U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Palgrave Pivot

Chris Chappell, Senior Editor of History at Palgrave Macmillan, wrote to inform me about an exciting new publishing program, Palgrave Pivot. Chappell wrote that in “the last few years there’s been resurgent interest in a scholarly format that is between a journal article and a conventional monograph in length. Palgrave Pivot is really the first systematic publishing initiative for books of this kind. Naturally, all titles will be available in both print and electronic formats, and will be affordably priced. All titles will be peer-reviewed, of course, and published within around three months of acceptance. We’re actively seeking projects of around 25-45,000 words to include in this year’s inaugural release.”

6 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Here’s what I find most interesting about this: most of us lucky enough to be in tenure-track, tenured, or even ranked term positions in history are governed by tenure / promotion rules that are based on the publication of books. These rules tend to be utterly silent on questions of length. At what point is a book no longer a book? Does anyone know of anyone having his or her promotion questioned because the monograph on the basis of which he or she is being promoted is too short?

  2. Hi Ben– I’ll leave it to more knowledgeable folks to weigh in on your last question, but I am very interested to see what the reception will be like in terms of tenure incentives. It may be the case that at first some committees will be unsure how to weigh mid-form publications like this, but we do think that this format is going to be increasingly recognized as a legitimate outlet for serious scholarship, and it’s important that there be a platform for it. My own (perhaps naïve) feeling is that a publication’s significance, quality, etc. should matter more than its word count–but, then, I’m a hopeless dreamer… –Chris Chappell

  3. Chris: I’m actually tempted to agree with you. In general, I think our ways of evaluating faculty output really haven’t adjusted to the new realities–positive and negative–of academic publishing. And my sense is that when evaluating scholarly output, nobody much cares about the length of scholarly monographs per se (whether or not they should). I absolutely agree with you that creating an outlet for mid-length scholarship is a good thing. But I gotta admit that there is a side of me that thinks that someone who produces a high-quality 120,000-word work deserves more professional credit than someone who produces a high-quality 25,000-word work. Which, I guess, is to say that word count and significance / quality should count (with the caveat that word-count is much easier to quantify, and therefore apt to be overvalued once we start paying attention to it). The biggest problem here may be that the professional rewards for scholarly output (tenure and promotion) are fairly blunt instruments.

    • I think you’re right, Ben. I’d expect that all other things being equal, a 120K-word publication will more often than not be a more significant (already a contested term, I know!) contribution than the 25K one. And to the extent that the promotion process is an increasingly rationalized one, it seems that a mid-length work should probably be given more “weight” than a regular journal article, and I suppose less than a long monograph, though again, one would hope that committee members evaluate on the merits. In any case, I think the question gets more interesting at the seams: what happens when, say, a young scholar is finishing her second project and discovers she can present her research and offer a penetrating, convincing analysis in 45,000 words? It’s often been the case that she’d be incentivized to either chop it up into journal articles, or throw in some sawdust and newspaper to bulk it up 65,000 or whatever a given publisher’s floor for monograph length is. (I do see examples of the latter come across my desk, of course.) Should the 65K book be given more credit than the 45K one? I realize that’s a simplified example, but I think we all share the intuition that the 45K book is just as important–and probably preferable insofar as it saves readers time and places less burden on library budgets.

  4. I would like to provide an enthusiastic endorsement for Chris Chappell and the entire staff at Palgrave. My first book, The Gospel of Beauty in the Progressive Era, was published in their series, New Studies in Intellectual and Cultural History. From start to finish each step in the process was handled professionally and expeditiously. It was a pleasure to work with such friendly people with such high standards and, as a first-time author, I appreciated having e-mails responded to quickly, concerns addressed, and readers’ reports that were respectful, comprehensive, and right on-target. I look forward to learning more about Palgrave Pivot and seeing the excellent work that it fosters.

  5. As someone who was personally commissioned to write a book for the Autumn 2012 global launch of Palgrave Pivot (which, of course, has subsequently undergone a [fortunately successful] peer-review), I was not 100% sure what I was getting into, other than I knew my book would receive a lot of press (and, hence, why I immediately agreed to submit something for peer review). As a two-time author for Palgrave Macmillan, I have been very impressed with their professionalism (to echo Lisa Sz). What I am most curious to see, though, is the final product. My book will be approximately 35k words (my other two were 72k and 64k). Will it look like a (albeit, short) book? Or will it look like a chapbook? I really think, as petty as the question over looks is, that whether or not the final products really look like a “book” will determine how they are viewed in terms of tenure/promotion review.

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