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Review Time

Ask an Editor

Ilana Gershon, a contributing editor for the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, asked seven editors for their insights on questions that authors of books commonly ask. Five are press editors (Berghahn, Chicago, Indiana, Princeton, Stanford) and two are series editors. This month’s column explores the following question:

How long does it usually take to get reviews back on a manuscript?  

Fred Appel: It may take an acquisitions editor weeks to place a book manuscript with suitably qualified peer reviewers. Sometimes placement happens right away, if one is lucky, and sometimes the search takes longer if one is unlucky. I typically ask my peer reviewers to submit their reports eight weeks after they receive the manuscript. On occasion they negotiate extensions.

Jennika Baines: This can vary based on the time of year and its relation to the already overburdened schedules of academics. It is harder to find readers at the start of the semester, for instance, than it is to find them mid-semester or over the summer. We typically ask that reviews be returned within eight weeks, but it can easily take that long to find two experts in the specific area considered in the manuscript. Reviewers spend many hours on these manuscripts offering detailed and insightful suggestions for the author’s benefit and receive very little in return for their work. They are the unsung heroes of scholarly publishing, so the least we can do is be patient!

Berghahn Books: It varies—this is one of the biggest challenges of the publication process these days because everyone is so busy with course loads in addition to their own publication pressures (in addition to life). We ask for a review to be returned in six weeks, but it can sometimes take months, often with frequent extension requests. Sometimes reviewers just disappear and then we have to start from scratch. All the reasons for delay are understandable given the pressures everyone is under and we are always grateful for whatever time scholars can spare. So know that your publisher is always doing its best to work within a range of constraints that are beyond their control.

Dominic Boyer: That depends very much on the reviewers. But in our case we try and mostly succeed to get reviews back within three months.

Alessandro Duranti: It depends. Ideally, it should not take more than three months, but some reviewers make you wait a long time and need a lot of reminders. For this reason, it is good to have more than two reviewers for any one manuscript.  Good and experienced editors usually know who they can count on in delivering a review on time and they might also know how to put pressure on a colleague to get it done. This is usually a job for the editor at the Press.

Michelle Lipinski: Every process is different. For me, the averages are approximately 1–2 months for proposal review and 3–4 months for manuscript review.

Priya Nelson: We ask readers for a six-week turnaround. Authors should remember, however, that editors need to read a manuscript to their satisfaction, even one that they have expressed interest in, before asking a colleague to set aside time to review it. This could take up to a month. If the process is delayed over many months, an author should not feel cornered into simply waiting. Author-editor relationships are built on trust. And that goes both ways.

Fred Appel is executive editor and acquisitions editor for anthropology and religion at Princeton University Press.

Jennika Baines is an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press, who acquires books in global and international studies, anthropology, Middle East studies, and Russian and East European studies.

Berghahn Books—answers were co-authored by Miriam BerghahnVivian Berghahn, and Chris Chappell, all press editors at Berghahn.

Dominic Boyer is a professor at Rice University and edits a series for Cornell University Press, Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge.

Alessandro Duranti is a professor at UCLA and the series editor for the Oxford Series in the Anthropology of Language.

Michelle Lipinski is an editor at Stanford University Press who acquires books for their anthropology and law lists.

Priya Nelson is an editor at the University of Chicago Press where she acquires books in anthropology and history.

Cite as: Gershon, Ilana. 2018. “Review Time.” Anthropology News website, July 30, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.936