Partnerships in Publishing: An Interview with SAGE Acquisition Editors


During our 53+ years of publishing, we here at SAGE have grown our journals portfolio to include more than 1,100 journals, of which more than 400 are published in partnerships with societies and associations. Almost 200 titles publish under a Gold Open Access model, whilst the rest of our portfolio offers Open Access options.

SAGE’s portfolio continues to grow at a strong pace. So, we thought we would take a moment to interview two of our Acquisition Editors, Shelley Withers and Jon Speilburg, to get their perspective on SAGE’s growth, learn a bit more about their roles, and better understand our partner societies.

 Can you tell us about your roles at SAGE and how you contribute to developing the journals portfolio?

Shelley: As Acquisition Editors, our role is to grow our publishing program by partnering with leading scholarly societies and organizations on leases, purchases, and new launches. The right fit between our organizations is extremely important, so much of our time is spent speaking with Editors, Executive Directors, and society leadership about their goals and how SAGE can help achieve them.  As an independent publisher, with academic integrity at the heart of our organization, we often find that our values are closely aligned with those of our editors and society partners.

What do you hear most often from societies in terms of what they are looking for?

Jon: Most societies I speak with are looking to take their publications to another level. They’ve done an excellent job publishing high quality research and engaging with their members, but don’t have the resources to keep up with their competition or reach new audiences. They are also looking for a publishing partner to help them navigate the ever-evolving world of scholarly communication, with new innovations, technologies and products driving rapid changes in research and education. SAGE can use our expertise in these areas alongside our knowledge of global academic markets to help drive impact for journals, which in turn helps societies provide their members with an excellent experience, both as authors and readers.

You mentioned that you help drive impact. Can you tell us how impact is measured at SAGE?

Shelley: There are many ways in which the research we publish makes an impact – not just on the academic community, but also on policy and practice in areas from education to criminal justice to health.  SAGE is continuously looking at new ways to capture how that impact is made. One way we can study the impact of our articles is through Altmetric. We can look at a single journal or all SAGE journals and see how many times they have been cited in the news media, patents, social media, and on policy documents. In looking at articles published in SAGE journals over the past 10 years, we can see that more than 10,000 SAGE articles have been cited in policy documents.

Jon:  Every society is different. Different societies have different goals for their journals and each journal has its own way of measuring impact. It could be through citations in journals or policy documents, by measuring usage of our articles, or by looking at member engagement increases. Most society journals were founded as a mechanism for their members to communicate new findings to each other, so continued growth in member interaction—submissions, participation on editorial boards, etc.—is an easy way to see impact.

What tips would you give to societies who are trying to get the most out of their publishing partners? 

Shelley: Communication is key to success. Societies should actively engage with their publishing partners to share strategic plans and goals, which will evolve over time. Your publisher will be better able to develop marketing and digital strategies to support your goals if you share this information.

Jon: Thinking back over my career, the most successful publishing relationships have always been true partnerships. What’s been great about being at SAGE is that, in an industry filled with consolidation, despite our growth we’re still able to focus on keeping our service levels extremely high. I’m able to work so closely with my societies that it can sometimes be difficult to tell where the society ends and SAGE begins.


Shelley Withers, Senior Acquisitions Editor: With 27 years of publishing experience, Shelley is an accomplished senior publishing professional skilled in financial planning, print and electronic project management, new product development, and leadership. Before joining SAGE 11 years ago, she served as Executive Editor for Oxford University Press and managed and acquired journals for LWW and W.B. Saunders Company. Shelley is also a founding member of the North American Chapter of the Association of Learned and Professional Scholarly Publishers (ALPSP) and serves on the Program Committee for the Society of Scholarly Publishing. Email Shelley at [email protected].

Jon Speilburg, Acquisitions Editor II: Jon works in partnerships and acquisitions in the STM journals program. He has 14 years of journals publishing experience, having held positions at the Michigan State University Press, Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, and Cambridge University Press, prior to joining SAGE Publishing in 2014. Email Jon at [email protected].

This entry was posted in SAGE Connection and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply