Helen's recent post contrasting different publication strategies included a number of interesting points. Perhaps the most important point, it seems to me, is the realization that there are different, equally legitimate publication strategies in the first place. Those of us working in areas like history of philosophy or philosophy of science do not stand to profit much from publishing in 'top' general journals (the 'Healy Four' etc.), but we might occasionally still give it a shot (what Helen calls the 'buying a lottery ticket' strategy) -- for example when a paper touches on more general debates.
I've never seen the attraction of what Helen calls the 'waterfall strategy': starting with what one takes to be the top general journals (Phil Review? JPhil?) and then working one's way down. (A colleague of mine recently celebrated the publication, at last, of a -- perfectly good -- paper that had been rejected 24 times!) I might consider adopting this strategy every once in a while (though I've never resubmitted a paper more than four times), but I couldn't imagine myself adopting it as a general rule. Perhaps I just don't have the patience. (However, in a comment to Helen's piece, 'Master Planner' gives us an ironic glimpse of what a possible motivation for the 'waterfall strategy' might look like...)
Helen's post also reminded me of a couple of paragraphs I wrote three years ago, as part of my tenure application, and which I thought I'd share. I'm not sure what people thought of it at the time, but I simply couldn't resist prefacing my research/publication dossier with the following 'Note on Academic Publishing in Philosophy'. (After all, when do you get the -- hopefully undivided -- attention of 8-12 external readers, and possibly a number of non-philosophers at Faculty/University-level committees?)
Philosophy, more so than other disciplines in the arts and social sciences, has largely avoided the ‘publish or perish’ model of academic publishing. Perhaps because of the comparatively small size of the discipline, or because of its focus on debating ideas rather than documenting results, the philosophical community tends to rely more on qualitative judgments than on quantitative measures to assess the research activity of its members. This is not to say that philosophy as an academic discipline has been immune against the distorting effects of rankings and other metrics. Thus, contemporary academic philosophy in my opinion gives too much weight to journals that can boast of a high rejection rate, but are sometimes badly run. Non-philosophers are often not aware that turn-around times for submitted papers at would-be ‘top journals’ can be up to a year before the first (!) set of referees’ comments, and accepted papers often take two or more years to appear in print.
In my own work, I aim to contribute to ongoing debates in philosophy – or, in the best of all scenarios, spark a debate by putting my ideas out there. Because of this, I aim to publish in journals that have responsible editorial practices (for example, because they have a policy of returning referees’ reports within four months), are internationally peer-reviewed and widely accessible (incl. electronically), and reach the relevant target audience. I would much rather have my papers discussed by other scholars than stuck in the backlog of a journal whose primary claim to superiority is its marginally higher rejection rate.
I did hedge my bets somewhat by adding a final paragraph outlining how many of my papers appeared in highly-ranked journals, at least by the lights of the (flawed -- but aren't they all?) European Reference Index to the Humanities -- which seemed to be the most 'official' source at the time, keeping in mind that tenure dossiers also need to make a convincing case to non-philosophers sitting on promotion and tenure committees (at least at my university...).
(I can't say whether it's a wise strategy everywhere to use one's tenure dossier as a platform for opinionated statements, but happily on this occasion it didn't seem to do any harm.)