Asking the Editors: Full Interview

Junior Prof: To get started, rather than introducing each of you to readers, would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourselves? Tell us about your background, how long you’ve been in your current job, and what got you interested in publishing.

Elizabeth: I came to Duke Press as an Editorial Associate about seven years ago, after finishing my dissertation on Norman Lear’s black-cast sitcoms in the American studies department at the University of Minnesota. I was in coursework during 2009, “the year the job market was cancelled.” I knew I wanted to stay in my program and try as hard as possible to stay in the intellectual conversations that had changed my life in graduate school, but I also knew that the job market was bad and only going to get worse. An “alt-ac” panel arranged by our amazing then-DGS Kevin Murphy introduced me to Matt Becker and through him, my first publishing internship at the Minnesota Historical Society Press (shouts out to Pam McClanahan, my amazing mentor there!). I should say that I’d thought about publishing as an undergraduate, but had never felt able to take an unpaid internship. Only during my ABD years, when I had a (small) teaching stipend, was I able to do that. Unpaid internships are a major barrier to increasing diversity and inclusion in our industry. At MNHS, I got the chance to work on a variety of teams, doing work that felt important in moving projects forward–and that resulted in a tangible object. All things that were in short supply in the dissertation process. When a job at Duke opened up, I leapt at the chance, and got really lucky. I worked as an Editorial Associate for a couple of years before being promoted to Assistant Editor and beginning to acquire my own books in 2014 and was promoted again to Associate Editor in 2016–building my own lists while supporting the work of our Editorial Director, Ken Wissoker. I was promoted into my current role as full Editor in January of 2018 (ironically, around the same time I might have gotten tenure if I’d been lucky enough to get a tenure track job right after finishing up).

Jim: I’ve been at the University of Texas Press for almost 23 years and working as an acquiring editor for about 22 of those. I got my MA in Classics here at UT and was working toward a PhD. During that period I had the good fortune of working with a professor and helping her prepare her publications, including copyediting them. I had often copyedited friends’ work even as a teenager and had a knack for it. But as it was coming time to choose my dissertation topic, I was more and more disenchanted with the standard academic life, especially as I watched friends suffer through a bad job market and bounce from adjunct position to adjunct position. I had no desire to follow that path and had also fallen in love with Austin. A grad student a few years ahead of me had told me about a fellowship at UT Press that she had been awarded. At the time, the fellowship gave a UT graduate the opportunity to specialize in one aspect of scholarly publishing while learning about the rest of the business. I applied for it with an emphasis in copyediting and got it.

I started as the fellow in September of 1996 and was given a couple of projects to edit. As the calendar year ended, I began learning more about acquisitions and accompanied an editor to the annual Classics conference (then called the AIA/APA). Toward the end of January, the editor I had been working with left with very little notice, so the director and editor-in-chief asked me to step in as part of my learning process to keep his office running until they could hire someone. I agreed, figuring it would be a good learning experience, but I still planned to be a copyeditor. 

A few months later, the Press was preparing to send me to a film studies conference to acquire books, and I suggested that it would make more sense to send me as an editor rather than just a fellow. They agreed and hired me permanently. And here I still am. By being in the right place at the right time I was catapulted into a full editor position.

Junior Prof: For those of us who are brand new to academic jobs, “turning the dissertation into a book,” and book publishing more generally, what would you say is the “required reading list” as one begins to demystify this process?

Elizabeth: Germano’s From Dissertation to Book is the classic in this field for a reason. It’s still full of some of the best advice I know about how to reorient your sense of audience, evidence, voice, and more as you think about how to step into the authority you’ve claimed along with the Ph.D. There’s also no substitute for reading good first books in your field, especially ones that you’ve found successful and useful as a researcher and a teacher. There are also tons of acquisitions and academic developmental editors on Twitter giving away amazing advice for free, and lots of good videos of talks on the subject, like this one from my Duke colleague Ken Wissoker.

Jim: I don’t have much to add to what Elizabeth said. Germano’s book is definitely the one to read. And I’d say don’t just read others’ first books, but also those by senior scholars who have the knack of communicating their ideas clearly and intelligently. As for the publication process generally, see also this video.

A couple of other resources that come to mind are Rachel Toor’s semi-regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Laura Portwood Stacer’s newsletter, Manuscript Works. 

