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A book author

Let me clarify my remarks. at least a bit ...
If you want to know the book publishers that are relevant to YOUR research area, and that publish books that are read by scholars (Like you) in that area: just gather some data ... like from your own dissertation. I doubt one consciously cites only Oxford books ... But if one does a quick survey of the books they cited in their dissertation, (and I did), one (may) find that the books they cite are principally published by a few publishers. Why not publish one's own book with one of those publishers?

Peter Furlong

I think there is a difference between aiming only for the best presses and aiming for those who tend to publish the area you write in. Consider the history of medieval philosophy. If I go through bibliographies of recent work in this area, making a list of the publishers with the most citations, things will look much different than Leiter's polls. I think there are several reasons why going with such publishers might be beneficial. First, such publishers clearly find readers for works in your area. Second, I have found that publishers have different reputations among different sub-disciplines. If a publisher puts out quite a bit of stuff that you end up citing yourself, that is a good indication that they have a decent reputation in your sub-discipline. Finally, if they already have published a bit in your area, it might be easier to convince them to publish your work, since you can make a convincing case that it fits with their catalog, and they are clearly not averse to the sub-discipline in question.

For my own book, I made up a list of publishers that was based partly on Leiter's poll and partly on the publisher's catalog in my area. In the end, though, I put a publisher on the top of the list because I had heard good things about the philosophy acquisitions editor, both from people who had published through them and people who had been rejected by them. This word of mouth made that press jump a spot or two on my list. In any case, I would encourage you to ask around about people's experiences with a publisher.

Marcus Arvan

Hi 'A book author': Thanks for the clarification. Again, I assume of course it is *ideal* to publish a book with the best press one can (one the most likely to be read by people in your area). However, your question, "Why not publish one's own book with one of those publishers?", has a simple answer: one might not be able to!

I don't know how much truth there is to this, but I have heard anecdotally that it is very hard to publish in the top presses (OUP, Cambridge, Harvard) unless one is in fairly prestigious research institution. This isn't to say it is impossible. One *may* be able to attract a top-3 press if one has a stellar publication record, etc. But, or so I've heard (admittedly anecdotally), the top presses may not be all that open to proposals by lesser-known authors.

In any case, my point is simply that, sure, try to publish in the best press you can. But, if you can't get into one of those presses, other presses lower down the list may still be worth publishing in.

A book author

I think it is far easier to get many things in the profession when you are at a prestigious research institutions - symposia on your books at the APA, book contracts (without full manuscripts), invitations to be keynotes, and (as you recently pointed out) elected to offices in the APA and other organizations. But people at state colleges do publish at the top presses (I did). I do have a good publication record, which probably helped.
About publishing with other presses ... sure. But be clear what your aim is. If you just want to publish a book, just do it. There is some press out there that will publish it. But if your aim is to be read widely, cited, and perhaps move to a better institution, I think one should aim high. It is an up-hill battle for those at less prestigious places.

A contract-getter

My experience getting a contract with OUP doesn't bear out Marcus' claim, "that it is very hard to publish in the top presses (OUP, Cambridge, Harvard) unless one is in fairly prestigious research institution." I'm at a liberal arts college (albeit, one considered to be "elite"). I have a fairly decent publication record, but I had not published anything on, or even related to, the topic of my book when I got a contract (although I did have something "provisionally forthcoming"). Moreover, I didn't even submit a complete manuscript, but instead a very detailed proposal and three chapters. I had corresponded informally with an editor about OUP at various stages along the way, from raising the possibility of writing a book to running a draft of the proposal by her before officially submitting it. My sense is that she was very happy to offer feedback.

Is this typical? I don't know. One thing I *think* made a difference is that my proposal was very detailed (about 8k words), so the editor and referees could get a clear sense of what the whole thing would look like. My sense is that your typical book proposal isn't quite so long (though maybe I'm wrong. I modeled mine on a friend's who has published multiple times with OUP). I also worked *really* hard on making it (and the chapters) as readable and compelling as possible.


Elite liberal arts colleges, if we are talking about ones like Swarthmore, Amherst, Claremont Mckenna - basically any with acceptance rates under 15% and 2/2 teaching loads, are typically considered on a research par with R1s, and likely higher than the lower ranked R1s.


A book author: all things considered equal, sure higher ranked presses get cited more. But I know lots of exceptions to this claim, i.e., instances in which someone who published with a mid-ranked press had a book that got a lot of attention.

That said, getting a book contact with a top press is typically much easier than getting a journal article with a top journal. The rejection rates are not nearly as high. I find it kind of irritating when an early career philosopher from a top ranked institution doesn't publish any journal articles, and then gets established by writing a book. Given where they got their PhD and a recommendation from their adviser, often that contract is close to guaranteed

Peter Furlong

I just wanted to chime in to say that people from non-elite places should not be scared away from trying to publish at top presses. As I have discussed before, I am at a school that is far from the ranks of the elite, but I was lucky enough to have Cambridge accept my first book, although I did have a full draft before I approached them. In any case, I don't think it hurts much to try, especially since many publishers seem okay with looking at a proposal that is also under review elsewhere.

Here is one thing that I wonder about: Does one's sub-field change how important institutional affiliation is? Referees for books, at least at CUP (and I assume elsewhere) know the identity of the author. If some sub-fields are more prone to prestige bias than others, then it wouldn't be surprising if the acceptance rate of those at non-elite places varied across sub-fields.

I have absolutely no data on whether prestige bias varies across sub-fields, but different sub-fields seem to have different cultures, so I for one wouldn't be shocked to find prestige bias variance.

Oh, and lastly I just wanted to echo what has been said above, that plenty of books from all kinds of publishers can make a splash. I absolutely think Marcus is right that there are lots of publishers worth publishing in (assuming one's goal is to get ideas out there; I have no idea how publishing with various presses will help with hiring, tenure, and promotion).


Peter I definitely think prestige bias various across specialties. Metaphysics, language, and epistemology seem the worst. But I agree there is no reason people from lower ranked institutions shouldn't try with a top press. I personally don't have much of an idea how much harder it is for someone without prestigious to publish in a top press, but as I said earlier, I think it is easier than publishing with top journals, and people without prestigious publish with top journals all the time.

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