Archive for the 'A year in the life of an academic writer' Category

And, after ‘The End’ of the book? #AcWriMo of course…

Independent researcher and author Helen Kara is in a rather celebratory mood (as are we!) as she has finished writing her current book Creative research methods in the social sciences: A Practical Guide. Does this mean she is destined to spend the run up to Christmas twiddling her thumbs and resting on her laurels? Heavens NO – she’s straight onto the next thing of course: #AcWriMo…

Helen KaraI finished my book! And I’ve blogged about the process for the Research Whisperer – the post should be up next week. But, in brief: it’s done. And I’m proud of it. Happy with it. Mostly. There are always nagging doubts; those won’t go away unless I get good reviews and feedback from readers after publication – and maybe not entirely, even then. Either way, I won’t know about that until the middle of next year. And I haven’t finished being a writer. So, what next?

And this is what the new book will look like!

And this is what the new book will look like!

Ooh, just look at the time. It’s AcWriMo! This was founded in 2011 by Charlotte Frost and a colleague who work on the excellent PhD2Published blog. AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) was inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which began in 1999 in San Francisco with 21 writers who wanted to support each other in producing 50,000 words of fiction each in one month. Now, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world spend November churning out 50,000 words (or trying to) and networking on social media for mutual support.

AcWriMo began with the same 50,000-word goal, but by the second year it had morphed into a system where everyone set their own target. There is a spreadsheet to record your target, plan, daily progress, and final achievement. Which of course means you can see what others are planning and doing. Come and join us if you like – OK we’re a few days into November, but that doesn’t matter.

‘rest, play, celebrate’

Some targets are matter-of-fact and outcome-based: ‘Finish discussion chapter, finish and submit journal article’. Others are more process-oriented: ‘Develop a sustainable writing habit of 500 words per day, rest, play, celebrate.’ Mine is ‘Write one solo authored journal article and one co-authored journal article.’

The plans are interesting, too, ranging from the specific ‘write 2 hrs/day 5 days/wk’ to the vague ‘make a good plan’. Mine is somewhere in the middle: ‘Write some words most days.’ Last year I was aiming for 5,000 words per week, 20,000 words altogether, as I hammered out the first draft of the book (I did it, too, by 26 November). This year will be considerably more relaxed – but, as always, there are words to write and meaning to create. And that makes me happy.

Now that the book is done, I have a backlog of journal articles to write or co-write and submit. There are 10 on my list, so I’ll be glad to tackle two of them in November. After that I’m thinking of aiming for one a month or so, although whether I’ll be able to do that in practice depends on the amount of commissioned work I get, and other commitments – in April and May, for example, I’ll need to do promotional work for the next book.

I will, of course, be continuing to blog my academic writing progress – although not here, as I’ve set up my own blog and website. So if you’d like to find out how I approach AcWriMo and writing journal articles, please do come and see me there.

It’s been a real pleasure hosting Dr Helen Kara’s blog and we’ll continue to support Helen’s blog as it expands and grows over on her new site [LINK TO]. If you’ve missed any of Helen’s blog, don’t forget you can catch up on them by following the links below:

 Impostor syndrome or the obstacle course of the self

Reviewers comments: the good, the bad and the ugly

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Impostor syndrome or the obstacle course of the self

Independent researcher and author Helen Kara continues her fortnightly series of blogs on the practice of non-fiction, academic writing by looking at often the biggest challenge in the whole process – the writer themselves… 

Helen KaraThere are lots of potential obstacles to writing: lack of time, motivation, or ability; needing to read all the internet before you start; and so on. Not having time is often cited as a major reason why people don’t write. I have little time for time as an excuse.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that it’s possible to write effectively in short periods of time. It took me around ten minutes to write the first 100 words of this blog post. That’s 100 words I didn’t have before. If I spent ten minutes writing each day for five days, I’d have 500 words, or approximately a typed page of A4.

