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…

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Brainstorming the online peer review process

Posted in Publish and Perish by Arnold Pan on August 31, 2010
Tags: ,

"Brainstorming" by Agripolare (Public Domain)

It’s not much of a surprise that I would be thinking more about the online peer review process we discussed last week, since that’s what I do many hours a week now.  Again, whether or not it was wholly successful isn’t really the issue in my mind, but it’s that the folks at Shakespeare Quarterly and MediaCommons sought to innovate peer review and academic publishing.  Like I mentioned last time, I’ve always been thinking about production and distribution when it came to imagining what digital media had to offer, and less about how scholarship and collegiality might also benefit.  So the SQ experiment was definitely illuminating on that front.

What follows, then, are some things that could be brainstormed about the next time someone tries something like this, to build on what SQ and MediaCommons tried on this go-round:

Incorporating responses: One of the outcomes of the project was that there was so much feedback that authors found it took longer to process the comments, both in terms of time and page length.  According to the journal’s editor David Schalkwyk in the piece that appeared in the Chronicle, editors and authors had to spend a good amount time keeping track of how the discussion of the articles went, which also led to more lengthy revisions.  Think of it this way: Don’t you feel indebted to incorporate all the comments that people who’ve really taken the time to read your writing offer you?  Well, multiply that by about 10 times, with the suggestions being public, so that there’s a record to check your changes against.  Getting input is good, but there’s a limit to it, logistically for the editor and mentally for the writer.

More brainstorming below the fold…

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Academic publishing goes online–and mainstream?

So on the heels of finding the HuffPo College photo gallery/poll about academic publishers comes a well-circulated and oft-blogged-about story in the Monday’s New York Times about an online, open peer-review process experiment undertaken by Shakespeare Quarterly published by the Folger Shakespeare Library.  To give credit where credit’s due, the Chronicle actually reported on what Shakespeare Quarterly (SQ) is doing last month, but you know it’s really big new when The Gray Lady reports on it.  On the whole, we’ve been pushing for innovation in academic publishing on this blog, so this is a welcome development that bears observation.

"Folger Shakespeare Library" by AgnosticPreachersKid (Creative Commons license)

Here’s how the open, online peer reviewing apparently worked: Contributors to a special issue of SQ were given a choice to have their submissions assessed according to a standard blind review or have them posted online at MediaCommons and commented upon by a group of invited experts and “self-selected” readers who register to the site.  From what I can gather, it looks like the online reviewers basically post comments on the submitted essays like you would add comment bubbles on MS-Word track changes.  Guest editor Katherine Rowe of Bryn Mawr calculates that 41 reviewers–invited and party-crashers–posted 350 comments for the four article and three book reviews in the issue.  Any commenter had to be registered, putting her/his good name and reputation behind the criticisms and/or suggestions.

More on the open peer review process below the fold…

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The first and only time anyone ranked academic publishers

Posted in Publish and Perish by Arnold Pan on August 22, 2010
Tags: , ,

A few days ago, Huffington Post College did up one of their snazzy photo gallery polls for — get this — the best academic publishers!  You’d think that HuffPo College was trying to find its own U.S. News Top Colleges and Grad Schools list or Princeton Review’s Most Drunken Schools list with its incessant bombardment of photo polls.  HuffPo probably should’ve just stuck to the celebs-in-school slideshows, but I guess there’s only so many times you can point out that Hermione Granger is going to Brown–although I guess talking about James Franco going to Yale English is ever interesting and fascinating, right?

"Oxford University Press at D Ground Park, Faisalabad" by "Minhajian" (public domain)

Anyway, HuffPo College must be scraping the bottom of the marketability barrel by compiling the 17 “Most Innovative” academic presses.  When you skim through the story, two obvious thoughts come to mind: There are actually 17 academic presses that are still publishing these days and how is one of the top academic presses NOT Duke UP, which, for my money, comes out with the most interesting and best looking academicky books.  When you include 17 U Presses on the list, you’ll obviously get (most of) the best and most obvious picks like UC Press, U Minnesota Press, NYU Press.  But others are big name picks that aren’t exactly cutting edge both in terms of selection and design; I’m thinking of one of the industry’s standard bearers, Oxford UP, while Yale and Chicago have never really done it for me personally.  And then there are the smaller UP’s that I never knew existed, like Kansas and Colorado.

