Tag Archives: publishing

TIFU: Gender, Justice, and the Wars in Iraq

TIFU … or 11 years ago, and I survived.

So I promised that my first post in this series would be of a piece of work with which I now disagree. It is – it is about my first book (and second publication), Gender, Justice, and the Wars in IraqI decided to write about this for a few reasons … in order: 1) the anxiety people have about sending something imperfect out for publication ; 2) the worry people have about early publications defining careers; and 3) the idea that people have that admitting weakness constitutes failure. I’m going to talk about all three of those in some detail, but, first, to what I don’t like about this book almost eleven years later …

Many people would tell me that the biggest mistake of this book is the publisher, Lexington Books – I signed a quick contract with a commercial publisher rather than wading through the difficulties of the University press revision process while a 1L in law school. While it might not have been the best move in terms of impressing those who might hire me, looking back at the reviews I got from University presses at the time, I don’t think that responding to them in depth actually would have fixed the problems I now have with the book. Others would wonder if it is the literature-review-like quality, or the immaturity of the writing, that make me now unhappy with it. While part of me does wish that I’d had a decade’s worth of academic experience when writing that book, I was 25 and 26 – and it sounds a little like that. That’s fine. My disagreement with it now is both better (that is, not an embarrassment over the outlet or writing) and worse (that is, substantive).

That is, I now think that the argument is wrong. Particularly, I think that there are two serious issues that I did not see at the time: 1) that just war theorizing may well not be worth saving; 2) that the problematic relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello means that I see just war theorizing as self-defeating if not war-justifying. This post probably is not the time for deep discussion of either of these points, but a couple of sentences will help show the depth of my current disagreement: at the time, a memory of classics classes in college and an interest in religious philosophy made me think that just war theory was a-ok, and just needed feminism to make it better. The question of whether it was fixable or not never occurred to me. Which brings me to the second one: the idea of a just cause, and of levels of justice of a cause, seems to me, in ‘real war’, to inspire unjust in bello behavior proportionate to one’s conviction about the justice of one’s cause. That is – just war discourse, I think, is complicit not only in inspiring wars but in inspiring their brutality. I’ve written a little about this with former graduate student Jessica Peet.

The point isn’t whether 2006-me or 2016-me is right. In fact, I’ve found more people susceptible to convincing by a refined version of the older argument than by the newer one. The point is having published something with which I now have both serious intellectual and serious normative issues – is that a bad thing? How do you look forward? What do you do? Does this mean I should sit on other ideas I have rather than put them out there? What does it mean for professional development. I have some ideas …

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What to Look for In a Publisher (and a Contract)

(cross-posted at Bombs and Dollars)

About a week ago, I posted about book publishing in academia. I’ve gotten responses from a number of people, both interested in more information and happy for the first post. If its useful to even one person, I want to answer as many questions as I can with the information that I have – so I’m making this a follow-up post. I’ll focus it around two main question that I got in response to the first post – what should I look for in a book publisher, and what should I look for in a contract.

The bad news is that there’s not one answer to either question. The good news is that there are both some strategic things that it is useful to know and some shortcuts to finding out your answers to the questions.

So, first, what do you want in a publisher? This, of course, depends. Like I talked about briefly in the last post, there are some universals about this. You never want a publisher you have to pay to publish your book, and you always want a publisher that has a genuine interest in your project as a project and you as an author. But beyond that, it depends on where you are, what options you have, and what you need from it.

I strongly recommend spending some time putting together a kick-ass prospectus to give yourself the most options you could possibly have (I see that being the subject of my next post, now that I mention it). But, basically – you will be in different situations at different times in your career with different projects, and identifying your situation will help you be able to think about the question of what you want in a publisher more clearly.

So, first, at minimum, you want a publisher who will publish your book. There may be only one, or a couple, none of which optimize every value that you’re interested in.  Sometimes, the one publisher who will publish your book is a good if not perfect fit. If that’s true, yay! You have a publisher!  If its not, you may want to reevaluate the framing of the proposal and start asking people with experience in publishing why you are having the trouble.