I went on a fiction writing course, some years ago, with the Arvon Foundation, and one of the tutors was the novelist Andrew Cowan. I remember him telling us how he wrote quite slowly, and not to worry if we did too, because every novel was just a pile of pages, and the thing to do was to carry on putting another page on the pile, and eventually you’d have a whole novel’s worth, and it didn’t matter if that took you years.

an inspirational woman

On that course I also met an inspirational woman who is the other reason I have little time for the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse. This woman cared, single-handed, for three young children and her elderly, infirm father. She had to get them all up in the morning and washed and fed, take them to their various schools or day care, and then go to work to earn her family’s living.

After work she had to collect them all again, bring them home, feed them, do the housework, and put them all to bed. Then she used the next half-hour for writing, while the house was quiet, before she fell into bed herself. She talked about how lucky she felt to have half an hour, every day, for her writing. At that point I made a silent vow that I would never, ever, whinge about not having enough time to write.

hk_19092014maskI’m motivated to write, my ability is proven, and I’m not much of a procrastinator (if you don’t count tweeting, which I don’t – you have to write tweets, right? So it’s practice). But I’m experiencing a whole new obstacle, which has made this week remarkably unproductive. It’s called impostor syndrome. Essentially, I feel like a fraud, and I’m sure I’ll be caught out, because I can’t possibly be allowed to get away with impersonating someone who knows enough to write a book.

I had this with my last book, too, but it didn’t kick in until the writing was done. This time it’s really getting in the way. It’s completely bizarre because I know it’s ridiculous – I can write; I do know about research; and I also know how to spot gaps in my knowledge and how to fill those gaps. Yet there’s this incredible feeling of fraudulence right alongside that knowledge.

“impostor syndrome is a great problem to have, because it’s a problem of success”

In one way, impostor syndrome is a great problem to have, because it’s a problem of success. I’ve experienced other problems of success, such as learning to say ‘no’ (I’m quite good at that these days) and managing a ridiculous email inbox (that too). But I’m really struggling to solve this problem.

Going back to the reviewers’ comments, lovely though they are, doesn’t help. Their criticism could not have been more constructive, yet their gentle and useful pointing out of ways I could strengthen the typescript simply have me convinced that if I wasn’t a fraud I would have thought of them myself. I found out that one of my writerly heroes, Neil Gaiman, has also suffered from impostor syndrome (well worth watching, but skip to 7 mins 25 secs if you want to get straight to the point).

You’d think that would be comforting – but no, it intensified the problem, as in: I must be even more of a fraud if I think I can have a syndrome that Neil Gaiman had. I’ve tried to persuade myself to think differently – ‘come on, Helen, you can do this writing thing, you’ll be fine’. I’ve tried to berate myself out of it – ‘for goodness’ sake, Helen, get a grip and put some words down’. Nothing works.

So I guess I just have to find a way to live with it and write anyway. Oddly enough, I think writing this blog post may have helped. It is well known that writing can be therapeutic, so maybe… I’ll let you know next blog.

Let’s hope the blogging has helped!  Whilst you wait for the next instalment however why not browse some of Helen’s previous blogs below:

Reviewers comments: the good, the bad and the ugly

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Reviewers’ comments: the good, the bad, the ugly

In her continuing series of blogs on academic writing as an independent researcher, author Helen Kara considers the ‘gift’ in the academic publishing process that is typescript reviewers feedback. 

Helen KaraReceiving reviewers’ comments can be a scary moment. Will they hate it? Will they like it but want lots of changes? Will they even agree with each other?

HK for 12-09-14giftIt can be hard to remember that a review is a gift. Think about it: someone has taken the time and effort to read your work and give you feedback. If you’re lucky, it will be immediately obvious that the feedback is helpful – but this is not always the case.

The International Committee on Publication Ethics published a set of ethical guidelines for peer reviewers in March 2013. Among other things, they say that reviewers should:

• Make sure they have time to do a proper critique before they take it on
• Not critique work unless they have the necessary expertise in the subject matter
• Read the work thoroughly
• Make constructive comments about the text, not personal comments about the writer
• Give their feedback within a reasonable length of time
• Keep the work, and their feedback, confidential

In my experience, reviewers’ comments generally come in some time after the agreed deadline. Coincidentally, as I was thinking about this subject, the amusing Twitter account @AcademicsSay tweeted:

I will confess to a few sleepless nights and chewed fingernails while waiting for those overdue comments. I think this is partly because academic reviews are usually anonymous: the reviewers don’t know who wrote the text, and the writer doesn’t know who has reviewed it.