Junior Prof: I’ve heard from colleagues and mentors that finding the right press and the right editor can be a lot like dating. So, I suppose this is a two-part question:

  1. Care to comment on the mysterious “fit” requirement of finding the right editor? What does the right “fit” look like to you and how do we, as authors, know it when we see it?

  2. How would working with you be different from working with someone else? In other words, what are the nuances of working with you, specifically? Your editorial quirks?

Jim: I frequently use the dating metaphor myself in terms of the relationship between editor and author. There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a press to publish with, but I believe the rapport you have with an editor can be an important one. Depending on when you start looking for a publisher, this might be a relationship you have for many years. If you’re attending a scholarly meeting that has a number of editors present, that’s a good way to talk to several people at once–speed dating, if you will. You can judge whether the editor is interested in your project, if they “get” it, if they have insightful questions or advice at that stage, how they see your book fitting in with the rest of their list and, generally, if this seems like a person you want to help bring your book into the world (after the dating phase, I often compare my role to that of a midwife). I think just like actual dating there’s no magic formula, you just need to see if you “click” (or decide it’s not important to you if you don’t). 

You’d probably be better off asking my authors what my quirks are. It’s often hard to see your own. I’ll nag about including a conclusion if your book doesn’t have one, so that it properly concludes rather than just stops. I’ll overuse metaphors like dating and midwives. I’ll drop in pop culture references because of my own interests in the area. I don’t think I’ve ever burst into song while talking to an author, though I’ve had to restrain myself at times. (If only life were a musical. And I could carry a tune.)

Elizabeth: I’ve never used dating metaphors. (I suspect it might be because as a young-ish woman I’m reluctant to go there? Is this where I go into the panel I keep wanting to pitch for our university presses conference about editorial affects and the way editors in different social locations have access to different kinds of emotional repertoires? One that underscores the deep, deep extent to which editorial work is affective labor?)

But I definitely understand the importance of fit! Both with an editor and with a press’s list. As an editor, I want to work with authors who are open to broad audiences for their work and understand the kind of interdisciplinary and liberation-oriented perspectives so many Duke readers come to our list with. I imagine that authors would want to work with editors who intuitively “get” their projects and see how they can become the best possible versions of themselves (matching with reviewers who will similarly offer generous and rigorous feedback that serves and pushes the author’s vision of the project rather than the book the editor might have commissioned or the reviewer might have written themselves).

Regarding my own quirks: I am very pro-communication, but easily distracted. I try to do my best to match my communication style to what I’m picking up on from an author (i.e. do I use my TV metaphors or my puzzle metaphors?) and to be a steady presence regardless of the level of anxiety they seem to be communicating at any given point in time. So I can be as responsive or as hands-off as seems useful. I’ve worked with lots of first-time authors who I added to my phone contacts because we were talking on the phone and even texting so often. (Yes, I am willing, although reluctant, to communicate with authors across media including Twitter direct messages and Facebook/Instagram messages.) Other people get their mentoring and support from alternate sources or are just more self-sufficient. Maybe one “quirk” I’d say about my own preferred style is that I am not a huge fan of questions–at least, questions without answers–in book proposals and introductions. 

Too, it’s rare that we forget projects once we’ve met with someone at a conference or over coffee in another context or read a query/proposal. I tend to want to give folks their space to work out the manuscript or proposal once we’ve had a good initial conversation rather than pressuring them to get the work to me – in general, I think junior scholars are far more cognizant of their own timeline pressures than I am. So just because I’m not checking in every quarter doesn’t mean I forgot about you! I just assume you’re out there doing the work and will let me know when you need something from me.

Junior Prof: Reaching out to or networking with editors feels awkward. I recently emailed one about setting up a meeting time because I knew we would both be in the same place at the same time. I never heard back. How would you recommend going about getting an editor’s attention? Are there faux pas we should be aware of when thinking about reaching out?

Jim: I’d say definitely try to set up an appointment before a conference and provide enough information about your project so the editor can judge whether it’s a possible fit for the list. If you don’t hear back, try again a week or so later. As good as we all try to be, we might miss the occasional email or lose it to a spam filter. Let the editor know at what stage you are with the project:

  • Are you only just finishing your dissertation? 
  • Have you already revised it, in full or in part? 
  • Is it not based on your dissertation at all? 

If you have materials, such as a full proposal or sample chapter, offer to send them to the editor only if they want to see them at this point. Some will prefer to talk to you first and then decide whether they want to see written materials. Others will prefer to go into the conversation having at least skimmed your material to be better prepared when talking with you.

