Peer Review: It Ain’t That Hard, People!

No, really, it isn’t.  I swear, though, if there were a university publisher equivalent of College Misery, bad peer reviewer stories would keep the place running.  All we want is a 5 page, double-spaced book report—and the first page or so is pretty much padding.  Any of your grad students could do this.  Heck, you ask more from them when they do lit reviews.  Is it really too hard to read a book in your obscure specialty (we picked you for a reason, after all!) and toss off an undergrad seminar paper on it?  It would take you a weekend.  You’re an expert, this should be easy—otherwise, we wouldn’t ask you to do this!

Send us the review, or we’ll send him after you.

Oh, and we’ll even pay you.  If it’ll take you two weekends to do this, we’ll pay you even more.  If the book gets approved, we’ll even send you a free copy.  For that matter, follow the silly directions, and we’ll even like you; needless to say, good things happen to people the acquisitions department likes.

And yet, I’m trying my best not to rant.  I’m writing a quick and dirty set of basic guidelines for people with doctorates.  Sometimes multiple doctorates.  People who rake their undergrads over the coals for not following directions, or who go ballistic when someone doesn’t RTFS, yet seem incapable of following our half-page of basic instructions.

Yes, we know you’re busy, but everyone’s busy.  If you’re not writing a book in this business, you’re toast.  We get that.  Our authors also get that, though, and their tenure committee is checking its collective watch and coughing pointedly.  Like I said, a weekend.  By the time all is said and done, you’ll have $350 in books to show for it.  That’s worth a weekend, right?

Yes, yes it is.

This is your chance to determine what your discipline looks like.  You have control over not just your own work, but that of other scholars.  Heck, you can even tweak the press’s professional opinion of your area based on your professional behavior, or lack thereof.  Certain areas have acquired reputations for being filled with problem reviewers; fair or not (and it probably is), if we know you and your colleagues are pains, it’s a strike against your books.

So clean up your acts, read the directions, get things in on time, and good things might just happen.

If nothing else, we’re more likely to remember those special unprinted conference discounts or lost stash of “Display Copy Reserved” bookmarks we forgot to tell the bad reviewers about when you visit our book both.  Even if you don’t need us to publish your book, presses take care of their own.

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