Accountability

There’s heaps of debate around the blind peer review system. For my part I would prefer to know who is reviewing my work, so that I could judge whether they have the necessary expertise, and could ask them to clarify anything I didn’t understand. I’d also be happy to be open as a reviewer. I think this would increase reviewers’ accountability, and make the possibility of vicious personal comments, alluded to by the CoPE guidelines above, vanishingly small.

Luckily for me, I’ve never been on the receiving end of destructive review comments – unlike unfortunate friends who have been reduced to tears and even put off writing altogether. I have had reviews which weren’t massively helpful, but not reviews which were actively unpleasant. Mostly my reviews have been truly helpful.

Even a helpful review isn’t always easy to use and process. I find reviewers’ comments fall into three broad categories:

1. YES! Brilliant idea, why didn’t I think of that? Implement.
2. NO! Reviewer’s got the wrong end of the stick. Ignore.
3. AARRGGHH! Reviewer may well be right, but I need to do more reading and thinking before I can decide.

You might think the YES! comments are the best ones, but actually the AARRGGHH! comments are often more help in the long run. I’ve just been dealing with one of those for my next book. It involved reading (which meant buying) two new books, quite demanding ones at that. Also thinking hard about what the reviewer said, what the books said, and what I was trying to say.

“try to make considered rather than knee-jerk decisions”

The process was expensive and made my brain hurt, and I confess that at times I felt like cursing the reviewers. But the net result was a couple of new paragraphs written – quite important ones, too – and some useful learning for me.

It’s important to have a strategy for dealing with feedback. When I get reviewers’ comments, I read them carefully and take time to digest them. Then I write a to-do list based on the comments. Even where I think a reviewer has got the wrong end of the stick, I aim to give careful consideration to their suggestion, in case my response is actually knee-jerk defensiveness (I hate to admit it, but…!). So I will add ‘consider reviewer’s suggestion about X’ to my to-do list, because in a day or two that suggestion may look much more plausible.

If reviewers disagree with each other, it’s up to me to decide what to do. But, again, I try to make this a considered rather than a knee-jerk decision. Say reviewer 1 thinks a section of my work is irrelevant and should be deleted, while reviewer 2 thinks it is seminal and should be expanded. This tells me that the section in question elicits strong opinions, which probably means it has some value. Thinking about reviewers’ feedback in the light of their other comments can provide clues about how to go forward. It is often possible to work out a reviewer’s standpoint by the comments they make and the literature they recommend, which can offer useful context for a writer’s decisions.

As the writer, the final decision is mine. But I do know that the more effort I can see a reviewer has put into their work, the more I want to do justice to their input. As with any gift, often it’s the amount of thought that goes into it that makes all the difference.

More debate on peer reviewing (let us know your thoughts in the comments section below too!)

Weighing up double-blind peer reviews

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

In this week’s ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara has some big news that simply cannot wait…

Helen KaraI know I promised to write about reviewers’ comments this week. But I’m afraid that will have to wait, because I have news so exciting that I must tell you NOW.

As regular readers will know, my next book is called Creative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. In the literature, and in practice, ‘creative’ is often conflated with ‘arts-based’. Arts-based research can indeed be very creative, but there is more to creative research than arts-based methods.

In the course of reading for and writing this book, I have re-conceptualised creative research methods under four broad headings:

1. Arts-based research
2. Research using technology
3. Mixed method research
4. Transformative research frameworks (e.g. participatory, emancipatory, feminist, decolonising methodologies)

Of course these headings are not mutually exclusive. However, this conceptualisation offers a useful way of thinking and talking about the field of creative research methods. And this was one aspect of the book that the typescript reviewers loved.