Try to find the sweet spot in terms of timing to reach out. Too early before a conference, for example, and I might not have even made my travel plans yet and so don’t know when I’m arriving or leaving or what panels I want to go to. Too close to a conference, I might be pretty booked up already. If you’re not able to set an appointment beforehand, go to the press’s table early in the conference to see if the editor might be able to fit you in. Don’t be offended if they are already booked up, but they might be able to find time for you if you’re polite. If I’m at an exhibit with colleagues, I’ll generally leave my schedule with them so they can tell you when I might be available even if I’m not at the booth right then.

At a conference, it’s best to approach an editor at their exhibit or maybe entering or exiting a panel. Don’t interrupt if they’re already talking to another scholar. It’s probably okay to interrupt if they’re talking to another editor or exhibitor. Don’t bother them in the restroom. If you see them in the hotel cafe quickly snarfing down a sandwich, pity them and let them have their few minutes to eat.

Generally remember that we want to meet you as much as you want to meet us. It’s a symbiotic relationship, so we need authors just as authors need publishers.

Elizabeth: It’s not awkward to us! I send emails asking people about their work on a routine basis so I love it when people take the initiative to reach out to me. I know this can be harder for people who aren’t socialized into a sense of entitlement or a feeling that their work is worth others’ time, so I particularly encourage scholars of color and women to not be shy about reaching out. (And I tend to prioritize reaching out to these folks for exactly this reason.)

That being said, our website has very clear submission guidelines, so if the question is about whether or not to submit, or itself a submission, I find that somewhat frustrating and would prefer to receive proposals as outlined on our website, so I can consider them most carefully. If you write to an editor and haven’t heard back in 2 weeks, please follow up. I find the reason I most often don’t reply to queries over email is that the project wasn’t a clear yes or no, and so I wanted to dig more deeply into the materials before writing back in hopes of finding more clarity and/or the correct followup questions, and simply didn’t find the time. 

Or I was still making my conference schedule. Before a conference, the timing is definitely important. I’d say a month to 3 weeks or so beforehand is pretty safe.  If you know an editor is in town for a conference, don’t assume that they will be aware of/participating in anything in the conference location outside of the conference–so feel free to offer a heads up or an invitation. 

In terms of faux pas, I find it awkward when someone brings a paper copy of their proposal to the meeting. Am I supposed to read it while they watch me and we sit in silence? If I’m on the road for a conference, I’m not going to have time to read it then, and it’s unlikely that it will make it back home. I much prefer getting materials in advance of a meeting, whether in person or over the phone, to form a shared basis of a conversation. Or just talking about a project over coffee, and then seeing the proposal or additional materials as a follow-up. 

Junior Prof: Let’s say I reach out to someone and they are willing to get coffee with me and talk about my book project and the timeline for it. What kinds of questions should I be prepared to answer?

Jim: Be able to provide a concise summary of the book without going into every little detail unless the editor signals they’re ready for it. Be aware that just because an editor acquires in a subject doesn’t mean they formally studied it. I got my degrees in Classics, but I also handle film/media studies and Middle Eastern studies. Although I’ve picked up a lot in my time, I might not know the in-and-outs of, say, 17th century Iranian history. So make sure that your description is accessible to a layperson unless the editor signals deeper knowledge or interest.

In addition to your actual subject matter, be prepared to speak about how the book fits into the field as a whole, what you’re doing that’s different than what’s already out there, how you see your book fitting into the press’s list. Additional questions to prepare might include:

  • If the book is based on your dissertation, what changes have you made/will you make?
  • What’s your timetable for completing the proposal? Sample chapters? The entire manuscript? 
  • Do you have constraints such as the tenure clock, and if so at what stage do you need to be? Is an advance contract ok? Or, does the manuscript have to already have been peer reviewed and approved? Does the book actually have to be out? 

Having that information will save both you and the editor time if the editor can tell you there’s no way their press can be at that stage by that deadline.

Finally, have some answers ready to technical questions, like how long you estimate the final manuscript will be (in number of words preferably). 

  • Do you need images? How many? Is color necessary? 
  • What are the rights restrictions on 3rd-party material, such as images, that you want to use? (This is a good chance, too, to ask about the press’s policies concerning rights, so that you know up front. Some publishers have more liberal fair-use policies than others, for example. Whose responsibility is it to get the permissions? Spoiler–it’s probably yours.)

