Madison Avenue and Bedford Square

The New York branch of the Oxford University Press (OUP) is a giant with a Madison Avenue address. Yale University Press, London, is nestled in a townhouse in sedate Bedford Square. How does each carry on the business of publishing for its parent company?

Both are strongly involved in marketing and distributing books originating in their homelands, and both do a certain amount of original manuscript acquisition and editorial work. Each company's foreign representatives also see themselves as representing and working to uphold the distinguished reputations of their presses.

Edward Barry, head of OUP New York, says, ''Part of our mission is to market. We're trying not only to put a book in print but to make sure it' s widely distributed. We're conscious of having people in marketing who are just as good as the people in the editorial department.''

Publicity Manager Jeffrey Seroy adds, ''We know how to make people excited about books with real substance in them. We have a very strong understanding of what is of interest to the academic reader. . . a person who finds scholarship and 'breakthrough' books exciting.'' Many of the ground-breaking books the New York office has published rely on perspectives only American authors can have. One such book is ''Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy'' (1983), by Jules Tygiel. This succeeds as a valuable document in social history, useful to both American and non-American scholars.

Seroy notes that such books have given OUP ''a very strong presence in our nonfiction marketplace. The Oxford name is magic, but you can't depend on a name to do the work. In fact, the Oxford name demands that we be more creative and accurate.''

A modest brass plate beside the door of No. 13 Bedford Square identifies Yale University Press's London office. In a paneled library, managing director John Nicoll explains his office's role as a foreign base for the Ivy League press. ''What we do in common with other American university presses is to sell and distribute in Britain and Europe - in our case also in Africa, India, and Asia and as far east as Hong Kong - books that have been originated and created in the United States by the home office. What Yale does in addition - and it's the only American university press to do this - is maintain a U.K. publishing office. That is, we augment the books we import from the US by originating around 20 titles a year, or 15 to 20 percent of Yale's list, of our own in London. These are usually written by British academics, with a small proportion written by others.''

Mr. Nicoll notes that he and his staff are comfortable working with authors half a globe away, but he acknowledges that ''by having an editorial office in London we have access to a whole pond of academics that is pretty difficult to fish in from the other side of the Atlantic.

''Because we have a rather more Eurocentric and Anglocentric list, we are relatively bigger and more successful in Europe and Britain than other American university presses.'' he adds, ''Because we do publish indigenous English scholarship, we have a reputation in the book trade of being almost an English publisher, just as Oxford New York is almost an American publisher. We're not seen simply as importers of unsalable monographs about specialized and very foreign concerns.''

Next month we will take a look at Yale's home office.

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