The Status of the Press Matters, Still!

A debate has simmered on the comment thread to my post, Does the Status of the Press Matter, in recent weeks, on the question: is Palgrave MacMillan a press with high enough status for a US R1 tenure case?  My position has always been, based on my years at two R1 universities (in a total of four departments due to joint appointments in Anthropology and East Asian Languages and Cultures): don’t count on it.  While as far as I remember this was not put to the test during my years in the academy, I do know that I was told point blank that anything less than a major university press was thin ice for my own tenure case. This was also the explicit message I received from the Associate Dean for the Humanities who worked with me when I was Department Head, handling my first tenure cases.

In other words, a monograph out with Palgrave MacMillan or another reputable and well known non-university press of that ilk was not an absolute torpedo to a tenure case in the humanities and social sciences at an R1, but it was a definite weaker link.

I believe that these presses would be absolutely fine for tenure cases at lower ranked institutions — R2s, teaching colleges, and so on.  But not at R1s or Ivy Leagues.

And then–the field may play a role: Brill, for example, is a strong press in some humanities fields (art history springs to mind), but not others. You must know your field context.

So the status of the press must be evaluated for every tenure candidate’s individual case: what is your institution? what is your field and subfield? what are your departmental and campus expectations and standards?

Understand that the principle here is the rigor of the peer review process.  The top presses will subject every manuscript to a lengthy and exhaustive peer review process and will not bend on its outcomes—if the reviewers say that X and Y are invalid scholarly claims, they will not publish the book until X and Y are rectified.  The process is long and time consuming and grueling.

By contrast, many of the lesser presses will do either no peer-review process, or a relatively truncated peer review process, in which the mss is sent out to academic reviewers, but the standards are lax, and most things will pass with a few general critiques.  The process is shorter and easier.  As a result, as one commenter below says, these presses  “seemingly publish anything that is sent their way….” and “show signs of poorly digested junior rank scholarship–as if they don’t really have to worry about trying to sell the books and so don’t demand quality.”

There is no free lunch here. If you go with a lesser press that is known to have lax peer review standards and a quick timeline, your book will not achieve a top-rank reputation or value for purposes of the job market or tenure.  You and your mother may be thrilled to death to see your dissertation in print, but everyone else is making judgments about it based on the status and rank of the press that put it out.

If you observe that some famous senior people in your field are publishing with these presses, do NOT assume that this guarantees they are safe for you, just starting your career.  Many senior academics publish with lesser presses late in their career because they already have established reputations and don’t want or need the hassle of an extended peer-review process.  The presses often lavish them with perks and series editorships and various vanity opportunities.  You, however, have no such luxury. You NEED the extended peer-review process to demonstrate that you are deserving of a place at the table.

Nobody can produce a definitive ranking of academic presses that can account for every single field and subfield and institutional bias.  There is no shortcut to you doing the work of thoroughly investigating your own field and subfield, asking hard questions of trusted senior advisors re the ranking of presses, and then making a conscious and intentional choice for yourself about how hard you want to work and how much time you want to spend.  If you are aiming for a career at the R1 level, know that anything other than the top presses is risky.

Below I will paste some of the comments I received about this question, to help young academics understand the scope of opinion on this matter, and judge for themselves where they consider submitting their manuscripts for publication.

As for Palgrave Macmillan, in my field they’re not the same as a university press (or, I should say, a top university press). I’m an historian, and I work on early modern Europe, and there are only a handful of presses that are actually top presses: Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Chicago, and formerly, Johns Hopkins (they’re moving out of early modern). There are other presses that publish in my field, U Toronto, Duke, Penn State, Penn, California, Stanford, for example, but they’re not as good in my view. The private presses can likewise be ranked: Ashgate is among the best, if only because they publish a lot in early modern history/Renaissance studies.

Palgrave, Routledge, Rowan and Littlefield, Scholars  Press, and even Brill are all minor players, who seemingly publish anything that is sent their way–then charge exorbitant amounts for it.

