Tag Archives: peer review

So Book Prospectuses Aren’t Anonymous …

The first time I sent a book prospectus out for review, I didn’t actually know that prospectuses are non-anonymously reviewed. When I got three (generally positive) revises back, I was kind of taken aback that each of them included an evaluation of my qualification to write the (largely already-written) book.

In fact, I still remember those evaluations. In hindsight, they were fairly generic and really the only thing I could have expected at the time – no, the Reviewers did not know me or my work; yes, my training looked acceptable to produce potentially good work, and the prospectus and sample chapter suggested that I was capable of translating that potential into a full book.

I think I was thrown because I had the expectation that my work would be be judged separately from “me” (as if those two things are separable), and I was jolted when they were not. Its not even like those evaluations judged anything deeply personal. They weren’t (yet at least) commenting on my lifestyle choices or personality traits. It was, in fact, a very narrow sense of professional “self” that was being judged – does the overall reputation of her work suggest that x publisher should expect that her book idea will develop into a well-done book?

This is the purpose of non-anonymous prospectus review. Like the quality of the writing of the abstract and the innovation of the idea, the identity of the author is meant to provide reviewers with more indicators of the potential quality of the book.

Largely, that is what it is used for in the actual review process. I say “largely” because there are two variables that can, and will, come up sometimes if not frequently. The first is conscious bias – people who know you and do not like either you or your work, and therefore judge it more harshly for being able to identify you. This happens much less frequently than you would fair. I have been involved in the book review process as an author, a reviewer, or an editor for almost 200 separate books. I have seen evidence of this sort of bias once during that time. It was minor, and did not negatively impact the process of publishing the book that was involved. The second variable that can come up is unconscious bias – the reading of your name and its sex/gender/race/nationality significations as a shortcut for qualification (e.g., women are less qualified to write about x). We cannot possibly know how often this impacts book reviewing. Statistics suggest that this sort of unconscious bias impacts everything in the professional world; so it probably does here too. There might be some saving grace in the fact that book reviews are often long and detailed enough that it is hard to write a negative one without a real, substantive complaint about the text. Still, I’m not even going to try to tell you it doesn’t happen. Because it certainly does. I can just provide two pieces of advice: a) don’t be the Reviewer that does this (examine you conscious and unconscious bias); b) don’t worry about stuff you can’t control (a decent piece of advice for life, not just a book prospectus).

Instead, when it comes to your identity and book prospectuses, worry about what you can control. What’s that, you ask?

I have three suggestions: 1) Frame yourself as positively as you can; 2) realize the potential interactions between your identity/information and other parts of your proposal; 3) especially if you are relatively early in your career, google yourself. The first and third ones are good advice for being on the job market and just generally, but I will discuss them specifically in reference to the book publishing process here. I’ll detail them below …

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Reviewing an Editor’s Reviewing Peer Review

Sara Mitchell over at the Political Methodologist writes a great piece on peer review with many notes of wisdom that do not necessarily have anything to do with peer review.  Much of it borders more on career advice for both Senior and Junior faculty.

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I just have a few notes that were about to become a very long Facebook post that my family has no need to see.

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Filed under Disciplinary Politics, Professional Development

The Hard Way #7: It takes a village for academic publishing

If someone had told me that graduate school was the only time it would ever be someone’s job to read your work and provide advice on it, I would have spent a significantly longer amount of time in graduate school, and been much more grateful for my advisors there at the time. Given that, once you get a PhD (and even, for some of us who are less lucky, in graduate school), no one has a structured and remunerated support system for  research and publishing, the business of creating a peer network is an important one.

The RelationsInternational dolls-holding-hands is partly to think about global politics relationally, but partly to think about the profession relationally. This is not my first post on networking and community, and it won’t be my last – but I thought it was important to talk about how it takes a village to publish, particularly in the context of the ongoing conversation about how to publish journal articles.

When I say ‘it takes a village’ – I mean that in a couple of traditional ways – that there is a significant amount of value to co-authorship, and to getting advice from one’s advisors, for example. A future post will be about co-authorship, and I will also address advisor-student co-writing. This post is more to address the non-traditional ways that I think developing ‘villages’ of peer networks can help with publishing, both early in your career and in a lot of ways continuing throughout it.

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