There are, if you have options, other things you want to consider. The major ones, in my view, are academic incentives and marketing possibilities.

Academic incentives are the career-related demands and pressures that might help you select among publishers. Many of us have different incentives along these lines, geographically (its different in the US than it is in the UK than it is in Australia than it is elsewhere), by type of institution, and by stage in career. Here are a few factors that matter differently to different people:

a) Prestige. It is not true that all university presses are better than all commercial presses, or that university presses give better and more thorough review, or anything like that. It may work as a rough metric around the top 15 or 20 publishers, but even then, there are exceptions, and ‘down ticket’ (as we say in political science) it is not at all obvious to me that even the rough metric works. It is also crystal clear to me that some publishers are better at some subfields (e.g., Kansas at American Politics, or Chicago at Comparative Politics) than they would fare in an overall ranking, and ‘the’ presses to be at not only vary on subfield but even on sub-sub-field (e.g., Security Studies or Environmental Politics).

But absolute ranking of book publishers isn’t possible (remember, I’m a post-structuralist who at the end of the day does not believe in the possibility of objective knowledge at all – and that’s not the least of the problems with ranking publishers). Even if it were possible, its professionally useless. Your prioritization of publishers on the basis of prestige should not be based on some objective ranking, but instead on a subjective reading of your audience. There are some absolutes (I don’t know of any political scientists ever who got any shit for publishing with Cambridge, for example – though that does not make a perfect incentive for seeking publication there). Other than that, its important to think about how presses will be read by your various audiences. If you are junior faculty in a department that thinks that all university presses are better than all non-university presses, you’re probably not going to change their mind at tenure time (trust me, I tried this one, and I was right, and it didn’t matter). If you are an IR person in a department full of Americanists, the Americanists are less likely to know presses that are really only great at IR than generalist presses. Letter-writers can help with this, but if there’s a ceteris paribus, well, the audience helps determine prestige. If the audience is the open market, then the question of what kind of jobs you want (research/teaching/both) matters, as does the subfield in which you’re most likely to get hired (do people who do Your Subfield know that the two biggest people in Your Subfield run a series at Kinda Known but Otherwise NBD Press? – if so, that might be the best option).

b) Likelihood of getting reviewed. It used to be that Reviews ruled the roost in terms of determining the quality of a book in the short- to medium- term for the purposes of judging employment, tenure, promotion, and the like. It also used to be that Reviews helped people decide whether they were going to buy, read, and assign your book. These Reviews happened in generalist journals (think International Studies Review), but they also happened in subfield journals (think International Feminist Journal of Politics or Global Environmental Politics). Book reviews still matter, though more some places than others.  Now, google searches and Amazon help people choose books, and Google Scholar citation counts check citations to books. Still, the likelihood that the book gets reviewed coming from one press rather than another is another ceteris paribus condition that you might want to look at. You can influence if and where your book gets reviewed (sometimes), but publisher track record matters too. So if you’re choosing between publishers and looking to see which one is more academically valuable to you, looking through the Reviews is a good place to start.

c) Timing. Timing works differently for different people in different places. But, as I mentioned in the last post, different publishers’ timescales, both at the consideration and production phases, differ a lot  – not to mention differentiating between publishers willing to give you advance contracts and those that are not. There are no right answers to this question – publishers that take longer often (but not always) produce a more polished product; publishers that get stuff approved and out quicker are often able to produce books that feel more up-to-date (especially if your topic is current-events-related). You may have a wide variety of timing incentives – from a grant, from a promotion and review process, from the job market, or even from current events. Those should be factored into academic benefit calculations. Still, don’t choose someplace that is quick but doesn’t meet your other academic needs – that ‘wastes’ the credit you would get entirely, rather than speeding it up.

