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A year or two ago the major conference in my discipline held a panel for grad students and junior faculty on book publishing, with advice from university press acquisitions editors, "veteran" book authors, and a couple of young professors who had recently negotiated book contracts. I've been meaning to get around to typing up the notes I took there - if you think it would be helpful for your clients/readers, I can (finally) do it in the next week or two and send them to you.


I don't think asking whether the candidate would get tenure or promotion at your institution is an unfair question -- if referees are chosen from appropriate institutions.

Of course, this assumes that committees and institutions aren't so into CYA or not so self-deluded that they have a reasonable idea of what should get tenure or promotion at their place.

I work at a very small university and when I applied for promotion to professor, I included with my dossier a letter explaining to the outside referees and the committee itself why I had followed the career I had followed, and what conditions I had worked under. I'd made some unorthodox changes in field, put a fair amount of energy into web sites rather than articles, and had consistently heavy teaching loads. So I told them straight out why I thought, in the context of my institution, that I had fulfilled my role as researcher and teacher.

You could destroy yourself with a bad letter of this sort but it worked for me. I really had nothing to lose; I had plenty on my CV but it would have confused the heck out of any but the most dedicated reader.

At my institution the tenure guidelines expect you to make the best case you can. I don't think such letters have been normal (I used to run the tenure process and have been on many assessment committees) but they are worth considering.

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