Getting Scholarship Read and Cited

In January, we had a roundtable at Marquette to discuss the steps we can take to increase readership/awareness of the articles we publish. This blog post summarizes some of our discussions.

Traditionally, law professor authors marketed their articles rather passively. The principal effort was to publish with an impressive journal. Not only did those journals have a larger subscription base, but people were more likely to read an article in a big brand like Harvard Law Review than an article in the Northwest Podunk State University Law Review. Authors might also confirm that the journal’s articles were uploaded to the electronic databases (like Westlaw and Lexis). Typically, this was the complete universe of marketing activities for most articles. If authors took any proactive steps, usually that consisted of sending out physical reprints to personal contacts or the list of law professors who teach in the area per the AALS directory.

However, there are many proactive ways to get people to read and cite to our articles. Some ideas:

* spin out alternative versions of an article, such as by publishing a redacted version in a different periodical with a different audience. This redacted version can encourage readers to check out the full version of the article.

* present the article at conferences. I often bring reprints with me to hand out to people who approach me after my talk, or I get a business card so I can mail them a reprint (or email a URL) after the event.

* send reprints to casebook authors. I recognize that this may be subsumed under the general reprint distribution approach, but casebook authors are a special class. First, they may choose to excerpt some of the article in their casebook. Second, they may add the article as a citation so that casebook readers may check it out.

* send the article to lawyers (and perhaps judges) who are litigating cases relevant to the article’s topic. In the Cyberlaw arena, this is usually fairly easy to do. Major Cyberlaw cases get a lot of news coverage when they are filed, and it’s easy to find the lawyers involved in the case (often they are referenced in the news reports, but if not, their names are on the pleadings in PACER). Often, the lawyers will welcome an article that may help their research or arguments, and the citations may end up in the brief or even the reported decision. In some cases, the email exchange can open up the possibility of getting involved in the case.

* when I see a draft article on a related topic, I call my article to the attention of the author. This gets my article read, and my article may get cited in the forthcoming work.

* promote the article through SSRN. With the download tournament on SSRN, this has become a popular sport. SSRN has some great in-house tools to increase readership, such as the topical email lists and a school’s research paper series (for example, Marquette just created one). In addition to these promotions through SSRN’s tools, I do some marketing work on my own. I contact some bloggers and media contacts who are writing in the area to let them know when an article has been posted to SSRN. My hope is that some of these people will find the article valuable enough to promote it to their readers. This has the effect of boosting download counts, but more importantly, it increases the number of readers of my article.

If you have any other tips about how you market or promote your scholarship to increase readership or citations, I would love to hear about it.