It is the marketing side that scholars looking to publish books know less about, and that might be worth discussing for a while. First, again, if you have limited options, you might have less to work with here. But if you have more than one option, these are some things you might want to think about (also contract-negotiable sometimes, which we will talk about soon):

1) How much is my book going to cost? 

The cost of a book does influence whether people will buy it or not. and people buying the book actually does influence the impact that it might have on the scholarly literature and in classrooms. A book that costs $160 might be worth it to you for other professional reasons, but it will be very difficult to have such a book reach a wide audience. Books that cost less than $40 are more likely to sell than books that cost more than that.

2) What format will my book be published in? 

What you want is for your book to be published simultaneously in hardcover, paperback, and e-book – that will get it the widest readership. Some publishers will offer hardback only, or hardback and then a time-delayed paperback if the hardback is selling. If you get to choose between publishers, a willingness to do a paperback (or an affordable hardback – for example, Cornell’s hardbacks are less than $30, I believe) should matter for getting your work out there; it might even, in my view, ‘skip’ a publisher a few places up the priority list.

3) Is there a chance they will publish my book as a trade book? 

This will be an issue for very few academics. But there is a classification our publishers have called “trade book.” They print more of these, and they try to put them places normal people go, like bookstores. The marketing system is completely different (and much more visible). If someone is talking to you about treating your book as a trade book, and you like either money or visibility, you might want to think about it.

4) Does the publisher go to the sorts of conferences I go to? 

The conference booth matters. If its a great publisher, but the publisher doesn’t publish a lot in your discipline or subdiscipline, then the value of the publisher goes down for you, reputation-wise. Conference booths signify engagement with the field, and they also help to sell your books. So if you have two publishers whose absolute prestige and  academic benefit feel about the same, the level of investment that those publishers have in the conferences you go to might be a good way to tell their relative benefit to you.

5) Ask to talk to the marketing person. 

If you are considering more than one press, or considering which press to allow exclusive review, and all else remains equal, talking to the marketing person about what they think about the book might be useful. You can tell from such a conversation how hard the book will be sold post-publication by the level of enthusiasm shown by the marketing person.

So then, okay, I chose a publisher, what should I look for in a contract? 

Here’s the place where you do not have to just be grateful that someone is willing to publish your book. If you ask for some concessions at the contract stage, no publisher is just going to walk away from negotiations (unless you’re a total ass, but I’ve actually never met someone who managed to be that big of an ass). They might say “no” to your requests, but then you’ll be no worse off. Here’s a list of 10 clauses I look at when evaluating a book contract:

a) The right of first refusal? 

Many standard book contracts have a right of first refusal clause in them – where the publisher gets the option to look over your next book project first, and either engage or pass on it. The value (or annoyance) of this clause is different depending on the quality of the publisher with which you are negotiating and the stage of your career that you are at. If the publisher is Absolute Dream Publisher, … what’s the harm in a right of first refusal? If the publisher is Among Few Dream Publishers, then the clause remains not a huge problem – the worst they can do is give you free feedback while they pass on it. If the publisher is anywhere from Eh, Well, There Will Be a Book to Okay Publisher, you probably want to try to have the right of first refusal clause struck. Most publishers will do this if you request.

b) How many copies do I get? 

While this is nit-picky, sometimes we’re broke. And I want one for my mother and my father, and one for me, and some to give out to important people in the field I might convince to read the book. Especially if the book will be somewhat expensive. This is something that is generally to negotiate up as well – publishers are less grumpy about getting you books than they are about many of the clauses I will discuss below.

c) How much money will I make? 

Disclaimer: Most academic books make very little money. You’ll get a check that feels like a participation prize most years, and no check other years. Still, both on general principle and in case your book is one of the small percentage of academic books that really sells, you want to check out the royalty structure. At the very worst, your participation-prize-check might buy dinner at McDonalds, or it might buy a very fancy date night.

