Muslim Americans in the Military is an unusual book from IU Press. While many of our books are in the publication pipeline for years, this title came about in just a matter of weeks. Here, acquisitions editor Ashley Runyon gives a behind the scenes look at what it took to make this book a reality.
By Ashley Runyon
My first “real” job after graduating college was as a second-shift designer at a newspaper. Every night, the newsroom was loud and bustling as the staff worked to finish the metro edition of the newspaper as fast as possible. Editors and writers would yell over the TVs and radios that were playing the latest news and sports, race down hallways to deliver updates, and toss edits over each other’s desks. It was loud, chaotic, and overwhelming. And absolutely thrilling.
Several years ago when I became an acquiring editor at a university press, I thought my days of fast-paced and high profile publishing were just a memory.
I’m glad I was wrong.
When I joined Indiana University Press earlier this year as their new trade editor, I was lured by the promise of acquiring books on contemporary and important topics. I'd recently had my most thrilling experience as an acquisitions editor. After the Republican National Convention, conversation swarmed around prejudice against Muslims across the nation, many of whom had given their service and their lives to help fight for their country. At IUP’s internal open-forum meeting to brainstorm new projects, the idea of a book on the history of Muslim military members was conceived. After a frantic search for an author who was knowledgeable on the current state and historical significance of Muslims serving in the U.S. military, I was elated when just two days later I finalized a contract with Edward Curtis, a leading expert on the Muslim experience in America.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind as the author worked furiously to get the book out quickly and our team at Indiana broke traditional rules for publication, speeding up editorial, design, production, and marketing to accommodate this very special project in time for the Presidential election. From conception to release, Muslim Americans in the Military was produced in just over two months.
For those working in academic publishing, we have been accustomed to long schedules, tedious routines, and strict internal protocols. These practices have been standard in the academic world for decades, but in the new age of social media where consumers have access to information within minutes, we must think of new and innovative ways to keep ourselves relevant and in the modern conversation.
While a two-month publishing schedule isn’t feasible for every book, open-minded business practices that encourage fresh perspectives are critical for the modern publisher. The past few months have been energizing for me as my colleagues have inspired and supported me to think past my previous comfort zones and explore other possibilities. I encourage my fellow academic publishers to take this personal journey as well. Working on such a poignant and hotly debated book was the most rewarding and invigorating experience I have had as an editor.