PODCAST: TAA webinar, ‘How to Write a Book When You Don’t Like to Write’

Susan RobisonMany academic book authors love writing while others want to write but are reluctant about the writing process, the work load, and the sacrifice. Susan Robison, a self-professed reluctant author, addresses those issues and other practical topics such as defining the purpose and scope of the project, managing the tasks and the time during the writing, improving your writing as you go, and when to ask for help, in this recorded webinar now available on the TAA website. [Read more…]

Visual: 7 Basic components of a book proposal for an academic press

Unless you are an established author and have publishers soliciting manuscripts from you, you will likely have to submit a formal academic book proposal to an academic press.

Here Tanya Golash-Boza provides generic suggestions for what should go in an academic book proposal.

Robison publishes new book on work-life balance

Peak Performing ProfessorTAA member Susan Robison, a former professor of psychology and department chair at the Notre Dame of Maryland University, has published a new book, The Peak Performing Professor (Jossey-Bass, 2013). The book assists faculty in developing essential skills to enhance peak performance and experience more work-life balance.

How to negotiate royalties for a textbook test bank

Q: “I am in the process of negotiating my second contract to write a test bank. The first contract was for a flat fee. I wrote a total of 490 multiple choice, true/false and fill in questions for a 14 chapter criminal justice book. The book was going into its 3rd edition and I think it is a big seller. [Read more…]

3 Things book indexers wish you knew

Seth Maislin

Seth Maislin, freelance indexer

1. Indexing is an editorial function.

You own a spellchecker, so why do you continue to work with editors? That’s easy. You need an editor to correct all the stupid mistakes your spellchecker makes, along with the 20 other good things that spellcheckers never do. Indexing, like writing and editing, requires a human being. Search, automatic indexers, and even simple alphabetizing tools are inferior, able to build things that look okay but function terribly.

2. Authors can write their own indexes, but there’s no good reason for it.

Just because you’re capable doesn’t mean you do it. Most of us do not grow vegetables, fill potholes, produce movies, or whittle wood into pencils. We know to rely on people who are efficient and qualified, because we have more appropriate things to do instead. Indexers are highly educated people who have the right combination of experience, training, and subject knowledge to prepare the best product for your readers. Unless you’re a professional indexer yourself—and there are a multitude of opportunities for you to become one—leave the hard work to the experts. Even gardeners buy most of their groceries. [Read more…]

Targeted marketing key to successful self-publishing

marketingSelf-published authors need to be more marketing savvy and more willing to dedicate time to the task of marketing, said Jeremy Robinson, author of POD People: Beating the Print-on-Demand Stigma.

“Marketing is really the only way a self-published author can get those first books sold and kick off the word-of-mouth machine,” he said. [Read more…]

When writing your dissertation, look at it from several perspectives

The project is not the subject. The project is not the thesis. Whether you are writing your dissertation, a journal article, or a book, the project is not simply the thesis. When I ask people about their projects the answer I get is always (or almost always) the subject of the project. Sometimes I ask specific questions like “what kind of project? Is it a dissertation? A thesis?” And still the answer I get is the subject of the project. But your project is not just about a subject; it has a certain form. It is a journal article, a dissertation, a book. It has a certain intention—to share a discovery, to support a position, to instruct others. It is aimed at a certain audience—peers, or students, or educated lay people.

If you can see that form, and understand how that form relates to the work you’re trying to accomplish, then the writing process becomes much easier: it’s less a shot in the dark, and more a purposeful action.

Of course, form is uncertain in some ways–we cannot be certain that what we think will be good will be thought a good dissertation by a professor, a reviewer or an editor–but it is still useful to have some image of the complete project. If we have an idea of the complete project, we can judge when we need to do more work, and when we can move on to another section or chapter. We can judge what is good enough and what still needs work. Without having some guiding image of what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s hard to know when we’ve reached our goal. If you don’t have an idea of the complete work–an outline, an estimate of length–then you can more easily vacillate about what should be included. Even if you’ve thought out an outline and have many details of the plan down, it can help to do things like estimate intended page length.

Intention and Audience

It’s difficult to separate these two: part of intention is to reach a certain audience. Having a clear intention is important—again it helps one focus and keep an eye on what should and should not be included. The same thesis would be expressed differently if the intention were to instruct or the intention were simply to present an argument.

Understanding your audience is crucial. By understanding the audience, you can tailor your language, structure and examples appropriately. Writing to peers is different from writing to students. Again, the same thesis will be expressed differently for a different audience. By clarifying your intention and audience, you help shape the form and expression of your thesis.

Sometimes it can help to think about writing to two audiences. One is immediate, the other distant and idealized. The immediate audience is your professor, reviewer or editor. You want them to accept and approve. The other is the audience that you idealized: whom the work is trying to reach if it can get past the gatekeeper. In the case of a peer-reviewed journal, these are approximately the same. But again, thinking of the audiences helps focus on how the thesis is to be expressed.

There’s a general point: there are several perspectives from which one might approach a work. One of these perspectives is the perspective of trying to prove a point or make an argument. But that’s only one perspective that is relevant to an author. By understanding more than one, you gain additional insight into the project, and this additional insight can play a major role in helping you use your energy efficiently.

Dave Harris, Ph.D., academic writing coach and editor, helps writers rework their writing process, fine-tune their final drafts, and everything in between (www.thoughtclearing.com; dave@thoughtclearing.com).
Copyright © 2007, Dave Harris. All rights reserved

Definition of ‘camera-ready copy’ & how it could affect your contract negotiations

Tips of the Trade ImageQ: “The contract that has been offered on a book based on my dissertation specifies ‘camera-ready copy.’ What does this mean?”

A: Michael Lennie, Authoring Attorney and Literary Agent, Lennie Literary and Authors’ Attorneys:

“The best answer is that you should ask your publisher what it means, since it might have a different meaning to your publisher than it does to other publishers. This information may be on your publisher’s website or in print form available from your publisher. Generally, camera-ready copy is the final layout of a page (or in your [Read more…]

Hardcover vs. Paperback: Which option is better?

Tips of the Trade ImageQ: “My publisher has asked if the 5th edition of my book should be published in hard or softcover? The first four editions were all hardcover. Do you know of any reasons to favor one over the other?”

A: Don Collins, the author or co-author of seven school mathematics textbooks, and former Managing Editor of Mathematics at Merrill Publishing:

“The answer to this lies in the royalty agreement. If the agreement is so much for each text sold, then by all means go the paperback route. However, most publishers base their royalty agreements on dollar volume. In this case certainly since paperbacks are cheaper and do not last as long, then more of them will be sold. So one has to consider which is greater: Cheaper price X more volume or Higher price X less volume. The author sort of has to roll the dice. In most case there isn’t a great deal of difference. I don’t think you can go too far wrong either way, but if it were me I would go the paperback route.” [Read more…]