Law Journal Marketing
How are academic works promoted by publishers, trade or university presses, academic book publishers and law journals? In general, trade presses do a broad funded pitch, university presses do some but more narrowly, academic book publishers make a strong push to a targeted audience and law journals do . . . pretty much nothing.
Should law journals do more? Are any doing so? Aside from promotions such as we at Concurring Opinions offer to a necessarily limited number of journals on this blog, listing recent issues, and some symposia pitches, law reviews don’t market themselves. Florida Law Review is poised to change this, and I support the leadership.
Contracts with some publishers, especially trade, university or hybrid presses, often contain industry-standard publisher promises to market using reasonable or best efforts. Most such houses do so. In my experience, McGraw-Hill and John Wiley & Sons take these clauses seriously and do a good job performing them, not only with paid advertisements, but with results in the form of visible book reviews, author tours and presentations, and, ultimately, sales.
Other contracts, especially with academic book publishers, like West or Lexis, are silent on publisher marketing, but those presses commit resources to the effort anyway. I am impressed with both these publishers of my books. They get word out to teachers about my books, supplements, new editions, and supporting materials like classroom slides, problems-solutions, and teachers’ manuals and updates. The results are large numbers of adoptions and resulting sales, plus more people giving me valuable input into how to improve the work in subsequent editions.
Law review publishing contracts, at least the 40+ I’ve signed, never talk about journal promotional efforts, and I’ve rarely seen a law journal undertake much of any. Journals are obviously trying to expand their presence with various on-line variants of their production, a form of promotion, though mostly responding to new ways of disseminating knowledge. Aside from lack of time, theory may say this is fine because academics will research to discover the great published knowledge and resulting citations will reflect what is valuable—no marketing needed.
Theory and traditional practice aside, Florida Law Review, which will publish a piece of mine in 2010, has created a promotional program. Florida Law Review has a Communications Editor, and related staff. Their job is to reach out to members of the legal community having particular interest in pieces they publish. The Review’s Communications Department works in partnership with authors to develop marketing plans to publicize works to the media, prominent professors, and accomplished practitioners.
This inspired approach to the dissemination of academic knowledge manifests in other creative results, like this recently featured at the Faculty Lounge, a Florida Law Review piece accompanied by interactive media. I’m impressed. In fact, this effort was a factor to me when I chose to accept Florida Law Review’s publication offer over other offers.
In previous years, I served as Faculty Advisor to my school’s law review. If I were doing that today, I’d urge editors to look at the Florida model as a leader. But perhaps that is happening elsewhere and I don’t know about it.
Readers of this post could benefit from comments saying what is doing at other reviews and, of course, what is appealing and anything detracting about what seems to me a desirable, innovative, law review practice.