Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

The Non-Mysterious Past of Publishing

Friday, November 24, 2017

I’ve written each of these editor’s letters before. Turning down someone who has spent a decade writing the book that defines their identity. Suggesting a different direction to an author who thinks she knows what she wants to write. Urging a writing project on a scholar that you know will consume his life for the next half decade. But these weren’t my letters, rather they were ones written by editors at Scribners and Thames & Hudson in the early 1960s to archaeologist Walter Fairservis and buried in Walter’s archives at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge.


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Suspenders on University Avenue

Thursday, November 02, 2017

“Do you still carry suspenders?” was my conversation starter to the owner of the work clothes shop on University Avenue. He had all the other necessary ingredients for the blue collar worker. Flannel shirts, steel toed boots, jeans tough enough to survive the next apocalypse. And, sure enough, on three carefully hung racks just past the register, suspenders. Jubilee is performing Louisiana Roadhouse this weekend, auditioning for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and I was instructed to switch my suspenders from black to tan to match my 1930s earth-tone costume.  

This is not your…

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Publish and/or Perish

Thursday, September 28, 2017

How tough is the publishing game? Maybe it takes a publishing game to find out. Andrew Reinhard masks himself as head of publications for the American Numismatic Society, though he’s actually an archaeologist who deals with artifacts of the contemporary world and is one of the key proponents of archaeogaming. And, with a foot in the publications world and one in the scholarly world, he invented a Twine game called Publish and Perish. The conjunction “and” is all that is necessary here. If you want to try it, the game is not behind a firewall, but…

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A Scholarly Monopoly Nightmare

Monday, September 25, 2017

Scholarly publishing is $25 billion industry, according to a 2015 report, including $10 billion in journals, $5 billion in scholarly books.  Large global media companies have a vested interest in keeping income and profit flowing. The key players work in the billions of dollars—Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Springer/Nature—all of which rank among the world’s largest publishing houses.  To increase market share in the shrinking of the scholarly marketplace of frozen academic hires and capped of library budgets, they have swallowed up smaller ones as the key strategy. This includes my own former…

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The Best Birthday

Sunday, July 30, 2017

“Do you have a favorite birthday? One that really stood out from the rest?” Chelsea asked. We were sitting around the dinner table ready to dive into my favorite birthday meal of turkey and trimmings. Answering her question was easy. That memorable day was only last year, when I hit 65. A big party for the event? Too conventional. Fortunately, the choice had already been made for me. I would be dancing in Portugal.

Jubilee American Dance Theatre had been invited to the Espinho Folklore Festival. Espinho is a beach town, tourist spot, and suburb of…

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Summer of Love + 1

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My kids Alexis and Mike just got back from the Summer of Love exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in SF. For them, it’s a museum exhibit. For me, life history. Well, not really. In 1967 I was still a high school Valley Boy interested in debate club, the Dodgers, and Beach Boy music. Law school was in my future. The movement didn’t hit me till the next summer, 1968, one that I spent in summer school at UC Santa Cruz. Let’s call it the Summer of Love + 1.

I'd never heard of Junior Statesmen of…

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Turning Your Dissertation into a Book:The Hourglass Method

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I just gave a webinar for the innovative Center for Digital Archaeology on publishing out of your dissertation. Among the confounding factors in deciding how to proceed is the unfortunate physical resemblance of your dissertation to a book. They do look similar, don’t they? They each have a table of contents, introduction, method and theory sections, a whole hunk of data, conclusion, and references. All you need to do is tear out that signature page and the two would be indistinguishable. You can even bind the 321 pages in leather and put it on your mantle for your friends…

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That Afghanistan Project

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The memories only come back in flashes now. Standing atop the 100 foot high dune watching the sun set over an endless vista of sand. The howling winds shredding our camp as we sought cover from wind, sand, and water in the Land Rovers. Crouching next to a teenaged Baluch workman carefully tracing a plastered floor with trowels and brush.  Watching our historical architect Jim Knudstad scrape away at piles of mud and magically reconfigure the plan of a Parthian house. If not for the photos, I am not sure I could convince myself that I…

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Six Helpful Tips for Your Book Proposal

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In a recent post I noted that getting a book published does not, as is generally believed, begin with the book proposal. There’s a lot of field work involved first. But, having done the work, it becomes time to craft a proposal that will convince a publisher to invest $20,000 or $40,000 or more in your book.

Where do you look for guidance? That’s an easy one. Every publisher, that means every one, has guidelines for putting together a book proposal on their website. Usually these guidelines are brief and vague. Some publishers want you to…

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The Ends of Anthropology, A to Z

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two profound endings for the field of anthropology took place this past week, one at either end of the alphabetic spectrum. In New Mexico, ethnographer Michael Agar succumbed to ALS. News meandered to Walnut Creek through his former affiliation at the University of Maryland. In Indianapolis, a suburban backyard retirement party was held for archaeologist Larry Zimmerman, retiring from decades at Indiana U Indianapolis. In one week, two of the most creative and caring members of our community leave anthropology and leave a deep chasm in the middle of the field.

 One cannot say enough about the brilliance, commitment, or…

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