Elizabeth: Yes! Jim has done an excellent job outlining the topics that usually come up in an initial conversation. If someone is able to send a brief summary of the book (even an informal one) in advance of a conversation, I find that many of these questions can be answered and we have the opportunity to go into a little bit more depth about questions of audience, theoretical framework, and even sometimes the nuts and bolts of objects and organization. I am happy to outline the contours of Duke’s peer review process and timeline in every conversation I have, but it’s much more exciting for me if I got to brainstorm about the possibilities of a book project with someone as part of that. This may also be a personal pet-peeve, but when I ask who you’re in conversation with, I’m hoping to hear about contemporary scholars rather than worthy but unlikely to respond folks like Edward Said and Stuart Hall.

Junior Prof: Okay, so now I’d like to ask a question that, admittedly, only feels comfortable under the cover of anonymity. There’s a pervasive fear among junior faculty who aren’t at R1s that their letterhead will prevent them from getting a book deal. Have you seen bias towards authors who have certain institutional affiliation in the world you work in? Put differently, if you’ve never heard of the school I work at, if I’m not in a tenure track job, or if I’m an independent scholar, how can I advocate for my work and its quality without the letterhead that does some of that advocacy work for me?

Jim: I’ll admit that’s a hard question. I have seen editors and presses that place a high value on your “pedigree.” If you’re at an institution you don’t think would immediately command respect, then you might have to rely on other aspects of your record. Where did you get your degree? Who were your advisors? Do you have articles in respected, peer-reviewed journals, or chapters in edited volumes from reputable publishers? If still not, then you need to make sure that your proposal is knock-your-socks-off fantastic and your sample chapters are likewise (which, granted, you should be doing anyway). 

In the end though, if you get the sense that the editor you’re talking to is dismissing you or your project because of your current affiliation, then is that an editor or a press you want to work with anyway? And if you’re not at an R1, then you probably have more flexibility in terms of which publisher you work with and don’t have to publish at the very top presses in your field. I’d work in a dating metaphor here, too, but it would probably go awry.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I don’t want to pretend that institutional prestige doesn’t ever matter. Sometimes it’s just a question of resources, which may or may not be tied to institutional reputation: it’s a reality of the unequal distribution of labor in the university that faculty with 1-2 or 1-0-1 teaching loads have much more time, at least in theory, to dig into their ideas (perhaps at a library that has more robust collections and subscriptions) than someone with a 4-5. That hesitation can definitely be overcome by a truly tremendous proposal or the mention of an upcoming leave. Too, as Jim says, it’s possible that people not at R1s might have more creativity or freedom or flexibility in how they conceive of their project or understand their audience, and that can be really exciting.

However, I also want to draw a distinction between faculty at less-prestigious institutions (or in non-tenure track jobs) and “independent scholars”–folks employed outside of faculty jobs altogether. If you are in the latter position, how will you help make sure that your book circulates inside the academy? Or what other audiences do you have access to? Those questions can be frustrating, but I think they are important, because an author’s presence at relevant conferences, or on the campus lecture circuit does really important work in terms of making their book visible. This is true regardless of where an author is positioned, but these venues can be more challenging to access for independent scholars. It’s also true that most university presses offer very small or nonexistent advances, assuming that our authors have full-time faculty jobs that writing their book is a key part of, and so aren’t able to support most of our authors’ writing financially.

Junior Prof: What about other “soft” evaluation criteria? In other words, what role does a prospective author’s prior publication record play in determining their fit? Are you less likely to accept a manuscript if the author has a scant publication record? Or does the relationship between prior publications and the manuscript become a factor in evaluation?

Elizabeth: It’s helpful to know on what topics and in what venues someone’s published previously, but it’s rarely the determining factor (or even a determining factor) in my decision to take a project on. (That being said, I often contact prospective authors based on seeing their work in important journals or even non-peer-reviewed venues like the Los Angeles Review of Books or The New Inquiry.) My advice about prior publications is generally that they are essential in helping scholars to build a platform, get/keep jobs,  and make their work visible. So, I understand the need to make the dissertation work for you. Ideally, you’ll be able to figure out how to turn pieces that won’t fit in the book into articles rather than publishing all 4 chapters separately first (don’t do that!). But, in general, I’m less concerned about quantity and more about quality–what you really want to avoid is giving away your book’s main idea or key concept in a journal article, so people don’t feel like they need to read your book.

