Ilana Gershon asked seven editors for their insights on questions that authors 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 should a nervous author wait before asking you if the manuscript’s reviews are in yet?
Fred Appel: Ideally the acquisitions editor should inform the author when her manuscript has been successfully placed with qualified peer reviewers, and should also tell the author what the due dates of the reports are. Armed with knowledge of this time frame, authors needn’t check back with their editors until those due dates have arrived.
Jennika Baines: The editor should give the author a general sense of when the review is expected. Receive this as one might receive the due date for a baby: it’s generally going to be around this time, but probably not exactly when predicted. If the editor has given a specific due date for the review, don’t contact on that date. Editors have a keen awareness of deadlines, so if the review is overdue they’ll know already that the review is overdue. I’d wait as long as you can—try for a month—before sending a gentle nudge.
Berghahn Books: We would suggest no less than two months, keeping in mind the time not just for the review itself, but the time for your publisher to find the right reviewer, who is available (and in our case, we seek three reviews per manuscript to start, sometimes having to settle with two if all efforts to secure three fail, but it takes some time to reach that decision).
Dominic Boyer: Three months. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. If we haven’t written, it’s most likely because we too are waiting for the reviews.
Alessandro Duranti: Authors need to establish a good relationship with the editor at the Press who is handling their manuscript. They can then write and find out what is happening and ask when they can expect to get feedback. They need to treat their editor as an advisor from whom they can learn (if they are trying to publish their first book) or with whom they can problem-solve (if they are more experienced authors).
Michelle Lipinski: The peer review process should not be mysterious. At every stage of the process, I let authors know what to expect, when the press has confirmed our reviewers, and when those reviewers have agreed to return their completed reports. As an editor, I’m also checking in with the reviewers and reminding them of their deadlines, trying my best to manage expectations on both sides.
Your editor should tell you if the timeline has been altered. As the projected due date for completed reviews approaches, it’s entirely appropriate to check in with your editor and see how things are going.
Priya Nelson: The Press should confirm with the author that a manuscript is in the hands of readers. When that confirmation comes, it is entirely appropriate to ask for a timeline if one is not provided. If a review begins to drag, it is usually because the peer readers have failed to meet a deadline. If many deadlines are missed, an author can ask an editor whether it might be appropriate to find a replacement reader.
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 Berghahn, Vivian 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. 2019. “Checking In.” Anthropology News website, August 22, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1228