Publishing Advice

I remember (and have recently re-read) the post where I wrote that I knew I needed to get published and that I should be writing and that I had no idea how to do those things. Trial and error teaches a lot–at least to some people.

Recently I explained that “life long learner” means I have to keep re-learning the same things in different ways. 🙂

That said, there was a good post on the CHE about what publishing means for a lot of places. Even though I am not in one of those places and do not want to be, I know that I am behind in publishing and presenting. Certainly if you use the metrics of the post I am behind (as in, I never got there).

While it does not apply to me per se, there are many nuggets of wisdom hidden in the carefully sifted advice. (Now I am thinking of chocolate chips and brownies for some reason.) Without further ado, advice from the brilliant at the CHE:

You have a special challenge in that you need to keep up a publication record as if you were at an R1 while coping with a heavy teaching load.  The model I was taught to aim for was 2-2-4: two articles and two smaller pieces every year, and a book every four years.  Now, I actually think most people fall short of that.  But if you want to move, you’d want to aim for an equivalent of that, in the most streamlined and efficient way.  The first advice I’d give is to drop the second “2” — the smaller pieces (generally book reviews, can also be encyclopedia entries or whatnot).  Those are a luxury.  The articles and books are the most important.  So here are the rules as I see them:

1. Piggyback your current research on your last research.  Use the same kind of materials, but viewed from a different angle or expanded.  You can see the prolific scholars doing this already.  For instance, the first book will be about Lincoln’s White House staff, using the appropriate archives.  The second book will be about women in Lincoln’s White House, using the same archives.  The third book will be about Lincoln’s ideas of hierarchy, using the same archives. In every case, pick only an idea that’s interesting to you, but pick strategically.  Also pick something in which you don’t have to embark on a whole new set of secondary reading.

2. Don’t put every single thing you learn and think on the subject in the book.  Save self-contained nuggets of findings for separate articles.  For my last book, I finished the book and then wrote a spin-off article in three days. I had all the quotations right in front of me and knew the material so thoroughly that it just flew onto the page. If you can get four or five extra articles out of your book, that would be excellent.  Don’t feel the need to jam it all in; use this to plant articles in good journals.

3. Make every piece of writing earn its keep.  Don’t publish in edited collections; they count for less on the CV. Submit every article to a top-tier journal and work your way down the food chain. Position your book for the top presses.  Don’t make my mistake and give your book to lower-tier presses just because they ask for it and you think, “Phew! Someone will publish this!”  Try all the top-tier presses first.

4. Find the CVs of the top people in your field and keep tabs on them. Keep track of how you measure up. 

5. Minimize the busywork your job asks for as much as possible.  Where possible, give assignments that are swift to grade; streamline teaching prep; keep extensive records so you don’t have to redesign your classes every year. 
Then try to get in 90 minutes of academic writing every workday; 45 minutes should be your minimum.  Don’t save it all up for a long weekend stint, which may or may not be possible when the time comes.  The research shows that the most prolific people write for shorter periods and often.

6. Take Sundays off; ideally Saturdays too.  Do not stay up working till midnight.  Burning yourself out won’t get the job done and also makes the job not worth doing.  Your goal is to work smart, not exhaustively.

Best of luck!

hegemony. “Re: Posting Hall of Fame–Reply 2409.” chronicle.com,9 March 2011, www.chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,30991.2400.html.

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