Writing an Academic Book, Part II: Choosing a Publisher
In my first post in this series, I went over the criteria that should guide your decision on whether to try to write an academic book in the first place. I also explained the limitations of this series, such as that it is primarily intended for current and aspiring academics and policy analysts, and people who are considering publishing a book with an academic press. But let’s say you are in my target audience and you’ve decided you want to write a book. This post addresses the question of how to choose a publisher.
There are hundreds of university presses in the United States alone—academic publishers affiliated with universities. There are also numerous commercial academic publishers—presses that publish primarily academic books, but are not affiliated with a university. How do you decide which ones to submit to? If you get more than one offer, how do you choose?
There is no definitive right answer to that question. But there are some basic ground rules that can help guide your decisions. First, you probably want to pick three or four publishers to submit to initially. If you do much more than that, they might run out of peer reviewers (as many will not be willing to review the same proposal for two different publishers or consider it unethical to do so). If you only do one or two at a time, you reduce your odds of success, or at least ensure it will take a lot longer. I’ll have more to say about peer review in the next post in this series.
When it comes to choosing your three or four, there is a rough pecking order of publishers, at least in law and the related fields and I am most familiar with (economics, political science, political philosophy). In no particular order, the biggest names are Princeton University Press, Harvard University Press, Oxford University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Cambridge University Press. A few other publishers are close to the same level, or perhaps just below it, depending on who you ask; examples include Stanford University Press and University of Michigan Press. After that, things are a lot less clear, and are more likely to vary by field.
Commercial academic publishers have a less clear-cut pecking order that probably varies more by field. But some of the best-known are Routledge, Edward Elgar, Hart, and Palgrave Macmillan. On the whole, the top commercial academic presses are seen as a bit less prestigious than the top university presses, though again this might vary somewhat by field.
I am not suggesting that all the best books get published by big-name publishers, or that lesser-known ones only publish dregs. Far from it. Even the most famous presses publish some mediocre books (or worse). And there are truly outstanding books that get published by little-known presses. On average, however, there is a rough correlation between the ranking of the publisher and the quality of books and authors they typically get, even if that correlation is far from perfect.
More importantly, from your point of view as an author, both academic and lay readers often use the prestige of the press as a signal of the likely quality of the book and the standing of the author. For that reason, getting a more prestigious publisher can benefit your career, and increase the potential audience for your work.
Perhaps it shouldn’t
Article from Latest – Reason.com