If Harry Potter was an academic work

February 3, 2014

From the files of J. K. Rowling.

Dear Ms. Rowling,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We will be happy to consider it for publication. However we have some concerns about the excessive length of this manuscript. We usually handle works of 5-20 pages, sometimes as much as 30 pages. Your 1337-page manuscript exceeds these limits, and requires some trimming.

We suggest that this rather wide-ranging work could usefully be split into a number of smaller, more tightly focussed, papers. In particular, we feel that the “magic” theme is not appropriate for our venue, and should be excised from the current submission.

Assuming you are happy to make these changes, we will be pleased to work with you on this project.

Correspondence ends.

Esteemed Joenne Kay Rowling,

We are delightful to recieve your manuscript Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and we look forword to publish it in our highly prestigious International Journal of Story Peer Reviewed which in 2013 is awarded an impact factor of 0.024.

Before we can progression this mutually benefit work, we require you to send a cheque for $5,000 US Dollars to the above address.

Correspondence ends.

Dear J.R.R. Rowling,

We are in receipt of your manuscript Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Unfortunately, after a discussion with the editorial board, we concluded that it is insufficiently novel to warrant publication in our journal, which is one of the leading venues in its field. Although your work is well executed, it does not represent a significant advance in scholarship.

That is not to say that minor studies such as yours are of no value, however! Have you considered one of the smaller society journals?

Correspondence ends.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Your submission Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has passed initial editorial checks and will now be sent to two peer-reviewers. We will contact you when we have their reports and are able to make a decision.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Re: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

We agree that eighteen months is too long for a manuscript to spend in review. On making inquiries, we find that we are unfortunately no longer able to contact the editor who was handling your submission.

We have appointed a new handling editor, who will send your submission to two new reviewers. We will contact you as soon as the new editor has made a decision.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Re: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Your complaint is quite justified. We will chase the reviewers.

Dear Dr. Rowling

I am pleased to say that the reviewers have returned their reports on your submission Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and we are able to make an editiorial decision, which is ACCEPT WITH MAJOR REVISION.

Reviewer 1 felt that the core point of your contribution could be made much more succinctly, and recommended that you remove the characters of Ron, Hermione, Draco, Hagrid and Snape. I concur with his assessment that the final version will be tighter and stronger for these cuts, and am confident that you can make them in a way that does not compromise the plot.

Reviewer 2 was positive over all, but did not like being surprised by the ending, and felt that it should have been outlined in the abstract. She also felt that citation of earlier works including Lewis (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956) and Pullman (1995, 1997, 2000) would be appropriate, and noted an over-use of constructions such as “… said Hermione, warningly”.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Thank you for your revised manuscript of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which it is our pleasure to accept. We now ask you to sign the attached copyright transfer form, so we can proceed with publication.

Dear Dr. Rowling

I am sorry that you are unhappy about this, but transfer of copyright is our standard procedure, and we must insist on it as a prerequisite for publication. None of our other authors have complained.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Thank you for the signed copyright transfer form.

In answer to your query, no, we do not pay royalties.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Sadly, no, we are unable to make an exception in the matter of royalties.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Your book has now been formatted. We attach a proof PDF. Please read this very carefully as this is the last chance to spot errors.

You will readily appreciate that publishing is an expensive business. In order to remain competitive we have had to reduce costs, and as a result we are no longer able to offer proof-reading or copy-editing. Therefore you are responsible for ensuring the copy is clean.

At this stage, changes should be kept as small as possible, otherwise a charge may be incurred for re-typesetting.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Many thanks for returning the corrected proofs of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We will proceed with publication.

Now that the final length of your contribution is known, we are able to assess page charges. At 607 pages, this work exceeds our standard twenty free pages by 587. At $140 US per page, this comes to $82,180. We would be grateful if you would forward us a cheque for this amount at your convenience.

Dear Dr. Rowling

Thank you for you prompt payment of the page charges. We agree that these are regrettable, but sadly they are part of the reality of the publishing business.

We are delighted to inform you that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is now published online, and has been assigned the DOI 10.123.45678.

We thank you for working on this fine contribution with us, and hope you will consider us for your future publications.

Dear Dr. Rowling

You are correct, your book is not freely downloadable. As we explained earlier in this correspondence, publishing is an expensive business. We recover our substantial costs by means of subscriptions and paid downloads.

In our experience, those with the most need to read your book will probably have institutional access. As for those who do not: if your readers are as keen as you say, they will no doubt find the customary download fee of $37.95 more than reasonable. Alternatively, readers can rent online access at the convenient price of $9.95 per 24 hours.

Dear Dr. Rowling

I am sorry that you feel the need to take that tone. I must reiterate, as already stated, that the revenues from download charges are not sufficient for us to be able to pay royalties. The $37.95 goes to cover our own costs.

If you wish for your book to be available as “open access”, then you may take advantage of our Freedom Through Slavery option. This will attract a further charge of $3,000, which can be paid by cheque as previously.

