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What is a “book subvention”?

A book subvention is funding provided to the publisher to facilitate the publication of a book.

Authors are not required to have a subvention in order to have their books published with a university press.

If the press knows that a subvention is available, it can help to make a book with a more narrow projected readership or special features, such as color images, more feasible. If you know you have such funds available, we recommend your mentioning it early in the process, in your book proposal or initial conversations with your editor.

Among other uses, a subvention might be applied by the publisher directly to the book’s editing and production costs, used to keep the volume’s list price down, drawn on to pay a professional indexer to create the book’s index, or put toward particular marketing initiatives. The two main sources of publishing subventions are grants from various institutions and the author’s home university. Not all universities, and not all departments within universities, make publication subventions available to their faculty, but some do, and it is worth asking about the possibility. Such subventions, when they are available, are usually administered either on a departmental basis or through the provost’s office, though sometimes a university will have partnered with a foundation or other entity to make such funding available (in such an instance, it would still likely be useful to begin your inquiries about the possibility with your department chair or the provost’s office). Sometimes subventions are earmarked for first books or for junior faculty. And sometimes there are restrictions on what the funding can be used for, such as barring use for marketing and promotion, or mandating that it be put toward production costs.

Various programs have been set up recently that provide subvention-like funds that are specifically intended to make monographs open access. If you are interested in publishing your work OA, such programs as TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem; and SHMP (The Sustainable History Monograph Pilot, may be worth looking into.

—NYU Press, November 2020