Jim: I agree with Elizabeth. Though I do think it’s important to have presented your work in some form previously (again, not too much of it or the main point), so that you can benefit from initial feedback from your peers. If you published an article or chapter, then hopefully you got good feedback from the peer reviewers, or if you presented it as a conference talk then maybe you had a good Q&A session afterward or comments from others on your panel. That sort of early review can help you hone your project even before submitting it to an editor.

Junior Prof: A question about timing…from the time I send an email asking to meet up for coffee and talk about my book project, when should my materials be ready? (By materials I mean the proposal and writing sample, but that could also be a misconception.)

Elizabeth: I find it useful to have a sense of a person’s work before we have an initial conversation. Even just a paragraph or two can be a useful way to set the scene. If I’m reaching out to someone at a conference, I don’t necessarily expect that, but if someone is reaching out to me, I do expect them to have something ready. At Duke, we prefer to send out full manuscripts rather than book proposals, so I don’t always find the book proposal the most useful document to base my judgment on. (I’ve been disappointed by promising proposals that led to lackluster manuscripts too many times.)

Jim: I’d likewise like to have a good sense of what you want to discuss if you initiate the meeting. Every editor has their own preferences whether a paragraph will do or whether they want to see a fuller prospectus (and sometimes that might vary depending on how much time they have). I like to do at least cursory research beforehand to see what else is out there, how this might fit in with my list, and how broad (or narrow) the topic might be. 

Junior Prof: And then from the time I send you the proposal and the writing sample, how long until you want the whole manuscript? (Should I be sending you these things when the book is nearly done, or before then?) Does the answer to the question change based on the author’s prior experiences with book publication? (i.e. Is the answer different for first time book authors?)

Jim: There’s no one answer to this. I’d just as soon see a proposal earlier than when the manuscript is almost done, so that I might make suggestions or ask questions that can help shape the manuscript. Personally, I’m flexible as to how long it will take you to produce the full manuscript after the proposal stage. I’m trying to plan out my future lists, but I also understand that life sometimes gets in the way of writing–moving institutions, an illness, a birth, a divorce all can play havoc with a writing schedule. On the other hand, if the manuscript is too far off or too delayed then you risk being “scooped” or scholarship outpacing your work, so I don’t want to wait too long.

I’m definitely more trusting of experienced authors. With first-time authors, I like the chance to evaluate the project early and even send it out for peer review to be able to give the author explicit recommendations while they’re still writing.

Elizabeth: If I’m getting a proposal “over the transom” (without having been in conversation with the author beforehand), it can be frustrating to get excited about a promising project only to see that the author is still 9 months to a year (or longer!) from having the full manuscript that I would want to send out to reviewers. I’d prefer to get the proposal about 3 months before the author imagines being done – enough time to feel like I can still offer constructive substantive suggestions, but not so long that the project falls off of my radar.

If I’m in conversation with someone, however, as I said above, I’m much more understanding of the ways that various career and life events can intervene. In that case, it’s rare that the Press’s timelines are more pressing than the author’s.

Junior Prof: Most presses want to see that authors have an established audience. One way of “proving” that seems to be through social media. I saw someone on Twitter announced recently that they had gotten a book contract. On of her followers commented “keep us posted,” to which she replied, “I will! I have to. It’s in the terms of my book deal.” I’m curious to hear your take on presses’ growing reliance on their author’s social media presence for book marketing, promotion, and sales.

Elizabeth: Part of what university press books do is bring together intellectual communities and conversations. Social media can obviously be an incredibly important part of that. I think the rise of Amazon with its many opacities has pushed publishers to work harder than ever to try to connect directly with their audiences. We don’t require authors to have social media accounts–and you can often tell when someone’s social media presence feels forced. But especially for books in my nascent “weird studies” list or for those with interdisciplinary or nontraditional audiences, the author’s willingness and ability to get behind the book, whether through social media, giving talks and readings, putting together panels at conferences, appearing on podcasts, doing other kinds of interviews….that all makes a huge difference. I’m so in awe of my colleagues in our marketing team, whose jobs have changed so much in the last 10 or so years, and all the amazing work they continue to do to support authors in making these connections and get the Press’s support behind our eclectic list.

I should also say that we understand the stakes of being public in one’s work vary and that kind of attention can be particularly risky for folks from marginalized backgrounds, especially women of color, and people whose work is politically controversial. That’s another reason we would never require people to promote their work on social media.

