Saturday, November 07, 2015

Always ask

At actually-not-so-very-long-last, the Article of Eternal Return is in print. (PDF here, courtesy of Modern Philology and the University of Chicago Press).

As I documented in excruciating detail along the way, this article had a hell of a time getting through peer review (though, yes: it became a better, stronger, and more nuanced piece as a result)--but getting it into print was surprisingly fast; faster, indeed, than I had any right to expect. That's what this post is about.

During the two solid years that I was trying to get this article accepted, it was also kinda-sorta promised to an edited collected that had grown out of an SAA seminar where I'd presented an earlier version. I'd been up front with the editors about my need to seek a higher-profile venue, and had initially declined to participate. But they were kind and laid-back, urging me to wait and see where it got accepted and what that journal's republication policies were.

This was great, until it became embarrassing: as their book proposal moved forward, and then got a contract, and deadlines started accumulating, I kept having to say, to every email, that I actually still didn't have the article placed--so I was going to withdraw! And I was so sorry! But I just couldn't leave them hanging! And time after time, they kept insisting that it wasn't a big deal and I didn't have to make a decision yet.

In the summer of 2014, things looked like they were finally coming to a head: I'd returned a new version in response to my latest R&R, but I felt grim and defeated and didn't have much hope of acceptance. At the same time, I had a contributor's contract that I hadn't signed (and a second one, which the press sent when I didn't return the first) and a looming submission deadline if I was to participate in the collection. I felt like an asshole, and a failure, and like the universe was telling me to get the fuck over myself.

And then. . . my essay was accepted!

Except. I couldn't very well respond to an acceptance email with an immediate "thanks!!! that's awesome! Also, hey: can I republish it? Like, immediately? Like maybe before it even comes out in print with you guys?" At the same time, I couldn't bring myself to email the collection's editors, either, and tell them whatever I'd have to tell them.

So I spent about a month just not dealing.

But once I'd screwed up the courage to send the necessary emails, the degree to which everyone worked to accommodate me was astonishing. Although the journal requires first publication of everything to which they hold copyright and has a nearly three-year publication backlog, they worked some magic and slated my essay for publication just 11 months later, sent me all the permissions forms, and told me what information I needed to get from the book publisher. In turn, the editors of the collection talked to their publisher on my behalf, my contributor's contract got rewritten, and an appropriate acknowledgment drafted.

Somehow, then, the essay is in print just over three years after I first sent it out, in a journal I couldn't be happier with. And it will be republished almost immediately.

I don't exactly know why everyone was so helpful and so willing to work with me and my ridiculous situation, though I hope that ultimately everyone benefited: that the editors of the collection thought the essay was good enough to wait for (and that being flexible didn't harm them one way or the other), and that the journal was also excited by the work and/or simply saw an advantage to having it immediately republished with an acknowledgment of their priority.

In any case, my takeaway is that you should always ask. You're not being a diva or a special snowflake if you frame your request politely, acknowledge how big a favor you're asking, and are prepared to hear "no." There may be more generosity and helpfulness out there than you expect.


EarthSciProf said...

Glad to hear it worked out so well in the end! I think your takeaway is right on the money. In few years on the tenure-track, I've definitely seen people who ask (myself included sometimes) get what they asked for with some frequency and not have any blowback when they didn't get what they wanted.

Susan said...

I think you're right: when you ask acknowledging that its a favor, that it's not something you're entitled to, etc., it never hurts to ask.

PhysioProffe said...

(1) w00t!

(2) Those are some hugeasse motherfucken footnotes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laura Green said...

I so agree. It's not a secret to journal and book publishers that there are often serious and time-sensitive professional consequences attached to our publications, and in my experience they're happy to help where they can.

Laura Green said...

Also congratulations!

Flavia said...

Thanks, all! I do think I'm pretty good at asking for things (in a non-entitled, non-demanding way). . . or at least, I very frequently get what I ask for. Which--since I don't think I'm unusually charming or unusually persuasive--suggests that quite a lot of people are willing to help.


Re: (2) I know. Let's just say that I got a lot of queries and pushback, so my notes are more extensive/defensive than I'd've liked.

undine said...

Congrats on the article, and so much yes to "you should always ask."