Post Academic


How to (Not) Get Published #1: It’s Funny Because It’s Kinda True

Rejected...by the Prez no less! (Photo courtesy of the Official White House Photostream, Public Domain)

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a link to the “Journal of Universal Rejection”, which is funny because it’s kinda true.  (h/t Sam.)  No, I promise I’m not this brutal as an editor…really, I’m not!  But you can actually find some kernels of practical usefulness from might seem depressingly absurd.  Below is a description of the “Journal”, along with this editor’s annotations:

About the Journal

The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected. Despite that apparent drawback, here are a number of reasons you may choose to submit to the JofUR:

•You can send your manuscript here without suffering waves of anxiety regarding the eventual fate of your submission. You know with 100% certainty that it will not be accepted for publication.

Post Academic sez: Lots of academics, especially ones at the early stages of their careers, can relate to this nauseous feeling.  You spent a lot of time polishing and obsessing about a piece, only to have the nagging thought that the product of your blood, sweat, and tears will languish in a stack of papers, real or virtual.  I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but at least your misery has lots and lots of good company.  But practically speaking, just be sure your submission has multiple use.  Maybe it can be your job talk if you’ve advanced that far in a search, or perhaps you can carve a few lesson plans and a conference paper out of it.  Just don’t sit on your hands waiting on it, because 1. you don’t know when you’ll find out what happens to it and 2. there’s a chance that the news won’t be good anyway.

More helpful tips from ego-crushing guidelines below the fold…

•  You may claim to have submitted to the most prestigious journal (judged by acceptance rate).

•  The JofUR is one-of-a-kind. Merely submitting work to it may be considered a badge of honor.

PA sez: One reason why a lot of younger scholars basically feel like they’ve been/they’re gonna be universally rejected is that many try to shoot for the most prestigious publications.  I myself was told to follow a trickle-down strategy, shooting for the stars first, then resubmitting to a lesser-known journal if it doesn’t work out.  But realistically speaking, if a journal only seems to publish really famous people or junior faculty from the tippy-top schools, a revised M.A. paper from an ABD grad student is probably not going to make the cut, no matter how much work you put into it and no matter how actually good it is.

And even when you tell yourself you have no chance to get published in a well-known journal, the likely rejection still stings and is a blow to your already fragile ego, though you’ll tell yourself otherwise.  Be practical about your choices and what the task at hand is: If it’s more important to get published in short order for the market or your pre-tenure file, don’t waste time and energy pinning your hopes to the very best publications.

•  You retain complete rights to your work, and are free to resubmit to other journals even before our review process is complete.

PA sez: Personally, I think the stern warnings about multiple submissions aren’t really fair on the part of publications–and I work for a publication.  If a journal is slow on the draw, that can really impact an ABD job candidate or a recent Ph.D. on the market who wants to play by the rules and wait.  But what happens when that wait is drawn out and you need some closure?  Journals shouldn’t have it both ways, holding up a submission for, like, more than six months, but then telling a writer they can’t do anything else with it even though the publication isn’t sure what to do with it.

Looking out for number one should, however, have its limits: Now if a submitter gets to full of him/herself after getting an acceptance by one journal and gets greedy hoping for a bigger, better publication to run it, that’s not right, either.  Fair, reasonable timeframes on review by journals and decisions by authors would be the best for everyone involved.

•  Decisions are often (though not always) rendered within hours of submission.

PA sez: Hey, at least the JofUR lets you know where you stand, quick and sleazy.  But really, decisions often do seem frivolous and arbitrary, even if they probably aren’t.  I know I’ve groused when I’ve had papers rejected because my argument basically didn’t do the random, very particular thing the reader actually works on (which is also a very easy way to figure out who a “blind” reader is), but that’s part of the deal.  People have preferences, and judging things is never wholly fair.

That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t do what’s in your power to get noticed in a good way.  First impressions do count, so follow the style sheet to which journal you’re hoping to get published in.  If they ask for Chicago but your paper is in MLA, don’t be lazy and just send in what you’ve got.  Show you care, because a well-formatted, carefully composed text should at least get your foot in the door so that it’s not slammed shut to begin with.

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