Truman State University Press was established in 1986 to publish peer-reviewed research and literature for the scholarly community and the reading public, originally focusing on sixteenth-century European history. In the first decades, the Press also published titles on various topics written by authors who were connected to the University. By the mid 1990s, the Press had become well known for its high-quality titles, topics, and authors in the Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies series (later called the Early Modern Studies series), a premier venue for for interdisciplinary studies in the Renaissance and Reformation era. In xxxx the series name was changed to Early Modern Studies. In total, the Press published xx titles in these two series. At the same time, the Press was narrowing its publishing program to focus on topics related to Missouri and the midwestern region, and to poetry, which was published under the New Odyssey imprint. In 1997, the Press launched the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, an annual award for the best collection of poetry in English named in honor of native Missourian T. S. Eliot.
Press published important works on the American Midwest and selected topics in American history/American studies, including the Truman Legacy Series. TSUP’s literature publications include poetry in the New Odyssey Series, a Contemporary Nonfiction Series, and a literary journal, Chariton Review. The Notable Missourians series for young readers and a series on Education and the Liberal Arts were launched in 2014 and published. The Young Voices of Missouri project, begun in 2016 as a special issue of Chariton Review, published the work of high school students in Missouri.
In 2017, in light of significant challenges for public higher education institutions in Missouri, including continuing cuts to core appropriations, Truman State University began the process of phasing out operations. Recognizing the significant disruption that other, more abrupt, university press shutdowns have caused to authors and readers alike, TSUP staff worked closely with University administration to create a plan for a gradual shutdown process that would respect the rights and needs of our authors and customers, and would allow us time to assist authors in making other arrangements for their books.
Our first actions were to help authors find other publishers to take over projects that were under contract but not yet in process, move the Early Modern Studies series to Penn State University Press (effective Jan. 2018), and discontinue new publications in the areas of American Midwest and contemporary nonfiction. Our last new titles in American Midwest and contemporary nonfiction came out in 2017, as well as the last books in our Notable Missourians series for young readers. In 2018, we published the last winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and the last issue of Chariton Review (a combined 2019 issue) was issued in 2020.
Throughout the shutdown process, TSUP retained a part-time skeleton staff and continued to distribute active titles while working on reverting rights to authors, starting with older or less-active titles and working forward. As we notified authors that their title was going out of print and rights were reverting to them, we also worked with them to dispose of remaining stock and offered our assistance to make other, appropriate arrangements for their work. Our last titles went out of print at the end of 2020 and authors received their final royalty reports and payments in early 2021.
Closing a university press is never a welcome occurrence, and all too often, the shutdown comes as a surprise to staff and authors alike. While we recognize that our approach to a shutdown may have been confusing, with a timeline that may have looked indecisive, we hope that our authors, customers, and others will understand that our plan was based on a desire to keep our authors’ titles available as long as possible and to allow us time to provide assistance to authors during the shutdown process. The phased shutdown also allowed us time to close down the business in an orderly fashion, settling all outstanding accounts, auditing royalty reports before issuing a final check, and organizing and archiving files, in addition to the other myriad tasks.
Truman State University was the smallest university in the United States to have a university press, and our press was small, but for many of us who worked at TSUP over the years, the Press was not just a job, it was our passion. We loved working with our authors and felt that they were part of our publishing family. Our interns and student workers became our friends, and we often kept in touch long after they graduated.