Price point is something that scholars don’t often take into consideration, but they should: a book like my most recent that is priced at $35 will be purchased by individuals, while something priced at $100 (or above!) will only be purchased by institutions (and typically only those with subscriptions or standing orders). For example, Brill’s books are outrageously priced, and they show signs of poorly digested junior rank scholarship–as if they don’t really have to worry about trying to sell the books and so don’t demand quality. Routledge and Palgrave are the same–although they publish less in my field. I was approached by Palgrave to put together a “Handbook”, and I declined when they told me that the organized volume (which is what this was intended to be) would result in my getting “one copy” of the book. I told them, much to their displeasure, that by paying peanuts, they would only get monkeys. Those monkeys, increasingly, are junior scholars who need to build their resumes, and British academics who need–desperately–to publish in order to boost their department’s rankings on the RAE. It’s a sad state of affairs, but the private publishers, esp. Routledge, Palgrave, and Brill, live off of it.

Full Prof, History, R1

My first book was with Brill and it was more than enough for tenure (2014) at George Fox University. My field is religious studies and I consider Palgrave a major publisher but not quite as good as a university press.

Tenured Prof, George Fox,  a private Christian liberal arts college

I guess there are a bunch of important things here: discipline, country where one is employed (eg, US versus UK), specific regional fields, but for the most part university presses almost always trump the private academic presses. This matters most at the time of tenure decisions. If you want to do a Palgrave book in cultural anthropology, do it as a post-tenure book. That said, I think that if a department wants to tenure someone, they will find a way to do so. And in that case, it doesn’t matter if their book comes out from University of California Press or Berghahn.

Consider what I call The Book Room Test: at the annual conference of your discipline, what are the publisher’s booths you do not miss going to? And what are the ones that if you don’t have time to go to their booth, you can maybe just grab a catalogue and (perhaps) look at it later….?

Full Prof, Anthro, R1

A negative R1 tenure review letter I have seen tells the candidate, “Your book was your dissertation that was essentially neither peer reviewed nor edited, and was published by what is in many academic circles considered a non-reputable publisher.” [this publisher is one of the ones listed in the first comment above.]

Karen’s personal experience

“I encourage you to warn folks about Left Coast Press. In a recent campus visit I named it among four presses that are interested in my work (the others were all university presses) and was warned – by a department chair where I was interviewing – that LCP is considered undependable because only some of their books go through peer review or editing, and the press is not transparent about which ones those are (or aren’t). I always knew that LCP was a para-academic press, but this insight was great enough that I removed the mention from my cover letter (and rehearsed interview answers).”

A client on the job market, in social sciences

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The Status of the Press Matters, Still! — 37 Comments

  1. Presses’ reputations fluctuate, and one hopes that review panels will actually pay some attention to the intrinsic merits of books. In my field, the allegedly “top” university presses have published some very insignificant books of late. Additionally, there can be a world of difference between the different private presses; one comment above lists vanity presses that call for camera-ready submissions (i.e., not to be subjected to any review in-house) alongside more reputable private publishers.

    It’s worth mentioning the differences in the UK system, since a previous comment raises it. First, the latest iteration of what one comment calls “RAE” was “REF”. An edited collection counts for nothing in these governmental assessments of faculty publishing, so it is badly inaccurate to suggest that the UK system encourages junior scholars to undertake this kind of work. It may be, in fact, that these scholars misunderstand the system.

    Additionally, in many disciplines in the UK, private presses can be better regarded than some North American university presses that are very reputable domestically, but not quite academic brand-names overseas. An advantage of the UK’s governmental assessments of research is that someone on the relevant panel will ultimately sit down and read every submitted publication to decide on its merits.

  2. I’ve been following this thread because I just signed a contract with Palgrave, and took a while to make that decision, reading this and a number of other online pieces as I did so. I’m on the TT at a teaching LAC and had to decide between a contract at Palgrave (which will be more than fine for tenure at my institution) and an offer of full review at a big R1 press, which arrived just after the contract did. Ultimately I decided on Palgrave for a number of reasons, though I do get that they are not as prestigious as the other potential option would have been.

