Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Mark Littmann

Committee Members

Dorothy Bowles, James Crook


This study examines the changing role of acquisitions editors within university presses. The various factors that contribute to the changing role of acquisitions editors were examined through personal interviews of twenty-nine acquisitions editors from university presses across the United States. Twenty questions were presented to the editors on editorial responsibilities, book marketing, electronic publishing, education and job training, and author/editor relationships. This study concentrated on those questions, as well as on the evolving role of acquisitions editors when affected by variables such as library acquisitions, financial trends, electronic publishing, and rules for professorial tenure that affect changes in scholarly publishing.

The study concluded that acquisitions editors still gain most of their training through job experience, although many more outlets exist now for education than were offered twenty years ago. The editors indicated that business and financial training would be helpful because of the constraints placed on scholarly publishing due to decreased university subsidies and declining sales to libraries. When acquiring manuscripts, editors use a network of scholars and authors who serve as expert advisers when evaluating scholarship in particular fields. The scholarship acquired by acquisitions editors should support the press’ mission to publish the best research available.

Acquisitions editors must consider the manuscript’s potential sales, implying its appeal to the broadest possible audience, when deciding whether to publish, thus affecting the types of manuscripts they acquire. In order to recover revenue lost in publishing traditional, narrowly focused monographs and from a decrease in university subsidy, editors must balance their lists with monographs that reach the broadcast possible audience of scholars and with trade books that will reach a general audience. Most editors compete with other university presses for the most desirable scholarship by allowing multiple submissions from senior scholars and from those facing a tenure deadline. The editors acknowledge that electronic publishing may become a foundation of scholarly publishing in the future; however, currently there is not a high demand for electronic books, nor is there an established system to regulate the purchase of a book placed on the Internet. Some presses are experimenting with various electronic procedures, while others are waiting for the question to be resolved.

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