Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A brief guide to locating publishing opportunities (for junior and temporary faculty and advanced grad students in the humanities)

One of the requirements of my job as a junior faculty member is to publish. Now, I work at a teaching university, so the requirements are similar to those at research universities, but the types of allowable publications that count toward tenure and promotion are more expansive. It occurred to me today that everyone might not know what I know. I was fortunate to attend a research university for my PhD with a cohort of research-focused people, which meant we talked about and shared information about how and where to publish. I attended conferences and networked with more established academics in order to learn what was needed. Our professors were also good about incorporating some of this information into classes and conversations, which meant that we were extremely well-prepared about what to expect publication-wise when we went on the academic job market.

However, not everyone had that intensive experience. And once you land the job, no one really talks about what is expected and HOW to locate the right kinds of publishing opportunities. My advice and list are based on the requirements (as I understand them) at my state teaching university.

First, bookmark and check this site frequently: University of Pennsylvania CFP

No matter what your humanities specialty, the UPenn CFP will have publishing and conference opportunities for you. Start here.

A word about conferences. They are not as important as publishing, but you will be expected to attend at least one or two per year (say, one regional and one national or international). Use the conference time to network and seek out publishing opportunities. I landed two book reviews for a well-known cultural journal by simply responding to an editor's call for review ideas at a national conference. I've also met many people in my field who have been incredibly valuable to me and my grad students. But don't let conferences dominate your scholarship.

Remember, publishing is still king, even at a teaching institution.

Second, become familiar with the top 25 or 50 journals in your field or fields. For instance, my primary field is Composition and Rhetoric, my specialty is Indigenous Rhetorics, and my interests extend to teaching (pedagogy) and creativity. This broadens the scholarly publishing potential, but there are still top journals in each of these fields or specialties - in fact, there is a hierarchy of journals. Top tier, middle tier, bottom tier. Some are traditional print journals (such as Rhetoric Review, where my first academic article appeared in 2011), and some are digital (such as Epiphany Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies, where my second academic article appeared in 2012). Both of these journals are peer-reviewed, which means the submission goes through a rigorous and blind process of judgment and revision before it is accepted or rejected. Whether the journals you seek are in print or online, the ones that will count the most are the peer-reviewed publications.

Third, there are many other types of publishing that will count, but that won't take a year or more to see results. As long as there is an editorial process - meaning, there is an editor or editorial team providing revision feedback before your work is published - these publishing opportunities are easier to write, less complicated to obtain, and have a fast publishing time frame. Get on Google and use your browsing capabilities to find blogs, web sites, and online publications for article, essay, creative, review, and opinion opportunities. Find out who the editor is and pitch that person an idea. If they seem open to book reviews, pick a book that hasn't been published yet and suggest a review. To find these unpublished books, go to Amazon and search for your field's most well-known term. For me, it was "indigenous rhetorics" or "Native American studies." For you, it might be "education" or "film theory." Search by publication date from the most recent and then scroll down until you see books that are about to be published within six months. Don't worry about not having a copy - if the editor gives you a thumbs up for the review, just contact the book's publisher for a press copy. The editor can often help with this.

By the way, those academic journals each took a year or more from submission to publication. The publishing I've done in the outlets identified in the last paragraph all took less than a year - often a matter of months - from idea pitch to publication.

Book chapters are also wonderful and if you have the right contacts, these are terrific and valuable additions to your CV. However, books are tricky because publishing is often much, much slower - projects get held up for all kinds of reasons. And the same goes for writing a book. Save the book-length manuscript for your bid for full professor. When you are a temporary instructor hoping to be rolled over into a tenure-track position or a junior faculty member, try for as many scholarly, peer-reviewed pieces as time allows (3-4 in your first five years), but then bulk up your publishing record with the smaller, faster pieces. It shows your commitment to your field and your scholarly activity.

Keep this in mind when it comes to book publishing: If your book (or the one with your contribution) isn't actually in print by the time you go up for tenure, it won't count. I just learned this fascinating fact - only the things in the "published" category will really be considered. Everything else takes a far back seat because anyone can load their CV with "revised and resubmitted" or "forthcoming" promises, but the tenure and promotion committees want to see tangible publications that are out there and available for perusal.

Another great place to publish is encyclopedias. Whatever your field, there is an encyclopedia or two. These have an editorial review process and require you to be at least a PhD candidate or a faculty member to contribute. These entries vary in length (usually run 500 - 3000 words), involve research, and can be cranked out rather quickly once you are used to the genre.

Something else to keep in mind: Everything you do before your tenure clock starts doesn't count. So, if you publish a scholarly, peer-reviewed article as a PhD candidate and that gets you the job, you must realize that it will not count toward your tenure and promotion bid. If that piece was published before you started your job, it doesn't count. If you have been a temporary instructor at your university for four years and are then rolled over into a tenure-track position in year five? Everything you've done in years one - four won't count toward tenure and promotion. The tenure and promotion committees only consider what you've published after the tenure clock has started.

Another strategy to consider for crafting a publication pathway:  Not only is it possible, but also perfectly acceptable, to contact a journal editor cold to pitch an idea. Academic journal editors may respond or they may not, but if you apply what professional writers do all the time - pitching ideas cold to relevant outlets - you may get the nod to try. No guarantee of publication because your work must still be vetted by two reviewers who will not know that you pitched the idea to gauge interest. However, this is a tactic I used all the time as a freelance journalist and I've recently started applying it to my academic publishing and it works! I saw a new journal in my field set to start publishing next year, so I emailed the editor with an abstract of an idea for a potential article. He liked it and said if I wrote it well, it would probably stand a good chance. That's all I needed and I'll be writing that piece over winter break. Why not make your process more efficient by vetting your idea with an editor up front, so that you know your piece will at least have a chance at being considered? Otherwise, you are just blindly submitting to publications that may be a bad fit - but it will take that editor 3 - 6 months to tell you this. Be more efficient and business-like in your approach to academic publishing and you may end up with more and better-focused opportunities.

So be fearless, don't hesitate, and don't let the existing rules block your progress. Find a hybrid position between following the conventional rules and making your own path so that your publishing record will cover all the bases, be varied and yet focused on your fields, and show your level of dedication and scholarly activity.

Now go publish! And please leave any comments, questions, or additional ideas. :)


Seth Kahn said...

One minor tweak about the necessary status of a project: If you have a book that's under a solid contract, or even better in the galley stage, that will often count pretty much the same as "published" at positions like ours. I got tenured at a university in your system with two peer reviewed journal articles, a book review, and a completed book (edited collection) manuscript that was under consideration at a prestigious publisher (the book wasn't published until 3 years later).

American Puzzle said...

Excellent tweak! Thank you, Seth! I'm not sure when you received tenure, but this year, I've been told directly that items must now actually be published - perhaps the reins have tightened?