So, it depends on the sort of book (you should be looking for a larger percentage on textbooks than on academic books; you should be looking for a larger percentage on trade books than non-trade books; you should be looking for a larger percentage on a lower price than on a higher one) and on the number of authors (co-authors split profits, and generally can talk a press into only a little more money than a single author total, if that) how much money you can expect to make. As a rule of thumb, though, I ask for 2.5% more than I am offered in the contract.  I mean, what’s the worst that happens? They say no? And more often than not, they say yes.

d) What am I going to make money on? 

You percentages will be on hardbacks, paperbacks, and ebooks, for sure – but there will also be percentages on translation rights, other editors, etc – a list of about 10 things. Make sure that they’re all there, and that the percentages aren’t artificially low for any of them. Try to up the number for translation rights especially.

Also, in most contracts, the royalties will be onset, or raise, after a certain number of sales. That number is often negotiable. In my view, 250 is nice, 500 is still good, 750 is ok, 1000 is high.

e) Who is obligated to who when? 

If it is an advance contract especially, but even if it is a regular contract, look at if you are obligated to the press and if the press is obligated to you. Most contracts have an escape clause for the press. Only about half of  them have an escape clause for authors, and those generally have conditions. As I mentioned in the last post, you probably don’t care about this. But it is good to know.

f) Who is paying for the index, and when does it need to get done by? 

I am a big fan of ‘do your own index’ – but if you’re not, you want to look at this clause in the contract and make sure it makes sense to you. It may or may not be negotiable – its worked some places and not others to try to negotiate it.

g) Who picks the cover? 

This is a recent lesson I learned the hard way – you may or may not agree with my disapproval of the cover of my own book, but we went to the mat about this one. We figured out we didn’t have the right to choose at the end of the day. Should have read that contract more closely. So, now you will.

h) Do I get an advance? 

This doesn’t mean you make more money overall (it is deducted from any profits you might have made later), but it is money upfront. This is mostly a non-starter for first books, but can come into play later. And if you have multiple presses competing, why not ask? $1000 is good for a book without textbook potential; a narrow textbook might net $2-4k. A generalist textbook (“Intro IR”) that will sell will net significantly more.

i) What happens to my book if it goes out of print? 

Some places let you have the rights back. Others keep the rights and make you buy them back. While you might not have a dog in this fight (I like to have the rights revert in case I want to do something with it), it is something else to look for.

j) What is the contracted length? 

You should have talked about this with the publisher before you got to the contract stage, but, if you didn’t, pay attention to it in the contract, and decide if it is realistic. Generally, presses retain the right to make you shorten a long manuscript to the agreed-on number of words, or lengthen a short manuscript to deliver a full book to their specifications. Often, they take advantage of that right. So, make sure you agree with the delivery length.

Note that I didn’t mention or pay a lot of attention to the delivery date. That’s because, while presses prefer it, most don’t enforce it.

I hope this helps. More on the book process soon!

The Ugly Truth(s) About Book Publishing

So a number of people at ISA asked me about the mechanics of book publishing, and how it differs from journal publishing. Since I’ve increasingly been thinking about turning this professional-development-advice-thing into a trade book, I figured this was the perfect time to talk about some of the differences between publishing books and articles, and some of the differences among book publishing houses.

Most of these lessons, I learned by trial and error. I sent my first book two places, and chose the first one that said yes. By contrast, I sent the prospectus for my 3rd authored book to every University Press in the US and some in the UK. I would recommend neither strategy. But make it sufficient to say – between doing a fair number of books and interacting with even more presses, I got a sense of the author-side of book publishing. Now as the editor of a couple of book series, I also have a pretty decent sense from the publisher side.

Book publishing works very differently than journal publishing. Some basics from what you learned about journal publishing hold: most are peer-reviewed, some aren’t; some peer reviews are more rigorous than others; most book publishing is a highly competitive process. But there are other things that are very very different, and worth exploring here.

We’ll go over four:  1) norms of simultaneous submission; 2) who is committed to who when; 3) the approval process; and 4) the production process.

