Update (9/4/13):  I submitted my review to this publisher on July 30; I contacted the editorial assistant about the missing payment on August 21 and was told 2 more weeks. It’s now been 2 more weeks. After an email exchange with the acquisitions editor (for whom the assistant works), I’m now being told that the paperwork is sitting in Accounts Payable and it usually takes 4 weeks to process. So, for work that I turned around in 4 days from the first email request in July, I am being asked to wait 6-7 weeks.

People, it’s $80. But, do you know what $80 buys me? My semester-long parking pass. Apparently, my stern email about valuing faculty labor and subsequent follow-up emails with the editor didn’t make an impact.

I recommended to him in this latest round of emails that the editorial assistant note in the query emails the planned payment date. That might dissuade some from performing the work for such a late payment.

My next step will be to recommend that others don’t review for this publisher or the editor. (This feels roughly like counting to 5 with my 5-year old nephew when he’s hit the limits of acceptable behavior, except this kid doesn’t really care and has no fear of reprisal.) Sigh.

Further Update: In the interest of being forthright, I sent the URL for this post to the editor who immediately responded (after reading the post) that the publisher indeed cares about faculty labor and will suggest revised protocols for peer review and honorarium. That’s great! That’s what I’d like to see (in addition to my $80). Now, back to grading, crafting, reading, writing, scanning, and designing.

*****

I’m somewhat intrigued by the viral reaction to my last post on time, value, money, and the profession. The post received something around 18,000 hits since its publication — many of those came from Facebook links and The Professor Is In. And, the pingbacks and comments have offered some insight into the profession’s thoughts about itself and the pleasure of laboring for love.

Around the same time that I posted that firestorm-starter, the Digital Humanities Conference was taking place in Lincoln, Nebraska — a conference that I was unable to attend despite having a panel accepted on Feminism and Digital Studies along with 3 other splendid panelists. (George Williams stepped in for me and did a great job according to the Twitter-stream in response.)

Something came up at that conference over and over again, most specifically by Kathi Inman Berens: doing DH is a labor of love, and that love is often thought to be free (also discussed by Lee Skallerup Bessette). In other words, we shouldn’t expect to be paid for our intellectual work, or at the very least paid a wage that matches our experience level.

Bullshit.

Last year, I determined to no longer pay for my own conference travel, research expenses, or professional memberships. The financial burden was no longer feasible. Today, I made another stand. A minor stand, but a stand nonetheless:

I, and many of my colleagues, often review proposals, table of contents, preliminary drafts, full manuscripts, and other items at various academic publishers’ requests. I used to do this for free and relish the chance to help shape the next textbook or Romantic-era reader that I would be able to use in my courses. This year, I decided that I could no longer afford to give away this time for free. So, I accept requests to review proposals, but only if they come with an honorarium: sometimes, I receive books from the publishers; other times, it’s cash. But, I’ve often thought that the publisher’s payment should conform to the 2-week turn-around requested of me. Against, my better judgment, I accepted two proposals to review for a prestigious academic publisher. Both are extremely worthy proposals, and I was happy to offer my opinion. But, not for free.

Today, after I submitted the review for one proposal 3 weeks ago, I decided to ping the editorial assistant about the delay in payment of one of those honoraria. Due to a snafu with personnel, the paperwork was delayed. I could expect the check in another 2 weeks. This was the first that I was hearing about the delay. I don’t think this publisher willfully wanted to let 5 weeks pass before payment was made. But, I’d like to see publishers change their attitude about faculty intellectual labor. So, I wrote back, and I’ll probably regret this….but, I just had to say it:

If you could pass this along to whomever makes the schedule, I would certainly appreciate it.

I’ve experienced a lag in honorarium payment with many publishers. The issue is that reviewers typically receive a fairly draconian 2-week deadline to review proposals, documents, etc. It’s only reasonable that reviewers (who are all instructors with other academic and administrative duties) expect that the company asking for this time also honor the same kind of turn-around for the honorarium. Often, faculty perform this kind of work for no professional advancement, and the amount of the honorarium is minimal compared to the experience level of those performing the reviews. (In my case, I’m tenured, have been teaching the ********* course for several semesters, and have shared my curriculum with other faculty at various institutions across the US.) Basically, we do this work to further the profession and help each other.

Regardless of any issues on the publisher’s side, it’s incumbent upon you (the company) to offer the same professional courtesy to reviewers that we offer to you. Typically, each semester I teach at least one section (sometimes two) related to this textbook. That means, at the very least 25-50 students each semester would purchase the textbook. As a tenured professor, my time is extremely limited and very valuable. The honorarium offered by **** is paltry compared to the potential profits for this reader. Foregoing a timely payment for my review is somewhat disrespectful to the labor that I offered. Failing to offer a timely update about payment, or any dilemmas on the company’s side, indicates a lack of respect for the work.

By performing these reviews, I forge relationships with publishers. However, if the publishers cannot honor and respect the work that I perform for them (almost for free, quite frankly), it damages that relationship and my ability to further work with the publisher in whatever capacity.  Please don’t become yet one more publisher who takes advantage of faculty intellectual labor.

I don’t think that you make policy, ***, but I would appreciate it if you would pass this along to your editor.

I sometimes get the feeling that in the Humanities, it’s gauche to talk money. But, I’ve been listening to my Silicon Valley friends — they negotiate everything. And employers don’t ding them for bringing up valid points about their value to the company. There are many guidebooks to help new hires negotiate their worth, but we (as a profession) also need to recognize our own worth in any situation and ask any employer to value our labor and the building of relationships.

Now, just go ask. Don’t demand. Ask. Negotiate. Remind publishers and employers about the value of your time.

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