Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Most Visible Academic Presses in Philosophy

Now that I've signed the contract for my fourth book (working title, The Weirdness of the World, with Princeton University Press), I've been thinking of sharing some reflections on how to publish a book in philosophy. Even the basics of how to land a book contract aren't obvious (e.g., can you approach more than one press at a time? [Yes, but!]). A guide could be helpful.

Part of the guide will involve advice about the relative prestige or visibility of different academic presses in philosophy. I have some informal impressions, but I thought some quantitative support would be good. Toward that end, I've collected data toward a ranking of the most visible academic presses in philosophy.

I relied on five sources of book reviews, critical notices, and book symposia: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Philosophical Review, Mind, Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, using data from January 1, 2018, through May 25, 2020. I chose NDPR as probably the most-circulated regular source of reviews of academic philosophy books, and I chose the other four journals because of their top-5 rating in Brian Leiter's most recent poll of "best 'general' journals of philosophy". (Nous, also in the top five, had no book reviews, critical notices, or book symposia during the period.)

I granted each press one point for each book review in any of the four included journals. For an article-length critical notice or a book symposium, I granted 4 points. NDPR issues many, many reviews -- 726 in the target period, which is more than 4 times as many as all other sources combined. To give NDPR a total of 1/5 of the weight in the final ranking, it was necessary to grant only .079 of a point for an NDPR review.

I welcome corrections.

The results:

1. Oxford University Press (210.5)

2. Cambridge University Press (12.7)

3. MIT Press (12.2)

4. Routledge (10.8)

5. Princeton University Press (10.1)

6. Harvard University Press (6.2)

7. Fordham University Press (4.5)

8. Bloomsbury (3.6)

9. University of Chicago Press (2.7)

10. Columbia University Press (2.0)

11. Indiana University Press (1.8)

12. Springer (1.7)

13. Rowman and Littlefield (1.11)

14t. McGill-Queen's University Press (1.08)

14t. Open Court (1.08)

16t. Palgrave Macmillan (0.47)

16t. University of Minnesota Press (0.47)

18t. Edinburgh University Press (0.40)

18t. Lexington (0.40)

20t. De Gruyter (0.32)

20t. Polity (0.32)

20t. SUNY Press (0.32)

24. Ohio University Press (0.24)

25. Editiones Scholasticae (0.16)

One NDPR review each: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Catholic University of America Press, Hackett, John Benjamins, Leuven University Press, Mangalam Press, Northwestern University Press, Open Book Publishers, Pennsylvania State University Press, The Warburg Institute, University of Pennsylvania Press, University of Pittsburgh Press, University of Virginia Press, Wiley-Blackwell, Yale University Press.


* Oxford's lead is huge. My sense is that this is not because Oxford is that much more prestigious than others in the top six but rather because it has a much longer list (see below). Oxford might or might not be the most prestigious university press in academic philosophy, but due to the length of their list plus their prestige and quality, they are clearly the most visible press in academic philosophy.

* Fordham's high ranking is due almost entirely to Judith Butler's Senses of the Subject. With four points possible for a symposium or critical notice, we ought to expect substantial noise in the data at below 8 points. The fact that there aren't more presses over four points is evidence that, for at least the past two-plus years, the top six presses pretty much have a lock on reviews and symposia in the most elite general philosophy journals, except when a highly visible philosopher, like Butler, publishes elsewhere.

* The number of NDPR reviews is extremely skewed, saying something about the presses' list sizes (though of course many scholarly philosophy books are not reviewed in NDPR): Oxford 298, Routledge 99, Cambridge 97, Bloomsbury 46, Chicago 22, Springer 21, Harvard 15, MIT 15, Princeton 14, Rowman and Littlefield 14, Columbia 13, every other press 10 or less. Oxford is the 800 pound gorilla! Routledge and Cambridge also publish lots of scholarly work in philosophy. MIT, Princeton, and Harvard appear to have short but selective lists.

Update 5:11 p.m.

Several people have suggested I divide the points by the total number of books published. I'm not seeing a good way to get those numbers for all of the presses, but one easy approach would just be this: Look at what percentage of the reviews are in NDPR. A score of .50 would mean that for every book reviewed in NDPR, the press also had a review in one of the elite journals.  A score of .00 would mean that no books by that press were reviewed in one of the elite journals during the period.

Using this method, and limiting it only to presses with at least 15 reviews for stability, we get the following ranking:

1. MIT Press (.42)

2. Oxford University Press (.31)

3. Princeton University Press (.30)

4. Harvard University Press (.25)

5. Cambridge University Press (.05)

6. University of Chicago Press (.04)

7. Routledge (.03)

If we include all presses, then McGill-Queens and Open Court are tied for first at .50, each with one NDPR review and one non-NDPR review on my list. Also in the mix are Fordham (.14), Indiana (.09), Columbia (.07), and Chicago (.04).  All of these presses have only one review on my list apart from NDPR.


David Thorstad said...

I'm really happy that you're thinking about writing up a guide to publishing books in philosophy.

As an early career scholar starting to think about book plans, I've found it difficult to find good resources directed at philosophers on the process of publishing a book. I suspect I am not alone in this situation.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Yes! I've learned mostly by trial and error, plus a bit of mentoring. I think it could be useful to share what I've learned more widely.

P.D. Magnus said...

Before looking at this, I would have said that Oxford UP and Cambridge UP were the top tier journals but that neither was especially more prestigious than the other. Although I generally try to be responsive to evidence, I'm not clear on what the right response would be here. Making an NDPR review worth .079 lets you carry out scores to three decimal places, which gives it an aura of precision.

zodiac said...

How much the fund for this universities?
If you know call me back

Arnold said...

Your a popular working philosopher, a measurable quantity; quantitative to publishers...

I would look you up, categorically, as 'an enthusiastic philosopher for our times'...

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments, folks!

P.D.: You're right about the rounding. I have revised accordingly, though I'm afraid that substantial artificial precision remains, given the noisiness of these data. On OUP vs CUP: I think your impression is probably not unusual but that it might depend on subfield.