Publishing a book at the Johns Hopkins Press usually takes about 10 months — and that’s once the book is already finished. Earlier this year, though, the Press tackled something of a rush job: putting together a full, scholarly book in two weeks to go along with the world-class Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America — itself a swift response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which took place a mere two months ago.
According to Greg Britton, editorial director of the Johns Hopkins Press, book publication is a long and careful process — especially in the academic world. “After peer review and acceptance, itself a lengthy process, a book is copyedited, designed, composed, proofread, and readied for printing,” Britton writes. “There is a lot of back-and-forth work between the author and the press. Books are printed, sheets folded, and signatures bound. Finished books are bundled into cartons and shipped to the publisher’s warehouse. Electronic files are also converted for delivery to e-book aggregators—a process that is rarely much faster than making a printed book.”
So how did the Press manage to cobble together a high-quality product in such a short amount of time? By working really hard, it turns out. Giving themselves a deadline of two weeks (!) to gather materials, the Press partnered with the Bloomberg School of Public Health to request drafts of chapters from 29 experts. Then they set about finding editors, indexers, compositors, and a printer who could work fast — and well. “Each participant was told exactly when we would need their efforts and given nearly impossible deadlines,” Britton says. “If they could not agree to those we needed to find someone who could. No weekends or holidays could be spared.” The indexer worked as pages came in; the art director saved a place on the cover just in case Michael Bloomberg was able to deliver his forward in time (he did!).
By working around the clock and testing their own limits, employees of the Press managed to complete the book (in both print and e-book editions) by January 25. Why the rush? Britton himself has the most eloquent response: “In the wake of a disaster as profound as that of Sandy Hook, it is difficult not to feel utterly hopeless about solving the problem of gun violence. At Hopkins, we believe that scholarship can be brought to bear to help solve society’s most complex issues. As a university press, we do this all the time. However, on this one the stakes seem higher and the need for speed crucial. This time, it might even be a matter of life and death.” You can purchase the book from the Johns Hopkins Press here.