    A couple of thoughts: first, what’s your rationale for elevating Routledge into the top rank but collecting Palgrave with Ashgate, etc.? Other folks equate Palgrave and Routledge. It seems as if a lot of the commenters make a similar move, but with different presses every time — oh Ashgate is good but Routledge, Palgrave, Brill all suck, or, oh, Brill is good, but not the others. FWIW I never skip the Palgrave booth at conferences because they publish very well in my subfield, which is the study of middlebrow lit.

    Second, it’s simply not true that Palgrave accept everything they get and publish it in undigested form. The academic wiki has lots of accounts of things being rejected by Palgrave. My experience was of a single peer reviewer (not two), but it was done by one of the leading scholars in my subfield — anonymously, but she reached out to me after it was done — and was far from a rubber stamp.

    Third, I think it’s important to separate the practical question — will an academic trade press get me a job or tenure at an R1? A: maybe, but don’t count on it, as you say — from questions of the value of a monograph in the abstract. In other words, one needs to sort out (I certainly did) whether you’re really thinking about your career or whether you’re fussing with your mean academic superego. Sure, the review process at major UPs takes longer and is perhaps more rigorous, but that doesn’t equate to quality in a straightforward way. The top end of the academy resembles a mean high-school clique in lots of ways — what’s in and what’s out often has a lot to do with the preferences and anxieties of who is in the clique at the time. As everyone knows, it can be a toxic atmosphere.

    I went to grad school at Chicago — and, sure, I recognize these views of second-tier academic books as “sloppy seconds,” the work of “monkeys,” etc. from that time. I don’t know that they’re healthy views though. The same professors tended to think the same kind of thing about *any* kind of work that wasn’t publishing scholarship with top presses and journals — K12 teaching, working in publishing, writing novels or poetry, adjuncting, writing for nonacademic publications like the TLS or the LARB or for the web — all of this kind of thing was “sloppy seconds” too — which I think is a big problem with some parts of R1 culture.

    • Everything you write here is correct. My agenda in the post, as in all my writing and client work at The Professor Is In, is that every job-seeker understand EXACTLY what the benefits/risks are to any particular decision, and not proceed in ignorance or a starry-eyed idealism. Ie, “as long as my ideas are OUT there, that’s all that matters! They’ll be recognized and rewarded!” Um, no. They will be be more recognized and rewarded–or, recognized and rewarded in particular ways– if out with Press A rather than with Press B… Is academia cliquey? Of course! Is it mean? Of course! Make sure you understand that and proceed accordingly, in light of your own career goals and life values.

      • Thanks Karen —
        I also think, though — and, again, I struggle with this myself — that the hyperbole that conflates “worth less” and “worthless” is unhelpful. You move really fast above from arguing that a trade academic book is perfectly good for certain institutions and careers to implying that only you and your mum will be impressed by anything except a book with a major UP.

        Again, I know that there are people who think that anything other than a top press is beneath their notice, and I know that many of these people are gatekeepers to the top of the profession — but I expect my book to be read and appreciated by the colleagues I have worked with on essay collections, journals, and at conferences, many of whom have also published with trade academic presses and whose work I read and learn from. R1 and Ivy folks are not the only smart people in academia.

        • I thoroughly endorse your comments here, Tom – which are very moderate and sensible. I think that sometimes people who obsess over publication venue are really expressing a set of personal anxieties / prejudices which are divorced both from the quality of the work itself, and indeed from the mechanisms of the publishing industry.

          One issue is that there are fewer and fewer publishers of any kind interested in (inevitably low sale) academic books. To reject some of them out-of-hand is perverse and self-defeating. This has practical implications whcih are also self-perpetuating: precisely because ‘everyone’ wants to publish with the ‘top’ presses, they are often overwhelmed and operate in inefficient ways. We’ve all heard stories about presses sitting on manuscripts for years before deciding against – and more we become obsessed with publishing in a narrower and narrower range of places, the more we artificial problems create for ourselves. It would be wonderful if the ‘top’ university presses had the capacity to publish every half decent book proposal they receive, but they don’t – and poor quality of work is only one reason why something might be rejected. If that happens, what should an author be doing? Giving up? I know several people who have calculated that it’s more time-efficient to publish with a commercial or smaller university press, than to waste time being given the run-around by one of the big boys and to endure more years without a book on the CV. The smaller presses and the commercial ones are there to make money sure, but they also disseminate scholarship – thei raison d’etre of our careers. To argue that these presses are third rate is effectively to argue that that scholarship they publish should not exist at all and should never have been attempted.

