Too Many Cooks May Spoil the First Book—and Jeopardize the Author’s Career: Potential Pitfalls of Book Workshops
By Kurt Weyland, University of Texas at Austin
Book workshops are widely regarded as yielding important benefits for junior scholars; therefore, these intensive feedback sessions have proliferated in recent years. However, closer consideration suggests some important notes of caution. A wealth of additional suggestions does not necessarily improve a post-dissertation manuscript; instead, comments and criticisms advanced by senior experts may induce young authors to back away from or tone down innovative ideas or to address numerous additional factors and conditions, which can make their theory unwieldy and complicated. More important than the potential pitfalls for the first book itself are the heavy opportunity costs created by book workshops, which can jeopardize a junior colleague’s career advancement. After all, the substantial revisions arising from these feedback sessions take time away from article production and the design and initial research for a second major project. In these ways, overinvestment in the first book can hurt a young scholar’s chances at tenure time.