Jim: I’m at a disadvantage here because I don’t do social media myself and in certain ways don’t “get” it (I prefer anti-social media). We don’t require a social media presence either, but I know it’s something that my marketing department values. In these days of shrinking resources and increasing demands on time, there’s only so much a press can do itself, so we have to rely on authors to help carry the load of promoting their own book. Plus, readers are far more interested in what an author has to say about their book than what the press has to say. 

I’ve had some authors who are too shy or too modest to advertise or push their book, while others have happily Tweeted, posted on Instagram, blogged, written op-eds or other think pieces, or given interviews or talks about their book. Our marketing department recently tried to figure out whether social media mentions had any correlation to a book’s sales and their results were all over the place. But they have created a how-to guide for social media that we give to our authors who are new to that world. It’s important for young academics to start building their platforms early.

Junior Prof: A question that comes from a place of morbid curiosity? Have you ever had to drop an author? How do we avoid being that person?

Elizabeth: University presses are very forgiving when it comes to deadlines. As an assistant I once worked on a book that had gone under contract over a decade earlier–though it only materialized because we thought it might finally be time to cut that person loose, which they took as an impetus to finally submit their revised manuscript. So, don’t take a decade to do your revisions? In general, university press folks are super-committed to our authors, even the very difficult ones, though people who have completely unrealistic expectations about what our production and marketing teams are able to pull off may find their editor less enthusiastic to work with them on a subsequent project.

Jim: There are admittedly a few authors I’ve chosen not to work with again. Often because they’ve been a pain to me and everyone else down the line from the copyeditor to the publicist. The Golden Rule applies here–treat press staff like you’d want to be treated. We’re all human, and we’re all trying to do what’s best for your book. You know your subject better than us, but we know book publishing better than you, which is, theoretically, why you came to us in the first place. If you disagree with a decision we’re making, then argue your case respectfully and politely, but accept that we might come to another conclusion.

And, yes, I’ve also had to drop authors with decades-old contracts who clearly weren’t ever going to deliver a manuscript, or because the market or our list had changed such that the book didn’t fit anymore. 

Junior Prof: Alright, last question…what did I forget to ask you? What do people ask you all the time that you feel like you’d like to go on record saying?

Jim: I’m surprised you didn’t ask the blunt question “What are the factors that lead you to reject a proposal or manuscript?”

I once estimated that I turn down about 90-95% of the proposals that I see. Sometimes it’s because the author didn’t do their research and so submitted a project that’s not within the bounds of our publishing program at all. Or sometimes they did incomplete research–just because we published a book on, say, French film as part of our film list doesn’t mean we’re interested in publishing on every aspect of French culture. Sometimes even if the project fits our list I reject it because I don’t think it’s up to snuff–it might be poorly presented, or not argued well, or just poorly written. But sometimes even if it’s a well-written, well-constructed manuscript it might be too narrow so the sales potential is low (which varies from press to press and even discipline to discipline in terms of expectations and how much a book needs to contribute to the overall margin). It might be too long. It might overlap with another book already under consideration, or at least be too close such that we don’t want to publish two similar books on that topic within a couple seasons of one another. And sometimes there’s the intangible quality of it just not fitting the feel of a list. It can be highly subjective, very much a “it’s not you, it’s me” aspect that might make me pass on a project while another editor would jump on it.

Elizabeth: I think I got through most of my go-to phrases and pieces of advice above. I appreciate Jim’s well-reasoned rationale (above) for why editors reject things. So much of the fit for us at Duke has to do with the argument and the style rather than the topic or objects per se. The more an author can do to convince me that something I thought I had heard enough about, or something I didn’t think I had to care about is something that they are seeing through a fresh and compelling perspective, the more impressed I usually am. 

I think one more thing is that the idea of academia as a meritocracy is so incredibly damaging. As in the rest of the industry, being brilliant is important, but, I hope, being in right relationship with people is too. I strongly encourage junior scholars to (respectfully) leverage their relationships with mentors and colleagues who have published in venues they’re interested in publishing in to make connections with editors, to put together writing groups, to redistribute resources from wealthy institutions as much as possible, and to connect with audiences for their ideas. Maybe that’s another reason the dating metaphor doesn’t sit right with me–I’m interested and invested in growing a community (with all the problems that term entails) of thought and conversation where enthusiastic appreciation and invested disagreement can live together.

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