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How Sage Reference creates its publications – not how we work!

I’m startled that a division of a serious academic publishing company would develop its publications with the kind of quality standards one tends to associate with firms of far less stature. But here’s an example of what the packager working on Sage’s behalf is doing. No wonder librarians complain about the result. (Berkshire developed the leading award-winning publications Sage Reference launched with in 2002-4, but we never make this type of general call for contributions. We work only with recommended and qualified academic authors.) Emails like this–and I saw this particular post on almost every academic listserv I belong to–get lots of responses from graduate students without real expertise on the topic. Established scholars rarely respond to such “calls,” for reasons that I’m sure are obvious–they have plenty on their plates already! But I would rather try to persuade them of the value of our project and get their help, either by writing themselves or by specifically recommending a colleague, than taking whoever happens to come along.

It’s worth checking the standing and credentials of reference article authors–a surprising number, even those commissioned by publishers like Sage and Oxford–are freelance writers or unaffiliated PhDs. I have in the past, admittedly, and with mixed results, used such writers, but at Berkshire we are increasingly determined to maintain high standards.

—–Original Message—–
From: Joseph K. Golson []
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 12:47 PM
Subject: CALL FOR AUTHORS: Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage


We are inviting academic editorial contributors to a new reference work on consumption and waste, or the social science of garbage.

Archaeologists and anthropologists have long studied artifacts of refuse from the distant past as a portal into ancient civilizations, but examining what we throw away today tells a story in real time and becomes an important and useful tool for academic study. Trash is studied by behavioral scientists who use data compiled from the exploration of dumpsters to better understand our modern society and culture. Why does the average American household send 470 pounds of uneaten food to the garbage can on an annual basis? How do different societies around the world cope with their garbage in these troubled environmental times? How does our trash give insight into our attitudes about gender, class, religion, and art? The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste explores the topic across multiple disciplines within the social sciences and ranges further to include business, consumerism, environmentalism, and marketing. Each article ranges from 600 to 3,000 words. We are now making assignments due November 1, 2010.

This comprehensive project will be published by SAGE Reference and will be marketed to academic and public libraries as a print and digital product available to students via the library’s electronic services. The General Editor, who will be reviewing each submission to the project, is Dr. William Rathje, emeritus University of Arizona, the top scholar in the field.

If you are interested in contributing to this cutting-edge reference, it is a unique opportunity to contribute to the contemporary literature, redefining sociological issues in today’s terms. Moreover, it can be a notable publication addition to your CV/resume and broaden your publishing credits. SAGE Publications offers an honorarium ranging from SAGE book credits for smaller articles up to a free set of the printed product for contributions totaling 10,000 words or more.

The list of available articles is already prepared, and as a next step we will e-mail you the Article List (Excel file) from which you can select topics that best fit your expertise and interests. Additionally, Style and Submission Guidelines will be provided that detail article specifications.

If you would like to contribute to building a truly outstanding reference with the Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage, please contact me by the e-mail information below. Please provide a brief summary of your academic/publishing credentials in related issues.

Thanks very much.
Joseph K. Golson

3 thoughts on “How Sage Reference creates its publications – not how we work!

  1. Dear Karen,

    In your post you reference the likely caliber of respondents to Joseph Golson’s email message, posted to numerous listservs. Quality is of the utmost importance to SAGE as a publisher. SAGE Reference has, for more than eight years, attracted submissions from leading authors across the social and behavioral sciences, and we are fortunate to be in a position where we can work with such leaders on our publications. As such, we would expect Mr Golson’s call for submissions to generate interest from a broad set of the academic community. Naturally there will always be some newer contributors to our titles as well. SAGE supports the development of new talent and provides strong support from our editorial board and peer reviewers to ensure only the highest quality of end product. It is also important to note that not all submissions are accepted which exemplifies that quality comes first in selecting content for our publications. Titles in our reference collection receive consistently high reviews from the library media and from the scholarly community and we are committed to maintaining the same high standards for the long term.

  2. As I noted earlier, simply because an invitation is extended does not mean that all comers are accepted. You’ll note in the letter you cite that prospects are asked to provide credentials for evaluation. It’s also interesting how you misrepresent SAGE by focusing on a single project being produced by one packager whose work is but a small part of the entire SAGE oeuvre. Is misrepresentation typical at Berkshire?
    -Jim Brace-Thompson, Senior Editor, SAGE Reference

  3. I wrote this after seeing posts from this packager on all the listservs yesterday, and realizing that every time I get around to reading through the academic listservs I belong to I see the same thing from the same source – about different publications, but always, as far as I recall, being produced for Sage Reference. I have seen almost identical posts from other publishers, though. ABC-CLIO often uses this method of author recruitment, and I’m sure there are many others. Finding authors is a tough job, even with fantastic and well-connected editors, because the best authors are over-committed. My staff sometimes ask if they can’t just send out a “call for contributors.” But I am more and more resolute that Berkshire simply will not take this route. It’s just not right for us.

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