From a young age, Abby Collier, a 2003 English-major-wielding Allegheny alumna, knew she wanted to be involved in book publishing. Having descended from three generations of printers (her great-grandfather founded the Collier Printing Company in 1902, and her father took over management of the company in 1972), she essentially grew up around a print shop and absolutely loved it.
Holding tight to that strong love of books and publishing, after graduating from Allegheny, Abby interned with the Feminist Press in New York City, a press that Professor Emerita Laura Quinn helped Abby discover through a class on African-American women writers. “[The Feminist Press] was a great place to learn more about publishing, and an opportunity to work on books that really mattered. I lived in East Harlem that summer and met some wonderful people, including Florence Howe.”
After interning with the Feminist Press, Abby earned her master’s degree in Editorial Studies at Boston University. Though she landed her first job in publishing at the Harvard Common Press in Boston, she soon relocated to Chicago, which was “a huge leap of faith” for her. Moving to Chicago gave Abby the opportunity to work at the University of Chicago Press for over five years, assisting editors in the sciences group of the books division:
I interviewed for jobs before I relocated, but it’s tough when you’re competing with local candidates. So I moved to Chicago without a job, on a whim. I wanted to get back to the Midwest, to be closer to my family… I started working at Encyclopædia Britannica in downtown Chicago, copyediting encyclopedias, but before long I was eager to get back to books. I set my sights on the University of Chicago Press, the largest university press in the country. I was determined and persistent, applying for any open position in the book and journal divisions, which are always flooded with applicants, so I feel very fortunate that someone finally pulled my name out of the hat.
Today, Collier works at the University of Pittsburgh Press and is responsible for acquiring new books in the history and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine divisions. She is also responsible for the press’s Culture, Politics, and Built Environment series. Working for the press also requires her to travel to academic conferences all over the country, meet with potential authors, manage the peer review process, negotiate contracts, and oversee the production of projects from beginning to end, or from manuscript to bound book. Abby believes she eventually may take after her father and “invest in a small letterpress and do some printing of [her] own.”
When asked about how her BA in English has helped her, Abby replied, “The writing and critical thinking skills I developed as an English major have been invaluable to my career. They’ve enabled me to engage with subjects in which I have no formal training or background and to communicate effectively in the world of scholarly publishing.”
Thanks for taking the time to tell your story, Abby!
- Was the editor-in-chief of the Campus newspaper
- Wrote for the Allegheny magazine and copyedited Through All the Years: A History of Allegheny College, by Jonathan Helmreich, the college historian.