Look for a publisher with SINs!
The partnerships you form with colleagues, co-authors and editors at academic publishing houses will shape your career as an academic. When deciding on a publisher to trust, look for one with plenty of sins. Not the carved-in-stone-tablet types, though, but an acronym for Service, Innovation and Niche-Leadership.
Service Matters: Would you buy health care from this company?
When starting your search for the academic publishing house with whom you want to build your career, expect the same standards of service as in other critical areas, such as choosing a health care provider or buying a safe family car.
Tell-tale signs of the level of professionalism at a publishing house are the familiar:
- Are their journals and books well-respected in your academic circles?
- Do the people you interact with have the skills, experience and domain expertise that inspire confidence?
- Do they have market reach to promote your work?
- Do they return your calls or emails promptly and with courtesy?
- Do they deliver on time?
- Have they steered clear of controversy?
Here is an acid test. Ask yourself whether you would be comfortable walking into a tenure-track job interview telling the panel that you have published with this particular publisher.
Innovation in Scholarly Publication
There are two things money cannot buy: old trees and legacy.
Unfortunately, just as old trees sometimes get felled and find themselves as paper pulp, legacy and tradition may actually hinder the speed of adaptation at large, recognised academic publishing houses. A big ship turns slowly…
You may be better served by finding a nimble publisher with demonstrated ability to integrate the best of the past with the promise of the future. Can they still produce a quality book in print while promoting your work with cutting-edge social media campaigns? Have they switched their journals to the hybrid world of paper, digital, open access, subscription-variations and other emerging trends? Were they some of the innovators that set new industry standards?
Your main interest should be whether they can get your research and ideas to your audience at the scale and speed that the digital economy expects, without compromising quality, authenticity and credibility.
Niche-leadership in Your Academic Field
Remember that seminal book or journal article that sparked your passion for the research you have been pursuing? From there, you may recall the gradual journey through the endless reading and the conferences and workshops where you discovered amazing people doing interesting work in your field. Without specific intent, you have migrated into a niche family – the people who share your passion and research pursuits.
Every academic we ever met has had their favourite journals. Your family of researchers would be no different, and each of you would know with confidence which journals and which publishers’ books you could cite with authority and whose editors you could respect.
Therefore, when searching for the ideal academic publishing partner, stick to this family. If you work in the Social Sciences, find the publisher who is seen as a leader in this niche, even if not necessarily the best-known brand name in the broader academic community. If they publish one of your most-trusted journals, this is the door on which to knock first. The people who will truly matter in your academic career will respect and recognise what is important. Hopefully, decision-makers for your tenure-track appointment work closely enough to your field to share this insight?
Play an Active Part in the Vision for Your Success
One last consideration of growing importance is to look for a publishing house where you may play a role in co-managing your success. The last thing you want is to effectively hand your life’s work over to a stranger on the promise that they will do their best to make you a success.
The trend is towards you as author taking an active role in the co-promotion of the work you produce through your publishing house, so make sure to meet the social media and the marketing team at the publishing house, where possible. If theirs is a culture of collaboration, and one where they may even offer workshops and training to strengthen your skills in building your reputation as a researcher, you know you are on the right track.
We all hope to be different; just like everybody else! The only way to make sure that your work and ideas do not disappear amidst all the noise is to maintain some form of personal control and input in the direction of your publications.
The good news is that academic publishing is such a competitive industry that academics are progressively seeing the benefit of publishers adapting fast to the changing world. At the end of the day, it is your content that matters and, like many before you, if you do your research and writing with diligence, you will find the right publisher.
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