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I think you are correct that a book can really matter for tenure at a teaching college. But I am not so sure it is a good gamble. If you cannot sell your idea to a press you can get screwed; you may not have enough to show for tenure. And, you are also correct that at many state colleges the quality of press matters little, as long as it is not a vanity press, where you pay to publish. But a book with an excellent press can be a career changer.
Further, you are also correct that you should not write a book unless you have something to say in book length. Then it can be quite rewarding. Some books, even some good books, allow a person to synthesize their thoughts on a topic on which they have already published, pushing things further.
My book attracted the attention of some good scholars in the area, and this has led to some nice invitations. But it probably helped that it was with an excellent publisher.


I am not sure articles are ignored the way books are ignored. On research gate I get a lot of people requesting and even sometimes recommending my articles, where I am doubtful if I were to write a book right now (before I am really established) whether anyone would read it. The difference is not only is a book longer, but you can get my articles for free online, and that couldn't happen with a book.


I cannot speak to the reading habits of others, but I don't think I treat articles and books of junior people differently. If I learn of a book that I might be interested in but do not have immediate access to, I just request it through inter-library loan. It still ends up being free for me. Now what might hurt such a book is if I don't learn of it in the first place; I am much more likely to look through the contents pages of journals than to look through publishers lists of recently published books.


My experience with writing a book, for what’s worth it, has been very positive. It was a good press, and it got pretty wide attention (over 20 reviews), whereas many of my articles seem to go unread. But what I like most about books is that you simply have more space for developing ideas, so you can be more innovative. My experience with peer reviewed articles has been that you have to stay reasonably close to established paradigms, and better just write about small questions. But philosophy is also about big questions, and that’s what books are for.


While I think a book on a good press is a an excellent way to secure tenure at many universities (I think Marcus is correct that the UTCs are often composed of people that value books over articles), I also think that you are probably going to get more traction with a series of articles. As Amanda mentioned, the academic social media sites really help get your articles out there very fast and to lots of people with similar interests. The potential problems I see with pursuing a book is if you are putting all your eggs in one basket and it is going to take several years. This can KILL you on the tenure track because committees in my experience want to see regular signs that you have an active research agenda. And then, once the book is out, it can take years in philosophy to get reviews (if you ever do). A member of my tenure committee pointed to this as a real problem. Whereas most articles in even mid-level journals have gone through several rounds of peer-review and revision (because you probably started at the top and worked your way down), the book might have only been reviewed by the editor and 2-3 reviewers. So, if you need say 8 articles for tenure, that is a LOT of external validation of your work that you can point to in your tenure letter, whereas one book has very little validation. I think that this is important to consider for R1 TT jobs. But I think it might be different for teaching jobs and for getting a job. In either of those cases a book makes a lot more sense to me...

Peter Furlong

In this thread some have pointed out that tenure committees are often composed of people from different disciplines with different views of the relative values of books and articles. I have heard (but perhaps I am wrong) that there also tend to be different attitudes about the relative values of books and articles between analytic and continental philosophers. Do you all think there is any truth in this? If so, do you think that this is a consideration junior scholars should take into consideration, not merely based upon which tradition they work in, but also the traditions of those in one's own department (or the departments one hopes to join)?

Untenured Ethicist

Different institutions are different. For tenure-track professors, I think the answer is to ask your chair and other senior members of your department.


Peter- Its also true that there can be sub-disciplinary differences - it might be more expected for historians to have a book and for formal epistemologists a bunch of articles. Many tenure letter writers will comment on what is standard in your subfield. But as Untenured Ethicist says, check with your* department.

*One caveat: some people will advise you to publish whatever it would take to get tenure at most (reasonable) institutions, that way if things go sideways at your institution for some reason (i.e. personal conflicts, etc), you'll be in a position to move if you have to.

Also: on Paul's point about books putting all your eggs in one basket. There is some truth to this, but you can hedge your bets by also publishing a few articles along the way on the same topic of your book. Most books have at least a chapter or two that is a rewritten journal article. So you don't have to put all your eggs in one basket if you go with a book.


Chris - yes, if one can generate other publications while writing a book then I don't see it being a problem. But I have had a couple colleagues that took years to write their well-received books, but in the meantime published basically nothing else (in one case literally nothing else). And since both hiring and tenure committees want to see an active research agenda, that could be disastrous. So, if you are someone that knows you can maintain multiple research agendas at the same time, or you can get a few articles related to the book, or you are confident you can get the book done reasonably quickly, then go for it! But if not, I might hold off until after tenure...

Marcus Arvan

Paul: I agree. I don't think it's a good idea to put all of one's eggs into one basket (a book). It's a huge risk. With perhaps rare exceptions, I would think it's probably a good idea for junior people to try to publishing a book only if they already have a track record publishing articles. In this kind of case, I think publishing a book can be a good idea--and indeed, make a candidate stand out (for jobs and for tenure).

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