          The other thing that annoys me about this issue is the blithe acceptance of the worst kind of snobbery that it involves. I met someone once who assured me that he only ever read work published by Cambridge, which presumably meant that he felt that Oxford etc. were somehow third rate. One had the feeling that he was simply inventing a rationale to reduce his reading obligations. Now of course his stance was absurd, but isn’t a million miles from the ‘judge-a-book-by-its-publisher’ method that wouldn’t pass muster in a basic undergrad methodology course. The longer we allow views like this to perpetuate, the longer we strangle scholarship in sets of arcane and ill-evidenced assertions. We can all blame ‘the system’ – but it’s one that we have effectively created and maintain for reasons that I find increasingly hard to fathom on a logical level.

          All too often people who are bothered by this issue unduly are engaged in ego-stroking, or ‘old money’ nostagia. This is surely the reason why the two ‘top’ presses in the UK are identical with the two oldest universities – there’s a (un)healthy dose of good old-fashioned class politics at work here, I fear. And all too often simple jealousy is a factor. A typical scenario might be someone who envies a high-sales commercial book by a intellectual rival, and tries to pretend afterwards that only their own work (published by their alma mater of course) constitutes ‘real’ scholarship.

          So by all means let’s be ‘realistic’ in practical terms, but let’s not forget that we aren’t the prisoners of those realities either. How about a department head saying to a Dean – ‘this book, published by unfashionable publisher X is serious and rigorous work, and I support this tenure case on its strengths’?

          • All I say to this is what I say in other contexts: be careful about hitching your job/tenure/retirement plan to an ideal you wish were true.

          • Well of course you’re right, Karen. But my point wasn’t really that people should apply for jobs / tenure according on the basis of ideals which may not correspond to actual circumstances. Instead, my point was that we (by whom I mean faculty involved in appointments and tenure systems) are sometimes actually in a position to mitigate some of the worst excesses of publisher snobbery. And I think that more of us should, rather than hide behind a ‘system’ which we, in fact, help to perpetuate.

            One of your email respondents above says that in her field there are only five ‘top’ university presses, with a sixth leaving the field. I can’t see the good that comes from being so restrictive – either in practical or intellectual terms. And the fact that there is absolutely no consensus as to which presses are supposedly second rate, just goes to show the incoherence of the whole thing. For some people Routledge is great, but Ashgate are terrible, for other vice versa – there’s no real logic to it. And for your correspondent above Stanford and Penn are secondary, which personally I find very strange. In my opinion, much of this categorization is really an elaborate shortcut strategy so that people can quickly guess the ‘standing’ of work without actually bothering to read / engage with it.

            All this can’t be written off as naive ‘idealism’. It effectively translates to – ‘yes the system’s unfair, but suck it up and deal with it.’ That would be a wholly unacceptable attitude when related to other issues (e.g. gender or racial biases in hiring and tenure for example).

            Obviously no-one can in good conscience advise a junior scholar to buck against the trend if it would damage their career – and so I totally understand your words of caution, which are no doubt aimed at younger scholars who may read this post. But it’s also not beyond the capacity of senior scholars to lessen the worst excesses when they are in a position to do so. {Bolded by Karen}

          • Your final lines are the most important ones as far as this blog goes, because this blog IS ALWAYS meant to first serve, inform, and protect the most junior, and the most vulnerable (and I”m actually going to take the liberty of editing your comment to make them more visible).

            I completely agree with your point, though, that if senior profs would work against this elitist and insular system of publishing, everyone would likely benefit. I hope that our conversation and the lively comment thread on this blog can play a role in making that happen! (I actually have no idea how many senior people read my blog. They tend not to comment a lot).

      • So, evidently I have an axe to grind here, but I think there is a sound point here behind the grinding.

