MIT Press turned down my book


Not completely. But the reviewers suggested some pretty significant revisions. They had encouraging things to say as well, so it’s not a “no, go away forever” rejection, but it does mean months more work before I can resubmit. And the negative critique definitely stings.


Well, that stinks.

Having said that, this could be viewed as part of a process, once you get past the initial stings.

As an aside, what are you writing a book about?

The aesthetics of play. It started as a book on game design, but evolved into a more general play-based framework for understanding culture in general.

Bleh, that’s too bad. I’m sorry. :frowning: It sounds like a really interesting topic too.

I agree with WordMan though. You just got some free(ish) expert advice on how to improve your writing, and it will be helpful when you work on your revisions.

Of course it’s best to put it aside for a little while, and then when you come back to it you’ll see all the things you originally liked about it and feel ready to make changes.

Academic presses have generally been rigorous about the academic and intellectual aspects of publishing, but there was a time when they would publish an important or significant book even if it was not likely to sell many copies. That has changed in recent years, as belts tighten and these presses are expected, more and more, to turn a profit.

For academics, who need to publish in order to get tenure and/or promotion, this creates a problem. If anything, publication requirements at many universities have increased over recent years, and when this focus on publication runs up against the economics of a shrinking number of outlets, it becomes harder and harder for academics to do the very thing that they are supposed to do in order to progress in their careers. Academic journals are also affected, with some of them receiving far more submissions than they can ever use; in some cases, lead times between acceptance and publication of an article runs into years.

I’m not arguing that journals should just take anything, or that academic presses should publish books as a charity, but i do think that academia itself needs to rethink its model a little bit. One way would be to make far more use of web-based publication than is currently the case. If an article or monograph is peer reviewed and considered important by people who are experts in the field, it shouldn’t matter if it’s published online rather than by an academic press. But electronic publication is, at least in some areas of academe, still considered the redheaded stepchild, and the prestige of the (shrinking) university presses means a scramble by more and more authors for fewer and fewer outlets. Something’s gotta give, if research and publication is going to remain a central focus of universities and their hiring and promotion committees.

I should add that, of course, i don’t know exactly what reasons MIT Press had for rejected the OP’s book, but many university presses are reducing their publishing commitments, and as a result some books are getting rejected that, at one time, might have been accepted or at least encouraged further.

Sorry they said no, The Hamster King. It’s tough getting rejected, especially when you know that resubmitting will involve spending hundreds of hours more work on something that has already taken up months or years of your life, and that you were hoping you could finally put to bed.

Fortunately, I’m not an academic. I’m a professional game designer, so my job isn’t on the line. But, still, I’m pretty bummed at the moment.

Congratulations. Surely they wouldn’t have recommended the revisions if they weren’t interested in publishing?

Not necessarily.

If i understand the OP correctly, the revisions were recommended by the external reviewers. The press asks experts in the field to review manuscripts, and then looks at the reviewer reports and makes a decision about whether to publish. The press also passes the reports onto the author, so that the author knows what the reviewers said, and what they felt were the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript.

It’s entirely possible that the reviewers said, “We recommend changing A, B, and C by doing X, Y, and Z in order to make this book ready for publication,” but that the Press still decided not to publish. Of course, even if this is the case, there’s probably nothing to stop the OP from resubmitting the manuscript once the revisions have been made.

Sigh. I’m sure that your understanding of the workings of academic publishing is very important to the OP right at this moment.

OP, geek is hot now and game design is very hot now. I’m sure the publishers are already working on the movie deal. (But you might want to talk to Peter Sagal about Dirty Dancing - Havana Nights, first.)

Don’t be a jerk.

You said something that is not necessarily true, and i simply pointed out that academic publishing doesn’t always work the way that it does in your fairy stories.

I really feel for the OP, because i have friends who are, right at this moment, trying to get academic publishers to take their books, and are running into similar problems. It can be pretty upsetting, especially when you’ve invested so much time and intellectual work and so much of who you are into producing an original piece of work. But times are tough, and it’s getting harder and harder to get books published by academic presses. No point sugar-coating that fact, even while empathizing strongly with someone in the OP’s situation.

Just put it aside for a couple of days, and go back to it once the initial hurt has worn off. I know the feeling - it’s like they just called one of your kids butt-ugly to your face.*

If they are inviting resubmission following revision, then you are halfway home. In the cold light of day most of those reviewer comments will actually be helpful in making your manuscript a better, more marketable one. There will usually also be a couple of WTF? comments that make you wonder what they have been smoking lately, but if you can provide a reasoned, well-argumented and referenced rebuttal then you don’t necessarily have to action every comment (at least in my experience).

It looks like a lot of work right now, sure. But posterity is for a long time :smiley:

*but you still love them, right?

Hamster, rejection always sucks. But how many authors have never received a rejection letter? And usually it’s in the ‘don’t call us’ form. You’ll get over this in no time. Submit the manny to another publisher, or make some changes so MIT accepts it, sell a million copies, go on a talk show, and tell everybody what idots they are at MIT Press.

Bummer. Allow yourself to mourn for a bit, then come up with a (heh) game plan. I feel for you, though. Any kind of rejection stings.

Could you self-publish and push it with the game blogs and libraries/bookstores yourself?

Just a note, here, because print-on-demand and electronic publishing has made self-publishing so much more easy and affordable now than it was back in the days of the “vanity” presses.

One should keep in mind, though, that just because an author thinks his book is good and can easily print it himself does not mean that it really is good or worth publishing. If a professional reviewer suggests revisions to make a book better and more suitable for publishing, it would probably be a really good idea to make those revisions.

Lots of self published stuff is crap. Now that self publishing is easier, there’s a lot more crap out there.

If a number of impartial readers think your book is very good and you STILL cannot find a publisher, because they’ve already published a similar work or it doesn’t fit their current needs for some other reason, you might consider self publishing.

I suggest making the suggested revisions and resubmitting it to a number of different publishers before trying self publishing.

That sucks, Hamster, and I’m sure you’re sick of the tired old platitude that all of us get rejection slips. Have a beer, write a nasty response and then delete it (don’t fill in the email address so you can’t accidentally hit send), and moan about how much MIT Press sucks.

Then look at the bright side. The last time I went through peer review on one of my books, there were some pretty serious changes requested. I had to throw away a chapter that represented weeks of research time. When I came through it, though, I think I had a better book and it sold better because of the changes, too.

Unless you feel that it would completely destroy your work, I’d make their recommended changes and resubmit. If they reject a second time (yeah, it happens), try some other presses. Perhaps one of the tech trade presses (Wiley is supposed to be very good to its authors, and Elsevier Science treated me fairly well).

Do not (repeat: do not) let it affect your self-confidence. Illegitimus non carborundum and all that rot.

Thanks for the encouraging words, guys. It’s helping me get geared up for starting the long process of rewriting.

Justin, I’m holding out self-publishing as a last resort. I want my ideas to circulate, but I also want the peer recognition (and peer review) that comes from publishing through normal channels.

I’m so sorry. Good luck on your revisions and hopefully, you’ll find a publisher soon.

I don’t think it is being a jerk to offer encouragement to some-one when they are down.

I don’t think it is being a jerk to offer tempered encouragement to someone at a set-back.

I don’t think it is being a jerk to offer a less-than-brutally honest assessment to someone about their options.

But this post isn’t about what I think, it’s about The King’s set-back.