Here are eight bits of advice, some of which I e-mailed to a gifted student last week:
- You can't submit the same article to more than one place at a time, so to get enough for tenure you need to end up having a lot of different articles submitted to different places at the same time. Everyone has a sweet spot. For example, if I get six things under review at different journals then one of them will get accepted within six months.
- The acceptance rate in philosophy is really, really low compared to other fields, so you can't give up if you get a rejection. My highest ranked single-authored publication (Australasian) was rejected by seven other journals before Australasian accepted it. Of course I'd rewritten it a lot (see points 3-5 below).
- A revise and resubmit is a very good (and unfortuantely increasingly rare) thing, usually closer to conditional acceptance than the journal says. It's very important to convince the editor and reviewers that you are rewriting the paper according to their suggestions. Almost always this ends up being more fun and rewarding than your initial anxiety will suggest. In addition to rewriting the paper, prepare a separate report telling the editor what you take the reviewer's comments to be and how you incorporated them to improve the paper.
- The reviewer might be mistaken in particular, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a good reason for them to be caught up at the point they were caught up. Try to charitably figure out why the reviewer got stuck there and adress that in the rewrite (thanking the anonymous reviewer in a footnote is always a good idea, arguing with the editor that the reviewer was mistaken is always a bad idea).
- Sometimes comments really are uncharitable in the extreme. But still, if you get any comments at all, even with a rejection, rewrite the paper to incorporate them. This holds especially for stupid comments. If the comments are idiotic you should still rework the paper so as to idiot-proof it for the next journal you send it to.
- Don't take too long with the rewriting. Get the damned thing back out there. See comment 1 above about the "sweet spot."
- Co-write with people. You'll do more and better philosophy and taking turns on successive drafts will help you be a better writer. This being said, co-written papers should not make up more than half your vita, especially if you don't have tenure yet.
- It's more important early in your career to worry about placement. Though they are really imperfect in lots of ways, there are helpful resources (the Brooks Blog has a good discussion with links to different rankings of journals HERE). You don't have to publish in Mind, Nous, Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Review, or Philosophy and Phenomenological Research to get a job and tenure at a place that will pay for you to do research. But you will need to have some papers either in generalist journals one tier below these or in first-tier specialist journals (Ethics, Linguistics and Philosophy, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Journal of Philosophical Logic, Philosophy and Public Affairs etc.) in your area. It's fine even at an early stage in your career to publish downstream from these, but the best thing you can do to get a job and then get tenure is to have some things on your vita at least from high second-tier generalist journals or first-tier specialty journals.
The first six might only hold for people without great institutional affiliations and who are not supernaturally gifted writers. But since that's most of us, I think they might be pretty helpful. It would be cool if anyone else has any suggestions to add or qualifications about the above.
I should note that the only one that seems institutionally problematic to me is 8. I don't intend to be defending that. I think in fact that it probably generally substantially crimps philosophical creativity and in particular can do substantial harm to good philosophers who are wacky in various ways. However, it is a widely (albeit not universally) held norm that graduate students should know about.