A Day in the Life – Fred Nachbaur

Fredric Nachbaur, Director of Fordham University Press:

Editor’s note: We asked Fred to write about his Day in the Life in 2019, long before the outbreak of Covid19 and the impact it has had on day-to-day life – particularly on traveling, socializing and gathering. We have spoken with him and agreed that this post should go ahead, to hopefully provide a welcome distraction amidst these strange and challenging times we now find ourselves in. Please read this tongue-in-cheek piece with an eye to a future, when we hope to be able to go back to resuming face-to-face interactions which are such an important and critical part of our everyday life. Be safe.

Start of the Day

Alarm goes off at 7:00 and I race to get ready in order to get down to The Smith to meet Stephanie Brehm, author of the recently released America’s Most Famous Catholic (According to Himself): Stephen Colbert and American Religion in the Twenty-First Century. This is her first book and she has lots of questions about what to expect as it hits the marketplace. She’s in town for business and staying with her sister in Brooklyn so I suggested an early breakfast to go over things in person. This book is perfect for Fordham. Colbert came to the university a few years ago to do an event with Cardinal Dolan of NYC and he is an outspoken Catholic comedian. Being the Jesuit University of New York with the oldest Catholic University Press, we are the perfect home for this book. As it turns out, she works at Northwestern and that is where Stephen graduated college. If all goes well, he’ll show a copy of the printed book on his show. We love the cover, which features animation created by an alum of Fordham, and who currently works on staff for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Talk about an in.

Daily Exercise

After a nice breakfast of frisée salad with lardons and poached eggs, and assuaging all of Stephanie’s concerns about sales and marketing, I head over to the West Side Y for my swim lesson. I’ve just taken up this activity in the hopes of tackling a triathlon next year. I’ve been a runner for most of my adult life, including finishing two Marathons, the NYC and Marine Corp races over a decade ago. This is only my second lesson so I’m still getting the hang of things. The pool is gorgeous with these amazing tiles and built-in alcoves with benches reminiscent of an ancient, Roman bath. My trainer, Jesus, is pushing me hard and I feel pretty beat up afterward. I’m using muscles I’ve never used before. I do feel myself improving, though. I think I can do this.

Work Day Meetings

The Press is only two blocks from the Y so it’s an easy jaunt to Martino Hall on the Fordham Lincoln Center campus where the Press is located. We have a 10:00 a.m. transmittal meeting so I want to make sure that I’ve read the supporting documents for my editors’ books and I’m prepared to present my manuscript to the team consisting of managing editor, design and production manager, marketing director, editorial director, and editors. FUP secured the rights to translate the homilies of Pope Francis during his time as Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina. Rizzoli published the book in Italian, and because of generous funding from donors, FUP was able to take on this massive project. We plan to publish it in three volumes and the first just published this October. The second volume will be one of the three manuscripts transmitted this morning.

A board meeting is scheduled immediately following the transmittal meeting so it’s a bit packed today. This one is particularly important because the President and the Provost of Fordham will be in attendance. This is my annual state of the press and I’ll be presenting the annual report. We had a good year capped off by a strong fall with three Empire State Editions releases. My staff has instituted several strategic initiatives, including a new house database and revamped website, so I feel good giving the overview. The administration seems pleased. Once they depart, we discuss the new book projects with the faculty board. I come out alive with only one book rejected. Another requires a third report because the faculty board felt the two reviewers were from similar backgrounds and we might be overlooking some blind spots. This particular book was written by a professor at Fordham. I find that they are tougher on their own. 

Publishing Presentation to Fordham Students 

I agreed to participate in a talk about university press publishing in a publishing theory and practice class taking place on the Rose Hill Campus in the Bronx. I will be joined by Susan Greenfield, author of Sacred Shelter: Thirteen Journeys of Homelessness and Healing. These students have no idea about how a UP works compared to a commercial press. I emphasize the importance of peer review and hand out The Best Practices in Peer Review put out by AUPresses. Susan and I explain the publishing process from proposal to board approval to production to marketing and promotion. It’s a lively discussion and the students ask great questions. We decided that we should take this show on the road. 

Ram Van to Lincoln Center

There is a shuttle between campuses so I hustle to get over to the Ram Van stop on time and make sure I don’t wind up in the last row. It could be dangerous to my health. If the driver hits a pothole, I could be catapulted out of my seat causing my head to bang the ceiling. It’s an unpleasant experience. The drivers are students so it’s always hit or miss on how treacherous the journey will be. The conversations between students are hilarious. They have no clue how to be discreet. There used to be a blog by a former student called “Overheard on the Ram.” Brilliant! Today the driver is playing some chill wave music — Toro y Moi — so the ride is super relaxed and the conversation, thankfully, is kept to a minimum. I catch a few zzzs.

Pick up New Hat

I get a call from World Hats on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side that my new autumn lid is ready for pick-up. Will I have time to do this today? I hesitate for a moment then decide to jump on the D train and head on down there. I’d like to have it for my plans tonight. I chose the Inwood Hemp Fedora constructed of firm finish, hemp straw and features a teardrop crown, bound edge brim, sheepskin interior sweatband, and grosgrain hat band. Perfecto. I pay the shop keeper and happily make my way back uptown.

End of Day

I barely make it back for our production meeting but I slip into the conference room as the production manager gives us an update on schedules. Everything seems to be chugging along so no emergencies. I let out a sigh of relief.

I have an hour to check email before heading off to meet Mary Beth Jared and Ellen Chodosh from NYU Press, and Gill Berkowitz, former director of Ohio University Press, who is in town visiting her son. We decided that we should grab a bite at Lincoln Ristorante and partake in their renowned Negronis. So much fun catching up with my favorite folks in the industry, two of whom have seen some late nights with me in Frankfurt. 

Book Launch

I bid farewell to my friends and head over Grand Central to take the Metro North to Yonkers so I can attend the book launch and opening exhibition for The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art at the Hudson River Museum. I meet up with my marketing director, Kate O’Brien, and we have fun catching up with old friends, viewing the cool paintings, and catching a ride on a crescent moon. 

Only in New York, kids!

With 30 years of experience in book publishing, the last 15 at university presses, Fred Nachbaur has been director of Fordham University Press since 2009.