Maybe Duke UP boycotted the rankings out of some kind of moral stand, like how Stanford sat out of the US News ratings and, coincidence or not, subsequently dropped in the poll.  Oh yeah, maybe MIT Press sat out the rankings too, since it definitely covers very timely techie-fuzzy topics and its books look really awesome.  Our new home team–the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press–didn’t chart either, but wait ’til next year when our online offerings are up-and-running!

What’s next, the HuffPo College list of best esoteric journal titles?  Maybe we can beat them to the punch on that one, and make it Post Academic’s trademark rankings dealie.

How to Write on a Deadline

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSay what you will about deadline pressure and the 9-to-5 grind, but a little pressure is good every now and then. As a writer and an editor in the Hamster World, I lost the luxury of waiting until I had a good idea to write a long time ago. Deadlines forced words out of me whether I liked it or not. Here’s how to cope if you’re in the kind of work environment where you’re a writer, but you can’t ask for an extension:

Admit it won’t be perfect. This is the hardest one, so we’ll get it out of the way now. Academics are perfectionists, and perfectionists and deadlines do not mix. In fact, they clash, and the deadline will win every time. Your editor or manager will be happier with you if you meet the deadline, not if you turn in perfect copy.

Treat the content like gold. When producing an article, content or copy, the style is much harder to handle than the substance. In most cases, however, what people want to see is the substance. How on earth do journalists generate so many articles? Because they focus on the substance, and they use a template that delivers the most important content–who? what? when? where? why?–first. Yes, it seems simple, but it’s popular because it works.

More tips after the jump! The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Movie still, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

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Full disclosure: I got a job!

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on July 6, 2010
Tags: ,

Since this blog is about how Ph.D.-types might seek out different professional possibilities, whether it’s dealing with the frustrations of trying to get on the tenure track or finding something that might be better suited to you than the initial path on which you started, I figure that it’s not too much of a self-indulgence  to let y’all know that I started my first post-Ph.D. job last week!  While I’m gonna be as discreet as possible about the actual job itself, I wanted to let you readers–especially the long-time, old-school followers–know about it, in case anyone’s actually following my mini-saga and if for no other reason than to let folks who might be in similar situations know that it’s possible to find work that’s fulfilling, despite the hardships and obstacles of finding academic work (or really any kind of employment these days).  This isn’t to say that the advice I’ve given about how to seek out and find a job necessarily works like magic, although I would say that you should listen to Caroline, because I did and it helped me out immeasurably.

Enough with the preamble already.  Here’s the dish on the job: I’m working as the Assistant Editor of Amerasia Journal based at UCLA.  I call it my first “post-Ph.D. job” because it’s, of course, not post-academic at all, since I’m using pretty much all the skills I attained while earning my doctorate and I’m working for an academic institution.  It’ll also be an opportunity to learn about academic publishing from the inside, which should be quite an education for me.

Since academic publishing has been one of the topics that Post Academic readers are most interested in, I thought this might also be an opportunity to get some input from people reading this on what possible innovations–online or otherwise–you’d like to see to supplement traditional print media.  If you have particular suggestions, sites/journals you think are good examples of the genre, and/or other interesting online publication formats you’ve seen, please pass them along to me and to the other followers of the blog, because I imagine folks might be intrigued in seeing what’s happening right now in publishing.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along my good news to the followers of Post Academic and to also thank you for helping me get to this point.  Without starting the blog, working on it, and interacting with you, I don’t think I’d be in this position.  To our regular readers,  Caroline and I will still be posting on the blog regularly, gearing up for the fall as well as coming up with (hopefully) some fun surprises until then.

Now it’s time for me to jump in off the computer and into my car to get on the 405!  Thanks, everyone!

Transforming your diss chapter into an article

Picking up on last week’s post on how to work through writer’s block, I thought I’d cover the process of how I have excerpted essay-length pieces out of dense, lengthy dissertation chapters.  In my own case, this process has met with mixed results, so take my advice for what it’s worth: On the one hand, it did culminate in a published article that went through multiple self-imposed revisions, but, on the other, it also yielded an essay submission that was in limbo forever before I decided to give up on it.  Still, even with the latter, I think that the revised essay was an improvement over the original chapter, in part because the writing was much tighter, due to constraints on length as well as the need to find a more focused argument for a proposed article.

""BotCon 2006 Costumes" by Bedford (Public Domain)

Of course, this works from the assumption that you are starting with a big chunk of a diss chapter to begin with and not the other way around, where you start with an essay that you turn into something bigger and better.  So if that’s the way you work, please feel free to chime in and let us know how you go about things!