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Taking Editing Seriously

When I first applied to edit a journal, it was in part about thinking that I would really enjoy some of the tasks – reading submissions and reviews, putting together issues, and engaging with cutting edge work in the field. That is what I’d enjoyed about editing books before I became a journal editor – that, and creating space for interesting conversations between scholars and research I found interesting. Three years and two journals into it, I think about editing more as a duty than as a privilege – something I am sure many editors come to feel.

I don’t mean I don’t like it anymore – quite the opposite – the more I edit, the more I enjoy it. I mean that editing a journal is not primarily a cool supplement for one’s own research or a privilege imbued with the power to discipline the discipline. It is, or at least it should be, a service performed for the authors and consumers of the content of the journal. It seems appropriate, then, to think about what that service entails. What should I expect of journal editors to whom I submit? And what should authors expect of me? What is involved in taking editing seriously?

I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about that in the last couple of days. Here’s my .02.

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Academic Careerism and Poker Strategy: WSOP Edition

One of my good friends from college, Andrew Brokos, is a professional poker player and poker coach (as Foucault82, follow him at @thinkingpoker on Twitter). He is playing this week in the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas right now, as he has done for a number of years now. Andrew and I had conversations about playing poker back when we worked together in Boston. Those conversations concluded (as I am sure many of my IR friends can attest) that I suck at poker unless I get to stack the deck. And you don’t get to do that in real poker. Thus I suck at poker. But I have enjoyed following his blog over the years – not least because its a great answer to the question of what you can do with a University of Chicago philosophy degree.

This week, I have been reading about Andrew’s early progress in the Main Event (he’s one of the most consistent finishers in this event over the last decade), and about professional development questions in International Relations (including a discussion with Dan Nexon on Facebook about a future post on the ISQ editors’ blog, Steve Saideman’s post on overthinking professional strategy, and Erin Jenne’s useful post on RelationsInternational on book publishing strategies for recent Ph.D.s. Reading them together, I wondered if I (and other IR academics) might benefit from using some of Andrew’s poker strategy tips to find balance in professional development.

Andrew’s coaching tips often focus around thinking about the situation you’re in, using game theory to assess your odds, and making the right play at the right time – but even Andrew has criticized overthinking. His analytical approach to poker and mine to academic careers have a lot in common – so I figured I’d play with the idea of academic careerism and poker strategy in honor of Andrew’s WSOP appearance this week. Caveat: of course, I know there’s more tournament poker and academic strategy lack in commonality than that they share. But I think that some comparison is sure to be fun, and might be helpful. So … here’s my poker-scholarship advice of the day: play the situation and the cards, but don’t overplay either. Below, I try to use humor and some of Andrew’s advice to make that case.

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The Hard Way #9: Be the CV You Want to See

I couldn’t have come up with a sillier title to this post, I realize, but it is an important point, so I figured I’d dedicate a post to it. The last thing that you want to happen to you is to be caught by surprise by a contrast between what your professional record looks like and what you want it to look like or need it to look like for a particular professional goal.

What do you want your CV to look like when you go on the job market the first time? What do you want it to look like when you have a probationary review? Or a tenure review? What do you want it to look like when merit raises are considered? What positions (in your department, in the field, or in professional organizations) do you see yourself occupying, and what do you need your CV to look like to make that happen? What does your CV need to look like to give you the mobility you want? The promotion ability that you want? The income that you want? The opportunities that you want? The free time that you want?

Its not going to magically look like that. And you can’t answer those questions a month before you need particular things on your CV, wish for it, and make it happen. Instead, these things are planned. A note on what I don’t mean by planned: I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be flexible, open to new projects and grant opportunities, willing to leave behind things that do not work, and willing to adapt to a changing field and a changing profession. What I do mean is getting a sense of what you want your career to look like, and trying to make that happen actively and while you still have enough time to do it. For example …  Continue reading

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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The Hard Way #6: Anonymity and the Review Process

Wouldn’t it be great if this post were anonymous, and I could say everything that I think about anonymity in the review process?

