Award Winning Blog

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Lessons in Humble Pie

As a parent, college educator, husband, middle child, retiree, etc. I have had my share of humble pie.  It's calorie free and oh so dislodging. Like everyone, I deserve comeuppances and getting knocked down a few notches.

But (of course, a but was coming) . . . today marks a high or low point in my diet.

I just completed a draft of my first law review manuscript after having retired from Penn State.  I intend on continuing to make contributions to the academic literature and recently received the honorific title of Academy Professor, in recognition of my ongoing work.  This 15,000 word manuscript took six months to prepare, and some of the comprehensive footnotes required hours of research, writing, and editing.  

I am proud of the work.  Imagine my surprise when not more than 20 minutes transpired before I received my first rejection.

The law review submission process involves the use of a monopoly platform intermediary that handles the formatting and online delivery of manuscripts to editors of law reviews.  Unlike in other disciplines, law review authors submit the same work to multiple prospective publishers.  Younger, ambitious law professors strategize how to get an offer from the best possible publisher.  The intermediary platform operator, known as Scholastica, encourages the maximum number of submissions and offers to notify editors when authors seek expedited consideration, because they have an offer in hand and hope to secure one from a more prestigious journal.

This automated process saves time, but requires payment for each delivery.  I took great pains to draft a compelling abstract and the all important "pitch letter." How disappointing to receive a rejection in less time that it would have taken to read the abstract and pitch letter.  Adding insult to injury, and humble pie volume, the rejecting journal had previously published one of my articles.

Are law review editors relying on artificial intelligence to process and make a judgment about manuscripts?  Could the rejecting journal management, with or without computerized help, make a publication decision based on the title of the manuscript?  Maybe.

In any event, as I increasingly fade away, I at least can feel proud that I have a new lifetime achievement in humble pie.


Jim Earley said...

I can’t even imagine how much work went into your document. Multiple submissions must give you some hope of acceptance.
Do the rejection letters offer any suggestions for additions or modifications? How many entries do they typically receive?
Knowing how diligent you are in your work I think your efforts wil be successful.

Ben Cramer said...

In 2022 I attempted to submit an article to law journals through the Scholastica process. On the first attempt I requested that the manuscript be sent to five likely journals. I did this a few more times, eventually making more than 20 requests at a cost of more than $100. I did not receive any response at all from a single one of them.

I suspected that something had gone wrong with the Scholastica process and contacted their customer Service, who said that all they do is send letters of interest to the journals and they have no process, or responsibility, to follow through. Therefore you don't know if the selected journals even received anything, nor does Scholastica care if they respond at all. So you pay them cold cash to send a glorified e-mail then do nothing.

That manuscript was eventually published in another journal that I contacted myself via the ancient method of direct e-mail. Did the same for another publication this year, after using Scholastica to find likely journals but then sending the e-mails myself.