Be practical: Before you start to look for a coherent essay in the midst of a tangled jumble of a diss chapter–whether in progress or completed–know what the parameters of your end goal should be.  That means figuring out the length requirements for the journal you’re planning on sending a submission to, so that you have a target to aim for.  It’s probably not a bad idea to try to compose a 20-25 page essay out of your source material, since that’s a good length for an article and useful, too, for job application writing samples.  I know from experience that there’s nothing more nervewracking than having to tailor a 30-pp proposed article down to 20-pp essay on the fly when you receive that email from the search committee with a writing sample request.

More conversion tips below the fold… (more…)

The Benefits of Boundaries

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionEstablishing a shorter time to degree has its pros and cons. One major pro might surprise you: Writing gets better when you are forced to work with boundaries, whether they are deadlines, word limits, or formatting restrictions.

Lifehacker suggests that people are more productive when faced with limits because you have to get creative. The best limit I set for myself is trying to answer one single question in a piece of writing. “What do I want someone to think or do after reading this piece?”

Usually, in the kind of writing that I do, the answer is simple: Buy now, call us, click through, etc. Once you have that goal, you can flesh it out. Otherwise, you’ll get lost, and the reader will get lost as you try to explain several different ideas at once.

This is tough for academics because academic writing involves a slow buildup, and the best academics can build an argument brick by brick. This style has value and can lead to surprising conclusions, but if you want to hook a reader, you need to at least suggest that you will answer one question. Then, once the reader is hooked, you can go all Derrida on them and take them on the theoretical equivalent of a magic carpet ride.

FYI: I hope that, after reading this piece, you set a deadline for finishing your dissertation or turning your resume into a CV.

Image of the seen power of the picket fence by Idir Fida from Vancouver, Canada, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

A publishing how-to: Tips from Stacey Pierson, Ph.D. (Part 2)

"Chinese Ceramics book cover" (Courtesy of Stacey Pierson)

Yesterday, Stacey Pierson–Lecturer (= Asst Prof in the U.S.) at SOAS in London, eminent researcher in Chinese ceramics, and the author of 2 books–described her experiences of getting her books in print, from pitching a project to drafting and editing a manuscript to the overlooked aspects of promoting the final product.  For part 2, we continue discussing what it takes to get published and ask her to don her editor’s hat to explain to us the other side of the publishing enterprise.

Post Academic: What are some tips you can give young scholars trying to get past the mental block of transforming a dissertation manuscript into a book, as someone who’s done this before?

Stacey Pierson: Beyond my personal experience, I think new writers working on their first academic book might find the actual writing process difficult because with your dissertation (if you are lucky as I was) you generally receive a lot of feedback and guidance along the way and it is sometimes quite difficult to do this on your own for the first time. At least the dissertation comes with a readymade topic, so the next difficult hurdle is, of course, coming up with a fresh idea that will be publishable and substantial enough to enhance your CV or, if you are lucky enough to get such a job, your tenure dossier. One way forward is to read as much as possible in your area to keep up with what work is already in progress and to mine your dissertation research for areas which you had to put aside but thought at the time had potential.

The interview continues below the fold…

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A publishing how-to: Tips from Stacey Pierson, Ph.D. (Part 1)

Stacey Pierson is Lecturer (which translates to Assistant Professor here in the States) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, specializing in Chinese Ceramics and Museum Studies.  She is also the one-time curator of the prestigious Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, and I imagine she could also probably work as a junior archeologist, ace appraiser, and Chinese translator, if she wanted to!

"Chinese Ceramics book cover" (Courtesy of Stacey Pierson)

But, for our purposes here at Post Academic, it’s her experiences as a published author of two books–Chinese Ceramics: A Design History (V&A, 2009) and Collectors, Collections and Museums: the Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain, 1560-1960 (Peter Lang, 2007)–and her current post as the Editor of the journal Transactions of the Oriental Ceramics Society that we’re most interested in.  Over the next few days, Dr. Pierson will be sharing her insights on academic publishing from her multiple perspectives as a scholar, writer, and editor.  Today, she tells us about the process of pitching a book proposal, converting a diss manuscript into a book, and writing for multiple audiences–all of which she juggled at the same time.

Post Academic: Can you tell us about the process you went through in publishing your books, from the initial drafting of the manuscript to pitching it to publishers to the production of the book?

Stacey Pierson: My first book was essentially my dissertation, which was already written, so I initially researched academic publishers who include my subject area in their list, Chinese art history. After doing this, and discovering that most have detailed instructions on how to approach them and write a proposal, I sent out an initial proposal to a very prestigious publisher, for the experience mainly.

The interview continues below the fold

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