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05/31/2021

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Bookie

If you are pre-tenure, then do not do a book, UNLESS you are required to for tenure. They are so much work. I have written three books, and each would have been impossible without a sabbatical leave. Even still, two of the books only appeared in print 2 years after the sabbatical. Books are long term investments.

Marcus Arvan

Bookie: I have to disagree with you on this. I didn’t need to publish a book to get tenure, but I published one anyway—and it appeared to help me get a tenure track job (I was much more competitive on the market once I had a book contract, and even more competitive still, landing a job, the year the book was accepted and forthcoming). What I would agree with is this: it’s probably not a good idea for a junior person to try to publish a book to the exclusion of other things (i.e. publishing articles and teaching well). Generally speaking, my sense is that it tends to be a bad idea to “put all of your eggs in one basket”. But, it seems to me, if a junior person can do these things and publish a book with a good press, it is only likely to help them, not hurt. Also, although writing a book is (as you note) a ton of work, it can also be an exciting and rewarding process.

Bookie

Bookie, here, again.
I cannot imagine having the required concentration without a break - and the pressures leading to tenure are not conducive to it. I have a very controlled writing style - I like to really know where I am going, and when you write a book there are so many ways to loose your way. You have to be very critical with yourself, and be prepared to through large parts of a project out. Maybe our competing advice, Marcus, is a function of our working styles.

Only Humean

I've seen a lot of junior colleagues fail to get tenure after starting book contracts. As Bookie mentions, books are all-or-nothing affairs. A lot can go wrong - the book can fail to materialise, or it can bounce around editors desks' for a while. Some places also require a book to be in print to properly count for tenure (unlike articles, where 'Forthcoming' is an acceptable state of being), or they might even require book reviews to be out. If I were advising a junior colleague in my department, I would caution very strongly against writing a book pre-tenure, unless you already have a tenurable body of work.

This is not to say that some like yourself can manage admirably, Marcus. But advising on the probabilities, I would go the way of Bookie.

Tim O'Keefe

One thing I'd recommend is talking to your department chair or (if you have one) a senior member of your department you trust / who is mentoring you. Obviously, this depends on your departmental culture and what your relationships are like with members of your department, but hopefully the senior faculty, if they'e smart, want their TT colleagues to be successful and get tenure.

They'll know more about the formal and informal standards and procedures at your institution for going up for promotion, and you can tell them about where you stand with regard to publications and things at various stages in the pipeline. You can talk together about putting together a plan that makes sense for you.

Maybe, intellectually, it would work better to take the long papers and turn them into a book project instead--Marcus is right that you should keep those intellectual considerations in mind. But if so, are you at a state where you can start working on that project and still feel secure about meeting tenure requirements? Or maybe it would be better to turn for now to some other paper-length projects until you're secure about where you stand in the tenure process, and then return to the book after you get tenure (or later in TT when you've gotten enough other pieces out there). But making these determinations depend upon the particulars of your situation.

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