Featured Member Kathleen King – Motivation, marketing & the ‘easy fix’
Kathleen P. King, professor of Adult and Higher Education at the University of South Florida in Tampa, is an award winning author of 30 books, most recently 147 Tips for Emerging Scholars and The Professor’s Guide to Taming Technology, and more than 175 journal articles and research papers. She is known for her sessions and innovative topics and is a popular international keynote and conference speaker, mentor, and professor. King’s areas of research include instructional technology, faculty development, and mentoring.
Here King shares what motivates her to write, tips on marketing your works, and the ‘easy fix’:
TAA: How did you get started with your authoring career and what motivates you to write?
Kathleen P. King: “I don’t know how many other academic authors experience this phenomenon, but I didn’t realize I was a ‘writer’ until I was in my 40’s. I had a desire to express my ‘idealistic dreams of society and social issues’ when I was in high school, however, my career goals and interests were in medical science and I never had many opportunities to engage in extensive academic writing or develop strong writing skills.
In my 30’s, while pursuing my second masters and doctorate in education, a great deal of writing was involved. During this time, I was fortunate to also have plenty of feedback and excellent critique of my work.
Prior to my doctorate, I had three other careers, which converged powerfully into my adult and higher education work. I had great passion for this career in part because I could see how these diverse disciplines connected in new ways that people did not seem to be discussing in the literature. After writing several articles and three books, I finally realized, MAYBE I was also a writer. This realization began to emerge once I had greater confidence that I could write, tackle large writing projects, and communicate my visions of teaching, learning, instructional innovation and design, etc. However, it was another few years before I could say, ‘I am an academic author.’
Throughout my career journey, I have identified common threads which are the foundation of my passion for researching, teaching, and writing about adult learning in several contexts. I have a great passion to communicate the untapped potential which many people, including students and faculty, have available. I have repeatedly experienced the difference that supportive teaching, mentoring and validation have on the trajectory of people’s accomplishments. As such, my writing is driven by my passion for my work, and most of my writing focuses on research, theory, and practice of facilitating learning through varied contexts including technology, transformative learning, faculty development, mentoring, etc.”
TAA: As the prolific author of 30 books and more than 175 published articles and papers, what organizational procedures and writing strategies do you employ to help you maximize your productivity?
KPK: “I actually discussed these strategies in my session at the 2015 TAA Conference, and I find it very beneficial for us as authors to share such practices with one another. Discussing these strategies, tips, and tricks not only introduces us to new methods, but also helps us recognize our methods. If we are not from English composition or Journalism academic backgrounds, we might never have benefited from such stimulating dialogue.
Using an outline to organize my large writing projects is a really powerful strategy for me. I know some schools of thought say not to use outlines, but based on my type of writing, what I include in it, and how I use it, outlines are essential tools for me. At the same time that I use an outline, I also feel free to adapt it while I engage in my writing process because the work will develop in new directions and morph. Therefore, I do not allow the outline to constrain or stifle me; instead, I use it to structure my work and ultimately communicate a logical, compelling presentation of my message to my readers.
In my outline, I include not only the content, but also any stylistic features being used in the chapters or article. For instance, if I am using a scenario in each chapter, I list the topic and bullet point items for each scenario as they come to mind. This strategy guides me in tracking the distribution and representation of these important characteristics.
Another productive habit for me has been systematically planning and tracking my research and writing projects. I break them down into the common phases and then input them on a master Gantt chart. This approach helps me visualize my workflow, and easily identify and resolve overload issues, resource needs, and conflicts. Using such documentation when collaborating with other researchers and authors also ensures everyone understands expectations, responsibilities, timelines, etc.”
TAA: What kind of marketing strategies do you use to promote yourself and your works?
KPK: “My marketing strategy is multi-pronged and forever evolving to meet my changing needs and time availability.
1) In my experience, a website is an essential professional and marketing platform for authors. Just like all of us do, our potential readers search online for information about us. As professionals we want to carefully craft the message and image that they find.
I have had an extensive website that I am in the process of redesigning. My advice is that authors purchase their own URL and not have their author website be a subfolder of another site or a Facebook page for instance. There are several steps involved in accomplishing this goal, but it can make a huge difference in whether you are perceived as a professional author or not.
2) I developed marketing materials to represent my background, expertise, and speaking topics. In addition, in the past I produced a free podcast for several years which provided freely available, on-demand professional development for educators and was very successful in building name recognition for me. And, when social media was first emerging, I used it in a variety of innovative ways for marketing and instruction.
3) Maintaining a mailing list and distributing a newsletter is another vital effort, but it involves a substantial commitment. Earlier in my career, I wrote and sent mine out quarterly and it was a very successful networking and marketing tool. The point is to be visible to your potential clients; therefore an extensive newsletter is not needed, instead only a page or two.
4) Networking at conferences, not only presenting, but also distributing your business cards, is an essential effort which must be continuously planned, strategized, and pursued.
Ultimately, my academic role at a given time (i.e., graduate professor, department chair, doctoral mentor to 25 students, etc.), determines how much time I can spend on my consulting, and which marketing efforts I use at a given time. I have to carefully evaluate what I can fit into a manageable load given those full-time responsibilities, consulting, relationships, life-work balance, and health.”
TAA: As a writing coach, what is the most common misunderstanding about the writing process that you see and what is the easiest fix?
KPK: “As an academic coach one of the biggest issues I find people have with the writing process, is that they do not plan for it! Somehow we all expect it to just happen! It is kind of silly isn’t it? Do we expect our garden vegetables and flowers to burst out of the ground without any weeds? Of course not, we know better. We have been taught since kindergarten that you have to sow the seeds, tend the garden!
One of the big obstacles in this area might be that we seldom hear people talk about, nor see them plan their writing. Very few people discuss their writing strategies or process with other people who engage in writing on a regular basis. And most writers likely plan their writing when they are alone, so how would other people see us in action?
The easy fix? First, I recommend talking about your writing habits with other academics who are engaged in publishing frequently! And second, make appointments with yourself to WRITE! You must block out time on your calendar in order to preserve time to write. If you need to, set an alarm to remind you of the ‘appointment’, use another reminder system (i.e., calendar or online tickler, etc.), or develop an accountability relationship.
I think many writers have trouble making and protecting writing appointments. In order to be successful, we have to treat them like other appointments. These writing times are critical to our careers; we owe ourselves (and our employers) the time and space to engage in our work systematically. I know that many academics hesitate to reserve and preserve the needed time. When we stumble in this area, we need to figure out what the issues are, because not only are they impeding our work, but they are also robbing us of our voice and success!
My recommendations are to plan your projects (Gantt charts I mentioned earlier), schedule and relish your writing appointments, and enjoy the freedom from the usual pressure (or guilt) you will discover.”