Friday, June 17, 2011

A Legal Historian's First Book, Part V: (Law Review) Articles vs. Books

Legal historians who teach in law schools often, though not always, publish both law review articles and books—especially early in our careers. Many of us struggle with questions about the relationship between these two very different genres. 

Law reviews tend to be heavy on footnotes and light on peer review—although I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from student-editors (future professors, truth be told) who provided excellent, substantive editing as well as cite-checking. Books are often the favored medium of historians, many of whom don’t regularly read law journals. A happy medium (in both senses) may reside in interdisciplinary journals such as the Law and History Review, American Journal of Legal History, and the Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. Another option is to publish in peer-reviewed history journals.

One typical, though certainly not universal, path is to publish one or more law review articles related to one’s book project, while writing a book that includes some of the same material—and much new material—in more accessible, and less heavily footnoted, prose. This allows us to reach different audiences and juggle the expectations of two disciplines. It also presents challenges—learning two sets of disciplinary conventions, preserving fresh material for a later book, striking a balance between description and argument, writing in different voices, explaining to second-year law students why they should care about history, explaining to law school colleagues why writing a history book takes so long.

As always, I’d be curious if others have thoughts on this.


Lael said...

I'm curious, assuming that an article is (at least somewhat) reworked for the different genre, how much concern is there among academic publishers about material in a book being "recycled" from articles? How does that affect the way you pitch the book to publishers?

Karen Tani said...

Re: Lael's comment, I asked a similar question in this post:

The comments there may be useful.

Lael said...

Karen, thank you for the reference! Your post was from just before I had subscribed to the RSS for this blog, so I had missed it. Very helpful thoughts in those comments!