14 October 2015 -
The DHS Publishing Workshop, held at the annual DHS conference in San Francisco, September 2015, provided a rare opportunity to see inside the editorial process of several journals, from initial review of submissions through the peer review process and to final publication. Too often, scholars (especially less-experienced ones) may perceive the academic publishing world as a thankless system in which they must not only subject their scholarly work to intense scrutiny but also risk the pain of possible rejection. Discussing some of the realities of publishing—including the intense pressure on editors and editorial boards to craft well-balanced journal issues composed of high-quality articles—was a valuable exercise in building empathy across this divide.
In terms of advice to prospective authors, editors tended to converge on several points:
• Know the journal/press before you submit. Understand what its goals are, the types of content it publishes, the tone and style of articles or books, and how your work can fit into this milieu. Follow the submission guidelines closely.
• Don’t take rejection personally. It’s entirely possible that your work was not appropriate for the issue(s) the editorial board was putting together or for the publishing house, and your work might be better received elsewhere. In some cases, editors may even suggest alternate venues for your work.
• The process of selecting, reviewing, editing and perfecting articles for a journal cannot be rushed. Typical timelines from submission to final publication range from eight months to two years or more.
• Realize that bringing to light an issue of a journal is as much a responsibility for journal editors as it is for a scholar to write an academic article. A great deal of thought, care, and coordination goes into the editorial process. The same, of course, goes for book editors.
In general, there was a consensus that book or exhibition reviews can be a good way for new authors (such as recent graduates) to get started publishing their work in journals, as such articles tend to be shorter and the review process less stringent. The only caveat was from those that felt that emerging scholars might be at a disadvantage if their reviews were critical of senior scholars whom they might run across later in their careers. Several participants also recommended the volume From Dissertation to Book (William Germano, University of Chicago Press, 2013) for recent graduates seeking to publish their work.
As a workshop participant, I appreciated the insights of all the speakers as well as the opportunity to demystify the system of academic publishing. I came away with a much greater appreciation of the considerable pressures that journal and book editors face, and hopefully a better ability to present my own work for publication in the future.
Speakers included Cheryl Buckley (Journal of Design History), Paul Stirton (West 86th Street), Elizabeth Guffey (Design and Culture), Raiford Guins (Journal of Visual Culture), and Rebecca Barden (Bloomsbury Publishing). The workshop was expertly run and organized by Maya Oppenheimer, Sabrina Rahman, and Michaela Young of DHS. Thank you also to Jeremy Aynsley and Barry Katz who introduced the event.