BCC Press: A Q&A for Academic Historians

By April 13, 2017

We are pleased to feature this Q&A with Steve Evans, co-founder and a co-editor at the BCC Press. Steve was gracious enough to answer a few questions for scholars for JI. You can submit a manuscript or direct further questions to the press here.You can read more about the BCC Press here and here

  1. How would peer review work for authors at the BCC Press? Historians and academics are naturally concerned about issues of tenure, CV-building, etc.

Those are two somewhat separate questions.  We’re a small organization, so at least in the beginning we’re figuring out the best way to work with authors. Peer review, at least in my mind, is about ensuring the quality of the work.  For rigorously academic work we would want books to be edited by a subject matter expert, and reviewed prior to publication by others familiar with the author and their work.

As for the concerns of those looking for tenure and CV-building, that’s an area where we may need to get creative.  Publishing in the wrong place or on the wrong topic can be negatively perceived.  I don’t think that’s fair, but that’s often the reality of academia today.  With the BCC Press we want to encourage good Mormon writing, but not at the expense of the writers!  Maybe there are ways we can work with historians and academics without risking the CV.  We need editors, experts, and reviewers. We also need established authors willing to work with newer authors and voices who could benefit from the experience. I also like the idea of pairing untenured, younger academics with established authors where publication is not a concern.  There are lots of potential avenues out there, and we’re open to all of them.

  1. How does the BCC Press plan to reach out to women academics, academics of color, and and other underrepresented groups in academia?

It’s a priority for us to publish works by underrepresented groups.  We’ve got some projects underway with academics of color and women academics, but we need more and we need to do right by those authors.  Yes, I think our nonprofit structure and royalty model is attractive to authors, but ‘doing right’ here means more than just the economics.  It also means working with editors of color, women editors and others who can approach the subject matter of these stories with the respect and attention they deserve.  We’re just starting.  We’re open to ideas, looking to make connections and trying to reach out as best we can.

  1. You’ve mentioned in other places that you think edited collections could work well. How do you see this working with your model? Would these be original collections or already published materials with proper clearance?

 

Edited collections are a great fit for our model, both for original collections and curated volumes of existing work.  We have some original collections being considered now, both fiction and non-fiction, but there’s room for more.  I really think there’s a lot of potential for assembling already published materials.  There are so many journal articles and other works which are considered vitally important in professional circles, but which are largely unknown to a general audience.  Obtaining clearance for many of them should not be a terribly difficult task.  If we can anthologize these materials, provide a solid introduction, make them accessible on a broader level — there’s immense value there, both from a pedagogical perspective and as a work of preservation in itself.  So yes, I see that approach working well with our model.

  1. What steps will BCC Press to help get peer-reviewed work into the hands of the average reader? 

The quickest approach is one you asked about earlier, the collections of already published materials.  With the right people, you could put together a solid volume or set of volumes on a given subject matter or time period and get it in the hands of readers at low cost in a quality book.  But I don’t think it’s enough to just drop peer-reviewed work into a mass audience and consider the work finished.  The value of such a collection, as I see it, will be in the organization, explanation and interpretation of those previous articles for a general audience.  In the same way that the Church’s Gospel Topics essays distill a vast amount of scholarly work for a general audience, I’d like to see a collection that introduces a subject skillfully and thoughtfully, and then is backed up by the best published scholarship.  A book like that would be invaluable for average readers.

But yes, that’s just a start, and I mention it because it’s the quickest path.  Eventually I want to see original, peer-reviewed scholarly books published via our press.  That’s incredibly ambitious for what’s basically a nonprofit startup.  This is an experiment, and it will take a lot of work to get there.  Ultimately, though, I think it will be better for both the general Mormon audience and for Mormon academics if we can get quality, scholarly works into the hands of as many people as possible.  The community as a whole benefits when we have broad accessibility to good scholarship.  If we want to improve our discussions about the pressing issues of our faith, we’ve got to find a way past the academic fears of publishing outside of the ivory towers — and we’ve got to get engaging and good works into the hands of the rank-and-file Saints.

 

Thanks, Steve!