In the 2000s, I went several times to an international three-day conference on qualitative research methods held every two years at Bournemouth University, which featured many creative methods. These conferences stopped happening after 2010; I don’t know why; they were inspiring, and I miss them. So I began to wonder: could I launch my book with a conference on creative research methods? Probably not an international three-day conference, but maybe a day?

Save the Date! British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015

Date for the diary: British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015

So for the last couple of months I’ve been asking people whether they thought this would be possible, and whether they could help. And they have all said ‘yes’. So it’s official! A conference on Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences will be held at the British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015. You won’t be able to book a place until early November, but I’m telling you about this now because the call for papers has just been publicised. So if you want to send in an abstract, please do – or if you know someone who might be interested, please pass on the link.

And if you fancy coming along, do put the date in your diary. We’ve done all we can to keep ticket prices low. If you can’t make it, you can always read the report I will no doubt be writing for this blog. But I do hope you can come – I’d love to see you!

Whilst Helen is, unsurprisingly, bursting with creative ideas to share with you on the blog, Policy Press are currently reviewing the autumn programme of blogs and will therefore be reducing Helen’s slot to once a fortnight.  Whilst you wait for the next instalment however why not browse some of Helen’s previous blogs below:

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

That difficult second research methods book

In this week’s ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara discusses that difficult ‘second album’ experience in academic writing.

Helen Kara There is a myth around that the second book you write, in any genre, is always harder than the first.  My novelist friends subscribe to this, and I’ve heard it from musicians (about second albums) too.  With this book, I have found it to be true in one sense, and not in another.

Rock star or researcher, that difficult ‘second’ album/book myth persists

My last book, which was my first research methods book, essentially involved writing down what I knew about research methods, working out where the gaps in my knowledge were, and filling them.  As I had learned quite a bit over 10 years of professional experience and two postgraduate research degrees, the gaps weren’t huge.

This book is different: while I knew a fair bit about creative research methods when I started, there were a few gaps in my knowledge.  Hence all the reading I talked about last week.  Essentially, I have been immersing myself  in the subject, and while that’s fascinating, the quantity of literature combined with the deadline pressure means it has also been really difficult.

The writing itself, though, doesn’t seem any harder this time around.  Which doesn’t mean it’s easy.  There’s so much to think about, from word choice to overall structure.  But I’ve written enough, now, to know how to tackle a project.

Finding voice

With the first draft, it’s just a case of getting words on the page, and then knocking them into some kind of approximately book-shaped shape.  Then there’s a lull in which to work out what to do with the second draft.  I knew straight away there were two things that needed attention.  One is the book’s ‘voice’.  This needs to be consistent and have the right tone – and, in the first draft, it wasn’t and didn’t.

Readers of my first book have commented favourably on its voice, which they tend to describe as friendly and helpful.  That’s great, but it’s not the voice I need for the next book.  A few days after I stopped working on the first draft, I realised which ‘voice’ I needed: an enthusiast’s voice.  Not an annoying bouncy Tigger-ish one, but I do love this subject, and it would be a good idea to let that shine through the text.

“the feedback from my anonymous typescript reviewers was a real blessing”

The other thing I needed to attend to was the balance, in some parts of the book, between examples (too many) and surrounding text (not enough).  This can happen when there’s so much reading and not quite enough thinking time.  It’s the writer’s equivalent of too much data and not enough analysis.  So I’m pondering those passages, and working out what it is the examples and I are actually trying to say.

Given that my real challenge this time round was that I didn’t have the same depth of knowledge of the subject as my first book,  the feedback from my anonymous typescript reviewers was a real blessing.

researcher reading

Filling reading gaps identified by reviewers

They identified a few gaps in my reading and I was really grateful for this, as I’d much rather know about gaps now, and fill them, than find out after publication.  Hence the 50-odd papers and 20-odd books I need to deal with.

Additionally, one reviewer spotted that the dissemination chapter was shorter and weaker than the others (I’d been worrying about that), and helpfully suggested ways to lengthen and strengthen it.  The other reviewer picked up a glaring omission in chapter 3, and I’d also picked up another in chapter 6.  So I decided that as well as rectifying those omissions, I needed to check the structure of each chapter for more omissions, and fix any I may find.  One of the reviewers also suggested that I could consider developing the conclusions to each chapter, so I’ll give that some thought.