        My guess is that most junior scholars at R1 institutions already know what kind of book they need to publish in order to get tenure, and I sense from several of the comments a different but related question going on in this thread: if I am an advanced grad student, a serial postdoc, an adjunct of a few years standing, etc., will pursuing book publication with a top press get me a tenure-track job? The answer is also “don’t count on it” — not only because, as innumerable articles attest, no matter how starry your CV it is very very likely that you will not get a tenure-track job in today’s academic climate, but also because it might even damage your chances.

        R1 institutions — the kind that often require a top UP book for tenure — account for about 10% of four-year colleges in the US. That’s not counting junior and community colleges. In that other 90% — to whom you will most likely be mostly applying — a top UP book may not only not count, it may actively count against you. When I got my job I was told after the fact by a member of the committee that my application was almost tossed out in the first round because my elite journal publications made it unlikely that I would be a good fit for a teaching institution. That this attitude is not confined to one college is attested to by examples like this (admittedly extreme and, I think, disgusting) one of the candidate whose job offer was revoked after she seemed to be too interested in research:

        Among faculty who have spent their entire careers at R1 institutions there is often a reflexive assumption that what is good for an R1 is — with a bit of tweaking to the CV or application letter — good for other kinds of institution — so, for instance, my own graduate institution tends only to bring back recent graduates who have scored jobs at Ivy League schools and similar to advise current job seekers — as if their perspective, by virtue of being the “best” — will do for everyone.

        That’s just not true. Who gets hired at regional LACs like mine? Oftentimes candidates without stellar PhDs or stellar publication records, but who have other qualities that are much more highly valued: significant experience teaching the kinds of students who attend the college, or experience teaching community college, or teaching prisoners; educational experience that compares to that of our own students —i.e., a non-elite background. Often — in a situation that is exactly the reverse of that at the top — fixed-term hires turn into tenure-track positions after a candidate has proven him- or herself at the institution.

        I don’t say that all 90% of non-R1 institutions in the US hire on similar principles, but let’s say a significant chunk do. In this case, putting yourself through the grueling process of publishing a top-tier monograph while teaching, you know, five classes a semester at four different institutions, is likely not going to help you get the job you want.

        • Apologies — I should have read the posts elsewhere on this site that deal with these issues better than I do here before posting.

  3. I have not been on tenure committees but have sat on search committees at an R1, and in my fields (religious studies and early modern history) Palgrave, Ashgate, and Routledge have all been considered on a par with the university presses. At conferences, I visit the booths for these publishers as eagerly as I do OUP or Harvard or Penn (which publishes great work in religion), and before visiting many other UPs (Stanford, Chicago).

  4. Routledge seems to be regarded highly by philosophers, above Princeton and Yale:

    In history, Routledge and Palgrave are among the most cited presses, but comparatively low in citations per book, supporting the notion that they’re big but not necessarily high quality among “people in the know”.

    Perceptions are highly subjective, though, and anecdotal information is important. Aggregate data might be helpful to job seekers but for junior scholars on the tenure track, my advice would be to look at what senior scholars in the dept do/have done. It can be tricky because the bar gets set higher and some senior folks are quick to say, “what I did wouldn’t work now.”

    But, as I think is pretty clear from this thread, scholars tend to value and defend where they’ve published.

    • Larry – you say that “In history, Routledge and Palgrave are among the most cited presses, but comparatively low in citations per book, supporting the notion that they’re big but not necessarily high quality among ‘people in the know'”.

      Trouble is, according to the paper you link to, exactly the same statement also applies to Oxford and Cambridge. Like Routledge, these presses publish a lot of books, not all of which which are particularly well-cited. So according to your logic, OUP and CUP are also “big but not necessarily high-quality” publishers. And yet that’s not the point you’re making for some reason. I wonder why?

      With this whole discussion, anecdotal information and selective evidence are too easily converted into iron-cast “rules”, which then because grist for other agendas. Scholars do tend to “value and defend where they’ve published”, but many also seek to denigrate and attack where others have published, often for less than edifying reasons.

      If a scholar says that all publishers other than his own are rubbish, I don’t ask “what’s wrong with all these publishers”, I ask “what’s wrong with this scholar’s attitude or agenda”.

