Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Getting Involved in Book Projects
From Consumer to Producer of the Literature
Writing as Professional Development
When the conversation turns to writing a book, many students and faculty members assume that it is out of the realm of possibility for them. Widely published author Stephen Brookfield (2015) speaks to these concerns when he writes:
I remember as a graduate student thinking that books were produced by people with intellectual weight who had something to disclose. My own intellect and opinions seemed puny by comparison. I simply did not think I deserved to write a book since I had nothing important to say. To overcome such intimidation it is necessary to demystify the air of portentousness surrounding the idea of book publication…we need to scale back the expectations we place on ourselves to move the tectonic plates of our discipline. (p. 1)
As an antidote to these paralyzing expectations try to identify modest, yet important, goals for book writing. You might organize material in a more accessible way, identify new connections and synthesize, explore a perplexing aspect of a field more deeply or in a new manner, propose a different direction for research, or investigate one small and neglected niche in a field (Brookfield, 2015).
Aspiring book authors also may mistakenly assume that they need dazzling curriculum vitae or have to generate an entire book, all by themselves, in order to be associated with writing and publishing scholarly books. There are, however, many ways to be involved in book projects that do not require you to write an entire book by yourself. For example, you might seek out opportunities to:
· Serve as reviewer for other authors’ book manuscripts
· Develop ancillary materials (i.e., the PowerPoint slides, test items, website, instructor’s manual) for a college textbook
· Contribute short examples or co-author a chapter for a college-level textbook written by others
· Author or co-author a book chapter in an edited book
· Co-edit or edit a book; usually you would write one or two chapters while other authors contribute the remaining material
The amount of previous experience with publishing required to fulfill these roles can vary as well. For instance, if an established textbook author already has a book contract and invites you to contribute/co-author, you may not need much more than that individual’s endorsement and guidance. The nature of the specific task also affects the roles that you can fulfill related to a book project. When college textbook authors need to develop ancillary materials for their textbooks, such as the student study guide, the publisher often will ask for a recommendation from the author of someone who could do that work competently. Many times, a graduate student is identified. Sometimes, practitioners in the field are more knowledgeable about a particular aspect of a book. After reviewers of a 6th edition textbook asked for more applications of technology, the authors created a format for this textbook feature and invited their graduate students to write them. These graduate students were classroom teachers who used technology on a regular basis and could provide (with permission, of course) samples of children’s work. The textbook authors then edited each entry a few times and ten different doctoral candidates now had at least one small publication to add to their CVs. Working on book-related projects such as these not only improves academic authors’ writing skills but also introduces them to the publishing world. So, getting involved with book publishing is not as far out of reach as it may first appear.
This chapter is arranged, more or less, in order of difficulty and time commitment. It begins with reviewing others’ books, contributing a chapter to a book, editing a book, and, finally, the most formidable task: authoring or co-authoring a book.