Acquiring Journals: A Q&A with Journals Publisher Bill Breichner

The Journals Division recently announced the addition of three journals to the JHUP catalog. We took this opportunity to sit down with Bill Breichner, Journals Publisher, to take a look at the overall picture of bringing new journals to the Press.

The announcement each year of new acquisitions must be an important moment for the Press. Is it a relief to finalize all the work which goes into these new titles?

I would characterize it as satisfying more than a relief. It also starts the arduous process of integrating the new titles into the program. That’s really when the heavy lifting begins and the Press is fortunate to have such an outstanding Journals staff. But getting back to the original question, growing the program is critical and that process becomes more challenging. The pool of available, quality journals is dwindling and for those that remain, there is much more competition. So yeah, now that I think of it, there is some relief especially since adding titles shows up on my performance review each year!

Each of the three journals added for 2013 (Classical WorldLeviathan, and The CEA Critic) covers a field which lines up with some other JHUP journals, specifically, classics, single author studies, and literature. How important is this when considering what journals to add to our collection?

Very. It’s actually the first decision point when considering adding a new title. It’s unlikely that an association or journal that publishes in, for instance, geology would even approach us anyway, but a good fit with our books program and, more importantly, Project MUSE are important criteria. To borrow from an infamous line, if it doesn’t fit, we can’t commit.

These new titles all have a number of volumes under their belt. Over the past few years, we have added some brand-new journals to the list. Is that kind of balance important for the Press?

I’d say it’s more of a reality than a strategy with the exception of home-grown journals. Several years ago, we did make publishing more Hopkins-edited and Press-owned journals a goal and we’ve started three in the past five years. Those were the first in many decades. Launching new journals is an investment. The time frame for a new title establishing a sustainable foundation used to be five to seven years. That probationary period can now extend to a decade. However, launching a new title allows the Press to own the title. I’ve always thought the term acquisitions was bit misleading in our environment. Most of the established journals we add to the program are owned by an association or nonprofit. They contract with JHUP to provide publishing services and are free to go elsewhere once the term is completed. We have truly acquired or purchased only a few titles over the past decade or so.

What is the hardest part of acquiring new titles?

I’d point to two challenges. 1) Selecting the appropriate business model for that title or association. We publish 75 titles with 75 different models. Very seldom does an editor or association approach with a firm idea about how an agreement might look from a financial viewpoint, and I often have difficulty obtaining the data necessary for me to produce a comprehensive proposal. 2) The impact on our staff. My colleagues in Journals know that we must seize opportunities when they are presented but it’s important that we have the resources to meet our obligations. Thankfully, the Press is committed to growth.

What can we expect going forward regarding future acquisitions?

New journals will probably be a mix of smaller publications and start-ups. Regardless, our goal is to add pages to the catalog. It’s a relentless march to 100.