That’s a perfectly manageable to-do list.  I think I’ve been very lucky with my reviewers this time.  However, that’s not always the case.  Next week I’ll write about dealing with reviewers’ comments: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you have any stories to share on this topic, please leave them in the comments box below.

 

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

As part of our special ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara sheds light on some of the compromises required when writing an academic book.

Helen KaraSo, when you write a book, here’s what you do. You read everything that has already been written in the relevant field(s), carefully and thoughtfully. Then you write a considered appraisal of what you’ve learned, giving your own unique take on the subject, starting on page 1 and finishing at the end.

Right?

Wrong.

The process of writing academic books is full of compromises. Here are some of mine.

1) Not being able to include everything
Regular readers will know that my next book is called Creative Research Methods for the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide, and is scheduled for publication next April. I had terrific input on the first draft typescript from two anonymous reviewers, each of whom did a great job of balancing praise with constructive criticism.

They both suggested several scholars to whose work, they thought, I should pay more attention. Also, since I finished the first draft of the book back in April, I’ve found some other scholars whose work I’d like to include – not to mention a whole academic journal, very relevant, which I’d managed to miss the first time around. (No, I’m not giving the link – they might be looking!)

I knew there were a lot of examples of creative research work out there, but I had no idea quite how many. It’s an enormous number, with more articles and books being published every week.

HK books for 2908 postTop Tip: As I was reading for the first draft, I made a literature grid in Excel to keep track of all the articles and books I found. The grid currently has around 500 articles (of which around 320 made it into the first draft) and around 100 books or book chapters, which are all in the first draft. I now have another 50 articles and 20 books/chapters to read for the second draft.

That still won’t be anywhere near everything there is – there’s my first compromise – but I feel fairly sure I’ve included the main people in the relevant fields.

2) Only reading relevant sections
Luckily, I like reading. Although with that amount of material to get through, I’ve had to take a strategic approach.

As an academic writer, I have ethical responsibilities to the scholars whose work I read: I should read carefully and thoughtfully, aiming to reach a full understanding of the writer’s meaning and purpose, so that I can cite their work accurately and effectively. But I also have deadlines, which brought on my second compromise.

I went looking in articles and chapters for the explanation of the research method(s) used. I didn’t care how thrilling the literature review was, or how fascinating the findings. I only wanted to know how the research had been done. Then I read that section carefully and thoughtfully etc. But I couldn’t read the whole of every article and chapter; there wasn’t time.

Confession time: There were a few which were simply too enthralling to resist, like the article about arts-based research in rural Cambodia to establish the views of children about their prosthetic legs, and the article about research into intuition and personal creativity whose participants were all chefs with Michelin stars. But, luckily for my deadlines, these were in the minority.

3) Breadth over depth
One of the trade-offs every academic writer has to make is: breadth, or depth? It’s not possible to do both unless you write a massive book – and even then I’m not sure you can. So my third compromise was to aim for breadth.

I’m aware that this carries the risk of being too shallow – but depth carries the risk of being too narrow; it’s always a tricky balance. I chose breadth with the aim of giving a solid overview of creative research methods in practice, and will also signpost further resources so if a reader wants to delve more deeply into one aspect or another, they will be able to. For this topic, to me, that seems the best approach.

What, you may ask, will I do when I’ve finished all this reading? That would be the actual writing – and I’ll tell you about this stage of my writing process next week.

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

As part of our special ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara shares her top tips on the research you need to do before you even begin penning the great work….

Helen KaraLet’s say you’ve had a terrific idea for a book that is making your brain fizz with delight. Should you run to the computer and start writing immediately, the sooner to light up the world with your genius? Nope. You need to check a few things before you reach that point.

First stop: Amazon. I know it’s the evil empire, but it’s still very useful for doing research, and they don’t make any profit from that. Suppose you decided my throw-away line about Mongolian puddings actually was a genius idea, because you lived for several years in Mongolia and you think other countries would benefit from learning about their impressive range of delicious desserts. So search Amazon (not just .uk but also .com) for ‘Mongolian puddings’ – and lo and behold, you truly do have a genius idea, as there are no existing books in direct competition. But do think of other search terms you might use. What about ‘Mongolian desserts’? Luckily there are no competitors there, either.

Production values

Once you’re sure there is a gap for your book, do some research into publishers. Look at the publishers of existing cookbooks and make a short list of those you might like to work with – generally speaking, the ones that publish the books you like the most. This is where you’ll realise that book publishing isn’t just about the words, it’s also about production values: paper quality, cover design, typeface, layout etc.

When you have a shortlist of publishers, check them out online. How big are they? National or international? What’s their business model – co-op, limited company, PLC? Are they solvent? Who else writes for them, and would you like to be in that gang? Do you know any of those authors – or can you find them online – to ask about their experience of working with that publisher?

Don't sit around waiting to be chosen by a publisher...

Don’t sit around waiting to be chosen by a publisher…

Novice writers often seem to feel quite diffident about approaching publishers, as if it would be a real honour to be chosen to write a book. I see this the other way round. Publishers can’t function without authors. That doesn’t mean authors have a right to walk all over publishers and make unreasonable demands. But authors do put in several years of unpaid time upfront, with not much financial reward at any stage.

For example, I began work on my last book in January 2011, spent many months writing it, then helped with the marketing, and two and a half years later I’d earned a modest sum in royalties. I’m not complaining about this, I know it’s the deal for any writer these days and I benefit in other ways. Nevertheless, given that we’re not in it for the money, it makes sense to me that authors take control from the earliest stage and find the publisher they feel most enthusiastic about working with.

I chose Policy Press because it’s a non-profit, which fits with my own ethos, and they work collaboratively with authors, so I can get involved in all phases of the book’s life. Other authors don’t want to collaborate, they want to do the writing and leave it to the publisher to do everything else. And that’s fair enough – but it’s sensible to work out what kind of author you think you’ll be, and find a publisher to fit.

“…then, and only then, is it worth starting work on your Mongolian Puddings masterpiece.”

Once you’ve chosen a potential publisher, find the author guidelines on their website and read their book proposal form carefully. This will give you a lot of insight into the kind of work you need to do at the early stages of writing. However impressive your idea might be, the commissioning editor will need to be able to sell that idea to the publisher’s sales team before you’ll get a contract. Your proposal helps the commissioning editor to make this sales pitch. If you can’t sell the book to the publisher, there’s little chance of it selling to readers.

When you’ve got your head around all that, find the relevant commissioning editor’s contact details online and give them a ring to talk through your idea. This may sound radical but, generally speaking, commissioning editors are happy to hear from prospective authors. You need to know whether your idea is, in principle, the kind of thing they’d be interested in commissioning. You also need to know whether they have already commissioned a similar book – if they have, it’s time to go back to square one. Also, you’re sounding them out as someone you may be working with quite closely, so it’s worth assessing how well you think you and they would get on.

If all the responses from the commissioning editor are positive, then, and only then, is it worth starting work on your Mongolian Puddings masterpiece.

Talking of starting work… I realise that I’ve been saying a lot about various stages of academic writing, without saying anything about what I’m actually working on at the moment. I confess that’s because I haven’t been doing much academic writing in the last few weeks, as I’ve been writing a hefty research report to a client’s deadline. But now I’m getting going on the second draft of my next book, so next week I’ll tell you how I’m approaching the process.

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes


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Musings on a Mad World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon

The GOVERNANCE blog

Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Shot by both sides

The blog of Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP

Paul Collins's Running Blog

Running and London Marathon 2013 Training

Bristol Civic Leadership Project

A collaborative project on change in local governance

Stuck on Social Work

And what a great place to be

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

short and insightful writing about a long and complex history

Urban policy and practice

Publishing with a purpose

TessaCoombes

Policy Politics Place

Blog

Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.

EUROPP

European Politics and Policy

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