AACC Liveblog: Getting Published – Ross McKenzie

Ross is a physics professor at UQ. He also has a blog which you should read. His interests are quantum physics and the intersection between theology and science.

Publication is important for the church

  • Historically, evangelicals have ceded the academy to liberals and atheists.
  • Publication is the key to the intellectual world. It is the currency of respectability in the academy. You have to be published to be taken seriously.
  • Publishing leads to engagement with the broader culture. It is apologia and kategoria. If we want to be engaging in the crucible of ideas and knowledge you need to be getting published.

Publication is important for your college and denomination

  • It maintains intellectual vitality.
  • It keeps teaching content and research supervision abilities up to date.
  • It raises the profile of a college and help in recruiting new staff and students.
  • The process reduces isolationism and forces faculty to engage with other thinkers.
  • It’s becoming increasingly important for government funding and accreditation of the Australian College of Theology.

Publication is important for you

  • It maintains your own vitality.
  • It puts your ideas out there for critique
  • It helps maintain your employment (if you’re an academic).

Ross’s Guide to Peer Reviewed Publications

  1. Write a draft.
  2. Choose a suitable journal. If many references in your paper come from one journal then that’s probably a suitable publication. Electronically available journals are preferable, especially journals available in tertiary institutions. Narrow journals with small audiences aren’t ideal. The Australian Research Council ranks journals.
  3. Put the article in the format of the journal.
  4. Ask a colleague who has published in that journal, or a similar one, to give feedback. Take that feedback on board.
  5. Submit it.
  6. The most likely responses are: rejection, or a request to resubmit.
  7. If you’re rejected make the changes and submit it elsewhere. Keep repeating steps 2-6. If changes are requested make them. Swallow your pride.
  8. Don’t give up.

Peer review may help reduce self delusion and sloppy thinking – Richard Dawkins hasn’t published a peer reviewed paper for 30 years.

AACC Liveblog: Getting Published – From Concept to Publication with Michael Bird

Apart from running one of Christendom’s most popular blogs, Michael Bird is a widely published author. His presentation this morning is a piece of self reflection on his process from student to scholar, and the process from idea to publication. Though “A Bird’s Eye View on Paul” was not his chosen title.

Motivations for Publishing

  • To disseminate research
  • If you end up in an academic career publication is linked to funding. This is especially the case in the UK where universities depend on world class, brilliant, erudite publications for grants. Lots of institutions expect their faculty to be research active in their fields.
  • To contribute to scholarly discussions and academic knowledge.
  • To contribute resources for the wider church, to be a bridge between the academy and the church.

Bad reasons to publish

  • Fame and fortune – most publishers would only be expecting to sell 300 copies of PhD dissertations. Most monograph series don’t pay royalties.

Getting Started

The initiative more often than not comes from the writer, not the publisher (unless you’re famous).

Origen: “A biblical scholar is like a hunter walking through a forest when a flash of movement catches their eye.”

Mike’s story: In the late 90s he read through Jesus and the Victory of God got him thinking “how did Christianity move from a fringe Jewish movement into a movement, within 50 years, that a Gentile emperor was making policy about.” Looking to explore that question became his PhD thesis.

Looking at what’s around on a topic and thinking about how to contribute to a conversation is a good start. Don’t think of your book as the definitive word on a subject. It’s a conversation that will continue after your contribution. That is how you should think about it.

How do you get this idea to the market?

Who is your audience? Academics? Students? Lay people? Once you’ve picked your audience find a publisher who will meet your audience.

If you’ve killed your academic audience through publishing journal articles then look at other audiences (possibly more lucrative too).

Bird says, on the question of when to start writing, sooner or later you’re going to have to start, so it might as well be sooner.

Preparing Your Submission

Step 1. Get ready for rejection. If you can’t handle rejection do not try to publish books.

Step 2. Write a proposal. