Getting into Print

The Decision-Making Process in Scholarly Publishing

Walter W. Powell

Getting into Print

Walter W. Powell

282 pages | © 1985
Cloth $49.00 ISBN: 9780226677040 Published May 1986
Based on extensive fieldwork at two well-known commercial publishers of scholarly books, Walter W. Powell details the different ways in which both internal politics and external networks influence decisions about what should be published. Powell focuses on the work of acquisitions editors: how they decide which few manuscripts, out of hundreds, to sponsor for publication; how editorial autonomy is shaped, but never fully curbed, by unobtrusive controls; and how the search process fits into the social structure of the American academy. Powell's observations—and the many candid remarks of publishers and their staffs—recreate the workaday world of publishing.

Throughout, the sociology of organizations and of culture serves as Powell's interpretive framework. Powell shows how scholarly publishers help define what is "good" social science research and how the history and tradition of a publishing house contribute to the development of an organizational identity. Powell's review of actual correspondence, from outside letters proposing projects to internal "kill" letters of rejection, suggests that editors and authors at times form their own quasi-organization with external allegiances and bonds beyond those of the publishing house.

"This is a welcome addition to the literature on the life of the organizations that produce our science and our culture. Powell's intimate look at two scholarly publishing companies has an insider's appreciation of the book business and an outsider's eye for questions the editors are not asking themselves."—Michael Schudson, University of California at San Diego

"Getting Into Print will long be the book about how academic editors choose the titles they sponsor. Even experienced editors and authors will find new insights here and revealing comparisons with decision-making in other kinds of organizations."—Edward Tenner, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Getting Into Print is an unusually outstanding ethnographic study in that it reflects the evocative richness of detail associated with the ethnographic approach while simultaneously maintaining a clear-headed, analytical distance from the subject that allows for a meaningful theoretical contribution. Powell is an astute ethnographer who presents a vital and compelling 'insider's view' of the decision-making process in scholarly publishing, making this book fascinating reading for all those involved in the 'publish-or-perish' syndrome."—Barbara Levitt, American Journal of Sociology
List of Tables
1. The Organization of American Book Publishing
Differentiation: A Highly Segmented Industry
Expansion and Modernization
Changes in the Labor Process
Transformation or Transition?
Major Sectors of the Industry
2. The Setting
A Short History of the Two Firms
The Structure of the Two Houses
Interdepartmental Relations and Conflicts
3. The Nature of Editorial Work
The Formal Process of Contracting for a Book
The Process of Deciding What to Decide Upon
The Acquisition of Manuscripts
Analysis of Search Behavior
Evaluating Manuscripts and the Use of Outside Reviewers
Saying No Gracefully
The Publishing of Journals
Relations with Authors
4. Discretionary Power and Unobtrusive Controls
The Case for Editorial Autonomy
Control Over Uncertain Aspects of the Work Process
Craft and Occupational Control
The Power of Informal Controls
5. Decision-Making as a Means of Organizing Obligations
Access and Waiting: Differential Chances of Being Published
Other Facts in the Decision to Publish: Inventory Considerations
The Status of Authors
Commercial Concerns
6. Implications
The Shortcomings of Orthodoxy
The Organization of Environments
Access and Networks
Appendix: Manuscript Acquisition Code
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