Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tell This to Those Big Time Journals

Paul Matsuda posted this on his blog about handling permissions from authors to reprint articles:

A friend of mine--a rising star in rhetoric and composition--told me recently that he has received a request for permission to reprint his article, which is quite an honor. He was wondering if there were any issues he should be aware of.

Here is my response (with a few minor changes):

Congratulations on having your article reprinted.

The answer depends on who owns the copyrights. If you signed a copyright release when you had your article published with the journal, then this is a courtesy request. You can say no and I’m sure the editor would honor that, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to have your article reprinted. The original publisher has the final say in whether to grant permission (and charge a fee).

If you kept your copyrights (or more precisely, part of the copyrights) concerning the right to reprint (which is unusual in humanities journals), then it would be your decision alone (though I would also have the editor contact the publisher just to be safe).

Normally, reprint authors in our fields don’t get any royalty, but it wouldn't hurt to ask to have a copy of the book sent to you. If you wish to make any minor changes to the article (typos, copy editor’s edits you didn’t like), you can also ask about it at this point. I wouldn’t make any
major revisions at this point, though.
As Paul seems to suggests above, many authors don't keep the copyrights, and many journals in the humanities (especially the larger ones) often own the copyright. When Nancy, Collin, and I were editing the reader and needed permissions to reprint articles for our custom reader, we received a flat-out no from a very well-known organization in our field (rhet/comp) that owns several journals, even though our institution owns both JSTOR and MLA bibliography subscriptions where students can gain access to these articles for free. We asked our primis editor to ask the organization again, and they said no. This doesn't really make sense to because the organization could've made some decent change off the reprint, but I suspect their denial was more an issue of elitism: They didn't want knowledge from their journals being disseminated to undergraduates, let alone, first-year writers. The audience this organization has in mind is primarily teacher/scholars and maybe graduate students in the field.

For all of those who think first-year writers don't/can't/won't/couldn't understand the discourse of our field (rhet/comp) as it is represented by our field journals, let me just say this: Every reading I assign in my FYW course comes from things published in rhet/comp (journal articles, book chapters, essays, etc.), so they often DO get it, sometimes better than we (as rhet/comp) academics do. (I'm working on an empirical article, using student discourse in the field. I can't give too many details right now, but more on this later.) You'd be surprise how much FYW students do know, and, if we're supposed to be teaching writing, the readings we select should have clearer relationship between what students read and what we expect them to write. Using readings published in/on writing studies, I believe, is one way to bridge this relationship.

BTW, the reader is near complete (we'll read the proof copy early next week to OK), and nearly all the readings in the custom reader are things published in rhet/comp, sociolinguistics, or education. They all have some relationship to how writing is taught, done, or enacted in particular contexts, hence the title, A Reader for Writers.


No comments: