This past Wednesday, the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute hosted ‘Publishing NOW: How to Publish for the Public,’ a discussion that surrounded publishing specifically for academics. The panel was moderated by Postdoctoral Research Associate Elizabeth Della Zazzera and consisted of managing editor at The Conversation Emily Castello, web editor at Lapham’s Quarterly Jaime Fuller and editorial director at Public Books Ben Platt. The panelists discussed the in-and-outs of publishing, including the process, pitches, their own journey and more.
While all three magazines do revolve around publishing, they all operate differently. In terms of pitches, each organization goes about it in their own unique way. Since The Conversation is essentially a news organization, they begin their morning by gathering all the editors into a meeting and discussing the news of the day. From this meeting, editors are able to gather a list of ideas that they would like to see published on that day. Another route is accepting pitches via their website. Fuller accepts the pitches herself.
“In my Twitter bio I have my e-mail, you can send me a pitch and I respond to everyone who sends me a pitch,” she said. “Sometimes I’m formulating a series and I’ll reach out to writers, or I’ll see someone who has an area of expertise that we haven’t run in awhile.”
Many writers expect to see their pieces published shortly after being submitted. However, this is rarely the case.
“Sometimes we have people approach us and say that they have an article that [they] want to publish and we have to laugh and say no. We basically have a three month window of time between a piece coming into the editorial process and then getting published,” said Platt.
Pitches are often a writer’s first step in getting their piece published, so it’s important to know what each editor is looking for. Castello wants to ensure that her writer is an expert in whatever they are discussing.
“We want people to be writing from an area of deep expertise, so we want to hear about your own scholarship and what scholarship you are going to be drawing upon to make your arguments,” she said.
Platt has two different codes in which he abides by. The first is a template of, “Why this, why now, why me,” and the second is the “promise of the piece, the mechanism of how you are going to get there and the biography.” He emphasizes the importance of transparency in a pitch and how it can be very important for the writer. For example, if someone is a professor of classics and would like to write about classics, it’s important to include their profession to ensure visibility.
Fuller touches upon what excites her audience and what she believes readers want to see in Lapham’s Quarterly’s articles.
“What I think a reader wants out of a piece is they want to feel smart and they want the writer to be very good at making the reader feel like they’ve got the ‘a Ha’ moment on their own and haven’t just been steered along by the writer,” she said. “The reader wants that education and to feel smart and whatever the topic is, if you can do that, it’s a good LQ piece.”
On the contrary, Castello and her colleagues go about it in a very different way.
“We [the editors] are sort of the first audience, so if we find it interesting then we hope that if we can make the writing accessible and connect it to people’s current lives, then it will find an audience,” she said.
Interestingly, while all three magazines do focus on scholarly publishing, they each have their own unique way of going about things.