  5. What about using a trade academic press for a second book?

    Although there is still no contract for my first book, the manuscript has been positively reviewed by the readers of a top-tier UP. I am now in discussions with the publisher about the final scope of the book (s/he wants to modify the ms to be used as a book for undergrads; I want to keep it as a research monograph).

    In the meantime, a series editor for one of the trade academic presses mentioned above, is aware of my next research project and has asked if I would consider doing a book for the series. My original plan was to go through the standard process with a top UP.

    I am just starting the TT this year; I had a postdoc the past two years. Will having a second book with a trade academic press help or hurt my tenure case? Because the status of my first book is still undecided, I have been hesitant to begin the publishing process with the second book.

  6. Hi Karen, thank you for the great post. I wonder how is Berghahn Books seen in anthropology, and especially in the US?
    Namely, I just finished a PhD i anthropology in the UK. A Series Editor from Berghahn that I respect told me he would be very interested to see my book published there. From what I hear Berghahn is very quick comparative to other presses; response to a book proposal comes within a month, reviewers’ feedback on a manuscript in 4-5 months, and once finalised, the book takes up to 10-12 months to get published.
    In the UK academia where I plan to stay for now, this is a great advantage as the press for quick publication profile is even stronger than in the US, for young academics. And in my case it means that, with some luck, the book would be in advanced stages once I near the end of my 2 year postdoc (to start this autumn). But nevertheless I wonder what is their leverage in a broader field, and especially in US/Canadian academia, which I might consider probing in the further future.
    I am about to make a proposal in the next couple of months and start writing mss in Autumn.

  7. Hi Karen!

    This and your earlier thread are very helpful. I am a literature professor at a R1-A institution and I have a question:
    What if you are offered an advance contract from a solid private publisher on the strength of a proposal, but you also have a very positive response from a solid university press who on the strength of the proposal is expressing a desire to work with you and see the full MS (but no advance contract offer)? The UP is slightly more prestigious in my field than the private press, but the private press acceptance if for a new series edited by a top scholar in my field.

  8. Dear Karen,

    Thankyou so much for your insights – I have found them to be very useful (not to mention all the discussion your site generates). I am wanting to know if you or anyone can give me their views on Praeger. They are interested in publishing my second book in the area of IR/political science, but I do not know that much about them.

    Any advise would be appreciated. Cheers

  9. My experience with Ashgate and Routledge is that Ashgate had more rigorous peer-review process than Routledge. I sent my book proposal to both Routledge and Ashgate in 2013, and both of them accepted it for publication. But Routledge limited the number of images in the book to 25, and Ashgate did not set a limit as I had over 60 images. I finally chose Ashgate rather than Routledge. These two publishers have slightly different focus in their production lines. Ashgate has more arts-based books (as my background is architecture), whereas Routledge does not. Nevertheless, SENSE ranking of academic publishers lists Ashgate and Routledge in the same category . Moreover, the two publishers are merged together in July 2015, see the posts on the websites: “Ashgate Acquired by Informa (Taylor & Francis)” and “Informa pays £20m for Ashgate Publishing”

  10. There seems a tendency to pontificate here and assume that a particular press means quality. A textbook with a “major” university press is hardly equal to a heavyweight monograph to one of the presses disparaged in some posts. In my experience Brill both publishes and is understood to publish heavyweight monographs, whereas something like Oxford University Press publishes everything from top-end research monographs, to textbooks, to more popular books they hope will sell well. Also, some of the monographs by major university presses can be very poor or unoriginal, while some books by other presses can be far better. A system which ranks according to publisher’s perceived reputation is really rather bankrupt. Having said that we all need to play the game, and whether submitting to a US tenure committee, a UK RAE/REF panel, or a tenure or assessment panel elsewhere in the world (yes, the rest of the world does exist despite the attitudes often displayed here) will tend to give credit to the bigger names or at least to give regard to the prestige value in some way. All depends which game you’re playing.

