Academic Publishing

Is there a new trend where academic publishers seek out academics and offer to discuss possible publication of the books they are working on? And I don’t mean vanity presses, obviously. I mean very respectable publishing houses.

The way it seems to work is that authors speak at the MLA as a way of announcing what they are working on, and then publishers contact them offering to consider the publication of the book that the talk is part of.*

Since my MLA talk, I already got contacted by 3 very good publishing houses who want to publish the book that the talk came from. I always feel bad having to tell them that the book already has come out. On the positive side, all these inquiries encouraged me to start writing a prospectus for the new book**, so that’s good. I never contact publishers until I have the complete manuscript but hey, maybe it’s time to change my process and start pitching while I’m still writing. Or still thinking about writing.

*One is supposed to be working on a book at all times. All of the people in my field to whom I mentioned my recently published book immediately asked when the new one was coming out and what it was about. Even the analyst was like, “OK, so when is the new book coming out? Do you have a date of completion?” It’s like the women who bring a newborn from the hospital and everybody goes, “So? When are you going to have the next one?” I personally find it extremely invigorating when this happens (a propos the book and not the next pregnancy, obviously. At my age, nobody asks about the next pregnancy. Which makes me want to go, “And why do you keep silent, huh? Am I too old? Do I look old, huh, huh? I still have 15 years left before menopause, for your information.”)

** Good news: the book will be about nationalism. N is reading my crisis book and asks, “So what is liquid capital?” Which goes to show that I haven’t been bugging him with fluidity and the nation-state. When I explained the concept, his reaction was, “OK, so why did we support Hillary, then?”

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8 thoughts on “Academic Publishing”

  1. This is true. There aren’t all these great books sitting in people’s drawers who can’t find publishers. I think, yes, we are all supposed to be working on the next book. Some people know that and are not actually doing it, but will still say they are.

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  2. Yes, it is very common. I get several emails like this whenever I am scheduled to speak at any of the major conferences in my field. Usually, though, my conference talks are either on side projects that I have no plans of ever publishing in book form or things I’ve already published/are about to be published

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    1. Right. It is always my side projects I get approached about. Some paper I just wrote so I could get funded for the conference and look for a job, or something someone begged me to do to fill out their panel. Those always attract publishers who hope it is part of a book mss.

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  3. I have only been approached by publishers urging me to write an elementary level textbook (freshman or sophomore level, usually.) I considered it early in my career, but realized it would put an end to my research productivity.

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    1. If nobody is going to do anything to address fluidity, then maybe it’s better just honestly to say “Fuck you, deplorable losers” than to get people all excited by false, dishonest promises to pacify them as if they were idiots. “Fuck you losers” at least recognizes people as being worthy of hearing the painful truth.

      I supported the shock therapy back in the USSR and I think it worked out great because trying to prolong suffering rather than just inflicting it in one blow is cruel and useless. If globalization is the unavoidable problem, it’s best that everybody should get with that program and stop harboring false illusions.

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