30 publishing years young

by on 24th May 2017
30 publishing years young This year Australian Academic Press turns 30, and as its proud founder, editor, and publisher I was very grateful to recently receive the George Robertson Award for over 30 years distinguished service to the Australian publishing profession.It’s been a great ride and I hope to keep contributing through my personal time and through the work of my press for many years to come. But how exactly did I become a publisher? When I look back on it, the path wasn’t always straight. As the son of a daily newspaper journalist, I was introduced to the world of publishing early and began learning the craft of writing and editing while still at school. I took first year journalism at the University of Queensland but in fact had enrolled to become a computer programmer like my big sister (back in the days of Fortran programming on punch cards). Why I did this I am still not sure! I think that maybe despite a love of Biology at high school and finding English an easy subject I didn’t see a way to combine these two things into a job description. In any case, at least I was enrolled in a science degree and that meant I had range of subjects to choose from including the science of the mind — psychology. That was something totally new to me (back then it was a not a subject ever covered in a school syllabus) and despite misspelling the word for the first semester I studied it, I found it fascinating and soon dropped the computer science subjects to concentrate on psychology.I eventually qualified as a psychologist in 1984 but had grown weary of study, having spent an extra couple of years as a postgraduate trying to decide which branch of psychology I was going to make a career of. The jobs market wasn’t great for graduate psychologists then and so I decided to try my hand at freelance science writing instead. After all, I loved psychology and there was lots of great practical stuff about the profession that could be written in a less academic form. Surely I could create my own ‘perfect’ job.  I didn't. Freelance writing has always been a tough gig. So, if I couldn’t get my articles into press why not start my own? Granted, I was living under the roof of my parents at the time and had various university tutoring and research assistant jobs. I didn’t have to find a job right away. I was also young and naive as we all must be at that time and so figured it couldn’t be too hard to figure out how to publish a magazine.So that’s what I did. I started my own magazine. I targeted it toward working psychologists and psychology students because I wasn’t interested in faddish ‘pop’ psychology derived from a dubious evidence base. I thought as a profession, we could all benefit from an informative entertaining read on what was happening in Australian psychology.The magazine was well received by the profession but struggled to pay its way. It was a lot of fun to publish even though it took a lot of hours and often saw me up until the early hours before dawn banging away on copy or marking up layout boards. It taught me typesetting, page layout, and print production as I wrote and edited most of the copy for 12 issues on my trusty Mac SE with its tiny B/W screen. I also sold some advertisements, which I hated doing, and of which there were not nearly enough of to keep the publication afloat.For extra income I began using the publishing skills I had developed for the magazine and the university and professional sources I had cultivated to also produce newsletters, other small magazines, society journals and academic books – some on contract for other people, some under the AAP imprint. To paraphrase Dorey from ‘Finding Nemo’, I just kept publishing.More than 30 years later I am still at it and have shelves full of AAP books and journals and lots of fond memories of working with many talented psychologists and scientist authors, fellow publishing colleagues, and numerous creative and professional staff, all of whom have helped contribute to Australian Academic Press’s success.So, thanks to everyone who has joined me on the ride. I look forward to continuing.Cheers,Stephen May