A graduate student in philosophy wrote to share that he and another student had been recently booted from an edited collection under contract with Cambridge University Press (CUP) because, he says, the press does not allow chapters to be authored solely by graduate students.
The policy was apparently unknown to the volume’s editor, who had included the students among the contributing authors in the book’s proposal. According to the student who wrote me, the editor conveyed the news to him after hearing from CUP about the rule, which was justified on commercial grounds—that including chapters authored solely by graduate students may deter some potential buyers. [Note: CUP denies it has this policy. See Update 1, below.]
I reached out to an editor at CUP to determine whether in fact this was a policy at the press, but have yet to hear back. If it is a policy, it would have to be relatively new, as some looking into the matter revealed that the publisher has in the past released collections which contain some chapters authored solely by graduate students.
A blanket ban on graduate students seems like a mistake on editorial grounds, as sometimes graduate students may be the best prepared to write on specific topics. And while I’m no marketing expert, the commercial justification for it seems to be a stretch; I’d be shocked if anyone responsible for this policy presented data that suggested that, say, an edited collection with a chapter or two written by graduate students will sell less than one without any graduate students.
Do any other presses have such a policy?
UPDATE (3/23/2022): Alex Wright, Senior Executive Publisher & Head of Humanities at Cambridge University Press, denies there is a blanket policy prohibiting contributions by graduate students. He writes:
I wanted to indicate to you unambiguously and unequivocally that there is no ‘blanket policy’ to exclude graduate students from publishing book chapters with CUP, either in Philosophy or elsewhere. We look at all projects and circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Every essay or chapter is considered on its own merits, and is assessed by peer review. There is no generic policy of the exclusion of graduate students from our edited projects. We evaluate our contributors and their proposed contributions on the basis of excellence, compatibility and list fit. It might be (and has been) argued, and it is sometimes our experience, that people who have already secured a PhD are better placed to write with considered authority on any given subject—since they usually have more years of experience (teaching, lecturing, reading) under their belts—than those who do not. But there are brilliant people at all stages of academe, which we readily acknowledge, and we absolutely would not wish to exclude them from consideration. We approach every essay or chapter from the same starting point. Is it good enough to be included in a CUP book? Is it the best contribution we can find? And does it ‘work’ for us in the wider context of the volume in question?