Roundtable on How NOT To Write Your Second Book: Timothy Mennel on Publishing

Continuing our roundtable “How NOT To Write Your Second Book,” Timothy Mennel, an executive editor of University of Chicago Press, looks at how the second book differs from the first.

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Tell me if this sounds familiar, either for yourself or for scholars you know: “So my plan is to complete my dissertation by next May. After that, I’ll be on the market. I’ll take whatever job I can, but my focus is going to be on getting a book contract from a university press, speeding through the peer review process, and getting the leverage I need to move to an R1. And then I can start my real work. The second book is where I’ll do what I really want to. And it will be trade. I’m tired of writing just for SHEAR.”

Now, what happens, of course, is that the dissertation takes three years to finish, the job market is worse than anyone could have imagined, the peer-review process is brutal, but the book does finally come out. And no matter what else has happened—that dream of doing what you really want to, which often is framed as writing that second book as a trade book, lives on. Continue reading

A PhD Student’s Case for Embargoes

Note: I welcome this opportunity to expound more fully on a few quotes from me in a New York Times piece about the AHA statement. You can find my Storify of the debates on Twitter and in the blogosphere related to the statement here. It is also worth reminding readers that the opinions in our pieces are those of the author and not of the blog as a whole.

A recent policy recommendation by the AHA on the embargoing of dissertations—i.e., limiting online access and distribution for a specified period of time—has created quite a stir in the blogosphere and on Twitter. Many are criticizing the AHA for a reactionary policy that concedes the status quo, i.e., the undue influence and interest of university presses in hiring and tenure decisions and the profession’s overall laxity in adapting to the digital revolution.

Let me be clear from the outset: I am not defending the AHA’s statement, per se. It does indeed ignore the broader issue of what the AHA intends to do about the long-term, systemic problem of the profession’s transition into the digital era, more generally. I am, however, going to defend the policy of allowing students the option to embargo. Continue reading

Reprint This! Thomas Buckley’s “Church & State in Revolutionary Virginia”

Every sub-field has its classic books.  It should not take long for most of us to rattle off a couple of titles. In my field of church-state relations in the early American republic (particularly in the upper South), few books tower over the field more than Thomas E. Buckley’s Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787.[1] Despite being published thirty-six years ago references to this classic litter the footnotes of subsequent books from fellow classic histories like Rhys Isaac’s Transformation of Virginia to more recent works such as David Sehat’s Myth of American Religious Freedom.[2] Anyone grappling with the politics of religion in early national Virginia, that overheated cauldron of disestablishment, must grapple with Buckley’s work. But this great historian did not stop there; in a series of articles Buckley expanded his analysis to include much of the evolution of religious freedom in the Old Dominion over the nineteenth century.[3] Continue reading