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Home | Blog | Advice from me, re: academic publishing

Advice from me, re: academic publishing


Tags Media and CultureProduction Theory


(With assistance from Bill Barnett)

I am perhaps one of the most heavily published of all Austro libertarians now active, at least in terms of refereed journals and law reviews (205, plus 32 forthcoming, for a total of 237 as of today), so these hints, below, might be of some use to you. At least they are based on a wealth of experience, garnered over many years. I invite others to contribute to these hints. Send them on to me, and I'll include all those I think helpful.


1. Keep trying. Never give up.

Any rejection letter should be met with a "pearls before swine" attitude. I've had articles of mine rejected as many as 30 times, that's no misprint, before final acceptance. It takes on average 6 months to get a rejection. So that's 15 years. Never give up. There is one journal in particular that I greatly admire that rejected 21 of my articles in a row. The editor recently sent me a revise and resubmit letter in response to my 22nd try. (All 21 of these rejections were accepted by other journals.) Read all ref reports carefully, especially nasty ones that recommend total rejection, and even those that question your parentage. Every once in a while there will be something of substance you can use in revising the paper.


2. Compromise?

Never compromise on principle. If the editor or referee wants a change that requires you to violate a principle of Austro libertarianism, don't do it. But be utterly spineless on things that don't matter. Be craven on punctuation. Be cowardly on length of paper. Be amenable to expanding the paper in any direction required, subject of course to the stipulation mentioned above about principle. Do everything the editor and/or referee requires in terms of style, presentation, even if it seems silly to you. None of this matters.


3. Where to send?

Start out at the top (unless you need a quick acceptance for tenure, or job search). After two or three rejections in the most prestigious places, then go lower.


4. Waiting?

Once you've sent out an article for publication, forget all about it. Immediately start on the next project. However, if you haven't had an acknowledgement of receipt of the paper within a month, write the editor asking for just that. If you don't get it within a week, write again. Every week. If you don't get it within two months, withdraw the paper and send it elsewhere. On the other hand, there is a second strategy, which might work, as long as you are sure the journal is still in business: guilt. If you've not had a reply within an entire year, you can sometimes "guilt" the editor into at least looking more positively at your paper.


5. Without fail.

When you get a revise and resubmit letter, your response should include the following three things:

  • A. a letter addressed to the editor, citing and heavily quoting from the ref's report, explaining what changes were made to accord with what the ref wants
  • B. an edited copy of our paper, indicating in color highlight and cross out exactly what was done to the paper
  • C. a clean copy of our paper, ready for publication


6. How to respond to: "The paper is too long. Cut it down."

There are two ways to handle the "too long" comment. One, cut, say, 5-7% of the paper; trim the fat. A good way to disguise this (appearing to cut a lot, while not cutting too much) is to mention number of pages, not number of words. Here, the "cutting" is mostly in the form of deleting a single word so that you reduce the paper by an entire line. There are three means to shorten a paper: A) substitute shorter synonyms; B) eliminate adjectives and adverbs that are not essential; and, B) shorten any and every paragraph the last line of which is less than one-half of the length of a full line by finding ways to shorten the other lines. This last means, assuming that roughly one-half of the paragraphs have a last line of one-half the full length of a line, cuts the number of lines in a paper by one-half the number of paragraphs in the paper. That can be significant insofar as the number of pages in a paper is concerned. Also, editors are typically more interested in the number of pages an article takes up than in the number of words.

Two, cut a real big part of it out, say, 30-40%. But here, do so in such a way so that this other 30-40% can stand on its own as a second paper. In this second scenario, there's no need to cut any fat, since in our view, there's no fat. The ref is a moron, and you're the genius.

Then, present the editor with these two options, on the ground that the referee wasn't precise in how much he wanted cut, and let him choose which one he prefers (this is not a matter of principle).

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at Loyola University, senior fellow of the Mises Institute, and regular columnist for LewRockwell.com.

Click here to see an extensive online compendium of Dr. Block's publications.

Click here for a complete list of Dr. Block's books.

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