Maybe I will anyway. Here’s the caveat that I think makes me have something to offer here. I’ve published in about 30 journals, reviewed for more than 40, and edited two of them in a meaningful capacity. This is post is mostly about journals because book reviews are usually single-blind, but I edit two book series and have published a couple of books. So, here’s my take in a nice, ordered list:

  1. Journal peer-review is in theory double-blind, where the author does not know the reviewers and  the reviewers do not know the authors.
  2. This almost never works perfectly. Some people [insert normative judgment here] google the paper title when they are reviewing. Others recognize a conference presentation, a research program, a research community, or a writing style familiar to them and can therefore easily deduce authorship. Still others [insert normative judgment here again] ask around their research communities until they find out. The more well-connected a reviewer is in the discipline (a quality you want in reviewers), the more likely they are to be able to deduce authorship of a piece. While this is easier to avoid for junior scholars, the better networked you are, the bigger the risk of non-anonymity is. Some reviewers also identify themselves, either intentionally (by a signature catch-phrase) or unintentionally (by being all mad you don’t cite their work enough.
  3. Nonetheless, it is important (in my view) to preserve the blindness when you can and to treat the process as if it is blind even when it isn’t. The rest of this post will try to explain why I think that, since it is somewhat controversial these days.

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The Hard Way #5: Revising and Resubmitting

o, while I am not the foremost authority on this subject, I do have a fair amount of experience. In this post, I hope to give some advice both on revising and re-sending out an article that has been rejected, and on doing a revise and resubmit for a journal that has gifted you with that result. The first piece of advice that applies to both situations is to read the letter (and reviews, if they exist) immediately. In that immediate moment, get angry at the things that no one understood, or the parts of the result that you see as unfair.  Write an angry letter (but do not send it). Make a paper voodoo doll of the editor or of the reviewers. Make a list of ridiculous misreadings in the letter and/or the reviews. Call your non-academic friends and tell them how stupid and thankless your job is. Have a glass of wine.  Then throw away the voodoo doll, delete the letter, and walk away for at least a week. Blow off the steam. Allow yourself some negativity.

But then put an expiration date on the negativity. When you come back to the piece, letter, and reviews (if they exist), come back with a determination to learn from them. Sometimes, with a combination of good editors with the time to pay attention and good reviewers, it is easy to learn from the reviews. I’ve both written and received letters that explain exactly how to make something publishable, even when it is rejected from the journal. Those letters are a treasure – absorb every detail, and follow the instructions when they are clear. In a Revise and Resubmit letter, following the instructions increases the likelihood that the article is eventually published. That does not mean you have to agree with everything in the letter or the reviews – you can have reasoned disagreements with the prescriptions. In the best case, though, the letter and reviews will be easy to learn from and challenging but possible to engage. Sometimes, that ideal situation doesn’t exist, though – and whether or not it does, you need a plan. Here are some pointers, both about getting through hard letters and about making a plan. Continue reading

The Hard Way #4: Dealing with rejection (in publishing)

I am afraid the article has little to recommend. It is is general a very poor and incomplete overview of what is actually a very rich body of gender scholarship, given in weak scholarship, with low theoretical imagination, this is definitively not the piece that should represent Feminist Security Studies to our colleges. The article is riddled with sophomoric trivialities, slogans, cliches, commonplaces, and sexisms … In short, its publication would do considerable damage to the good repute of our field.

This is an excerpt of a review that a review article I submitted got very early in my career. In hindsight, the article was not ready to send out, and did have some weaknesses, though I think that it is an important lesson in professional development never to write a review like this. That is for another post, though …

I include this review here to suggest that we often actually deal with rejection individually – it is a lonely feeling that is hard not to take personally. Yet everyone – even the most successful people in the field – deals with rejection many times over the course of your career. It is how you deal with that rejection that is the mark of success or failure in a publishing career.

There will be a number of different posts in this series about different sorts of rejection and setbacks, but the rest of this post will focus on dealing with (and getting past) rejections from journal submissions.  Continue reading