 

Article filed under Announcements and Events Calls for Papers


Comments

  1. “Getting creative” is, unfortunately, a terrible idea for people working towards tenure. Nothing against BCC Press, but no one hoping for an academic career should waste their hard work on a press that does not already have an established reputation, distribution network and sales record. If the people at BCC Press have any sense of responsibility, they should avoid publishing books by any early career academic who has not already qualified for tenure with work published elsewhere. Edited collections are one thing, but it’s malpractice to even contemplate publishing new scholars’ first books at this point.

    Comment by D. Martin — April 13, 2017 @ 9:48 am

  2. D., “malpractice” is a bit of a strong term, but I don’t disagree with you about tenure dynamics. By “getting creative” I mean the opposite of what you’re talking about in your comment. I’m talking about working behind the scenes, without necessarily appearing as an author of a work.

    In other words, it’s short-sighted to think that the only thing an early career academic can do is publish a book with an academic press. There are lots of activities and good works to be done to benefit the overall community without detriment to the CV.

    Comment by Steve Evans — April 13, 2017 @ 10:11 am

  3. Steve, publishing a book with an academic press is, unfortunately, precisely the only thing that an early career academic can do (if they want to earn tenure in a book field at a university that is serious about research). The question early career academics should be asking themselves is not if something will be detrimental to their CV, but if something will strengthen their CV, and BCC Press (like lots of other presses) just can’t do that yet. There is much good that BCC Press can do in the world, but publishing the work of early career academics is not one of them yet. As for spending time reviewing, editing, or similar activity related to publishing: all good things, but not nearly as useful as getting one more journal article out.

    If someone doesn’t need to publish for tenure, or if they’ve already published a book and some articles and now want to publish a memoir or an edition, then sure, why not? But tread carefully before you contribute to wrecking someone’s career in its early stages. The press leadership team only includes one career academic in a book field that I can see, and while Michael Austin is well published, he hasn’t had to earn tenure at a research university. I’m sure he would want to do the right thing, but even he may not have the right experience to advise someone who’s just starting out.

    Comment by D. Martin — April 13, 2017 @ 11:30 am

  4. D. Martin, can you comment on your statement that “press leadership team only includes one career academic in a book field” a little further? It seems to me that most scholarly presses (either university or independent) are not staffed by career academics. Rather, they are career publishers. Many with degrees relevant to publishing such as editing or marketing. I don’t see many publishers advising authors on tenure-track. Am I wrong?

    Comment by BWM — April 13, 2017 @ 11:59 am

  5. BMW: In fact, university presses typically have boards made up of senior faculty from the university with which the press is associated. The people who give final approval to a publication contract are senior academics in their fields and quite familiar with the tenure process at research universities. While they might not be directly involved with an author the way the editors are, they provide an important reservoir of experience and oversight.

    Comment by D. Martin — April 13, 2017 @ 6:50 pm

  6. D. Martin — Boards make more sense. I was thinking strictly in terms of the publisher’s staff. Thanks for the clarification.

    Comment by BWM — April 14, 2017 @ 9:56 am

  7. This looks great. I agree with the content (but perhaps not the bluster) of the concern about early career academics, even as I admire Steve’s aspirations. I suspect that unpublished academics already know full well that they can’t do their monograph here; if they don’t, they need better mentoring. That said, I think I see Steve arguing that this could be a venue for established academics to do some extra mentoring of coreligionists. It’s a nice idea that would require careful attention to detail and likely the development of something like a foundation, perhaps supported in part by book sales although almost certainly dependent on external philanthropy. I think if Steve et al are hoping to use BCC Press to build the careers of young academics they’ll want to explore philanthropy and formal mechanisms to support additional mentoring. I suspect some established academics would consider reviewing a MS for a reader’s fee or perhaps doing a seminar for young academics for an honorarium. (Many are stretched so thin that it would be disrespectful to expect uncompensated additional duties.) I’m not fishing for work–I’m having to refuse requests like this even when compensated for the next couple years–but I think other mid- or late-career academics might be open to pitching in here and there. Good luck to all.

    Comment by smb — April 16, 2017 @ 8:09 am


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