and Francis with Ashgate and Gower are now the largest academic book publisher worldwide in the Humanities and Social Sciences." Informa's website indicates they intend to continue growing. Subsidized university presses cannot compete with them. 

I pose these questions in part because I have been offered "answers" to them in the form of rumors. We as a community know better than to trust press releases, gossip, or 3rd hand information as reliable sources. As we weigh our next responses, it would be good to have real information about the future of Ashgate.
The passionate response this petition has attracted is not just about Ashgate's editorial staff or the books they produce. Whether or not the corporation that has purchased Ashgate can maintain the production standards and strong subject lists Ashgate developed, I hope they understand that an academic press is also about people. The personal relationships built around editors--they are the ones who guide erratic and often-months-late authors through the publication process, who solicit helpful peer reviews in a timely fashion, who talk tipsy academics walking by the table after wine hour to buy a book and assign it to their students too-- they are the ones who persuade scholars to submit their work, and make sure that the books we publish are better than the books we originally wrote.

Thanks for signing. Keep the letters coming! And if you have ideas, suggestions, answers, or information, please get in touch. -Rabia