Dr. Rowling

Your attitude is really quite difficult to understand. All of this was quite clearly set out on our web-site, and should have been understood by you before you made your submission.

As stated in the copyright transfer form that you signed, you do not retain the right to post freely downloadable copies of your work, since you are no longer the copyright holder.

Dr. Rowling

We must ask you not to contact your handling editor directly. He was quite shaken by your latest outburst. If you feel you must write to us again, we must ask you to moderate your language, which is quite unsuitable for a lady. Meanwhile, we remind you that our publishing agreement follows industry best practice. It’s too late to complain about it now.

Correspondence ends.

Dear Pyramid Web-Hosting,

Copyright claim

We write on behalf of our client, Ancient Monolith Scholarly Publishing, who we assert are the copyright holders of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It has come to our attention that a copy of this copyrighted work has been posted on a site hosted by you at the URL below.

This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to effect removal of the above-reported infringement. We request that you immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for the specified posting and prevent the infringer, Ms. J. K. Rowling, from posting the infringing material to your servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the infringing material upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.

Please send us at the address above a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.

Correspondence ends.

Historical Note

Examination of Ms. Rowling’s personal effects established that she had written most of a seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. However, Rowling never sought to publish this final book in the series.

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18 Responses to “If Harry Potter was an academic work”


  1. My sincere admiration to Mike for this post. It should be widely disseminated so that people outside academia realize in an entertaining way how the process of academic publication works. Probably worths more that the hundreds of essays written on the matter. Well done!

  2. steelgraham Says:

    Equally hilarious and sad…..

  3. X Hays Says:

    “If [it] was . . ..”? An F for grammar.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    X Hays, I don’t understand your point.

  5. Maija Karala Says:

    Brilliant! Thank you for writing this. I’m sharing it everywhere.


  6. […] “@McDawg: BRILLIANT. RT @MikeTaylor If Harry Potter was an academic work … svpow.com/2014/02/03/if-… …” This is why I publish in […]


  7. Shared it here with the comment: Brilliant post by +Mike Taylor about the stupid ways of academic communication. Could we now just move on and acknowledge that participating into this crap is only done for profit of opportunists, or by coercion by moronic academic management, or by the interests of academic publishing spin-doctors?

  8. Michael Richmond Says:

    Is it possible that much of the initial correspondence between Rowling and publishing houses actually looked very much like the early entries in this posting? The first book was rejected by at least 12 publishers.

    I understand the point that the later entries are making, but I’m not sure that the early entries really cast any light on the nature of scientific journals. They just tell it like it is in the world of publishing in general.

  9. Richard Van Noorden Says:

    Haha! Nice post. But just to play devil’s advocate: if Harry Potter was an academic work, then would it be fair to note that J K Rowling would have been paid by the taxpayer, or a charitable grants agency, or company, to write Harry Potter, in advance of her mailing out the manuscript? Which puts a *slightly* different conception on that royalties point?

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yes, absolutely. This is an analogy that doesn’t have to be stretched far before it breaks. Had J.K. been funded by the taxpayer to write novels then (A) it would be quite right that she not additionally be paid royalties; and (B) it would be ludicrous for her work to be paywalled for the benefit of Ancient Monolith Scholarly Publishing.

  11. Steve Says:

    X hays’s point is that your title should be in the subjunctive case: “If Harry Potter were an academic work”. I think he’s right, and pedantic…


  12. “Had J.K. been funded by the taxpayer to write novels then (A) it would be quite right that she not additionally be paid royalties ”

    I do not agree with this. Do you mean that:

    A) an author should not have the right to collect royalties from a novel written while on unemployment/disability (e.g. “funded by the taxpayer” in the form of social security payments)?

    B) public universities should not be able to garner additional funding from patents arising from their research?

    Both cases are “taxpayer-funded”, but seem to me to be perfectly legitimate, especially in the scenario A.

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    I do not agree with this. Do you mean that:

    Isn’t it conventional to determine what someone means before disagreeing with them?

    Do you mean that:
    A) an author should not have the right to collect royalties from a novel written while on unemployment/disability (e.g. “funded by the taxpayer” in the form of social security payments)?

    No.

    B) public universities should not be able to garner additional funding from patents arising from their research?

    Yes. (This doesn’t follow from what I wrote above, but I agree with it anyway.)

  14. spindoct0rss Says:

    Thought you guys would get a kick out of the kind of quality Springer is putting out with its deep pockets: “The theme of CSA is focused on the various aspects of computer science and its applications for advances in computer science and its applications and provides an opportunity for academic and industry professionals to discuss the latest issues and progress in the area of computer science and its applications. Therefore this book will be include the various theories and practical applications in computer science and its applications”! http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=10240#more-10240


  15. […] Hits a little too close to home. If Harry Potter was submitted to an academic journal […]


  16. Wonderful, I enjoyed it very much!


  17. […] ein fiktiver Briefwechsel über Veröffentlichungsbedingungen zwischen zwischen Autorin und Verlag, erfunden von Mike Taylor (in Engl.) und gefunden von Archivalia – […]


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