  11. Dear Karen,
    Thank you for all the debate your site generates – they are very useful.
    As a PHd student in architecture, I want to know the difference between an article in a scientific journal and a chapter in an academic book (Routledge publisher) in terms of recognition by the scientific community.
    Thank you in advance for your time.

  12. Dear Karen,

    Many thanks for your comments. I was wondering whether you would care to offer any comments regarding academic publishing in Canada, again with a humanities focus. The publishing market is more limited there and perhaps a hierarchy, of sorts, is more easily discernible. U of Toronto P seems to have pole position and, unlike some of the others, markets its publications south of the border with some effectiveness.

    How does U of Toronto P match up to some of the better academic publishers in the United States, in your opinion? I am in the field of English Literature / American Studies.

    • I believe it compares very favorably, but as i explain in this post, press status really is determined by niche, so please chekc with tenured people in your field, at the equivalent kind of institution, if you need a judgment for tenure.

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  16. I wonder what Talcott Parsons, Anthony Giddens or Bourdieu, let alone other older and recent German big shots woyld say about this all. 50 years ago these were actually no issues. The quality of the work was foremost. Now, with fiercer competition growing, these issues came to the forefront. But apart from professional strategy and, sometimes, certainly not always, good reviwers, such things are really overstated.

  17. Within my particular area in comparative literature there are a grand total of five books. It isn’t the the area is terribly obscure; as you might put it, my mother could think of it as a subject of academic study. But it does require some depth of experience in poetry, music, and, to a much lesser degree, French. By my reading, the oldest of the books is far-and-away the most insightful of the five books. However, it was published by University of Southern Illinois Press in the early 1980’s and isn’t even mentioned in the bibliographies of the others.

    My questions: How am I to find a list of top university presses with acquisition editors who would entertain the subject I feel is more relevant than an academic exercise in the relationship between the arts? Moreover, am I to find lists in comparative literature, music, and French? My experience is that musicians handle the material the easily, but I am not searching for a job in music. I am in lit and the humanities (of the old-fashioned sort:)

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  21. Great post and great advice for those “inside” academia, looking for a modicum of job security in one of America’s most unequal industries.

    I’m publishing with Palgrave my dissertation (political theory) for the fun of it. I actually wanted to publish it in a “lower” trade publishing house like Verso or Penguin. But that’s much more difficult. Trade publishing requires extensive editing, clarity, style, and grace. Things academia waives without guilt. Academia loves prolixity, obscurity and latinates, all signs of bad writing.

    I teach a couple of polisci courses a semester and I do not seek tenure. My “real” job as a policy analyst satisfies me more financially, personally, and professionally than anything academia could offer. Reading these posts makes it clear how academic (not intellectual) “reputation” means pretension and gatekeeping cloaked as “real scholarship.” We can debate on the epistemological dimensions of what is real scholarship. Is it the pursuit of truth for the sake of truth? Is it virtuosity of interpretation? Or is it to legitimize the existing factories of knowledge, etc. Practically nobody reads what R1s produce. The greatest part of academic research has zero impact to American public life and it is in inverse proportion to the industry’s “journal impact” metrics. To play the game as it’s laid down by the current labor regime (80adjunct/20tenure) consists to beg for job sec by chasing esteem (and chasing esteem beside publishing in “reputable” houses also includes to defer to rank, to adopt an authoritarian personality. etc.) This is not scholarship seen from an institutional and structural, even cultural, angle. It’s begging. It’s humiliating and barbaric.

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  23. I grudgingly agree with Karen’s original assessment in her blog. I am a tenured Associate Professor of History at an R1 university. I published my second scholarly book with Palgrave Pivot in December 2013. Three years later, there were still no scholarly reviews published anywhere in the world. Not one. In 2016, I belatedly sent out 10 copies of the book at my cost to 10 journals. Still no reviews. Palgrave never sent the books out for review, and the result was that the book did not carry any weight in my review for promotion to full professor. Scholars in my field have read the book and praised it. But there were no advertisements other than the Palgrave Pivot Spring 2014 catalog. Senior colleagues have made clear: I will not be allowed to go up for full review until I publish another book in a top university press.

  24. Pingback: Pitfalls of the Publication Para | The Professor Is In

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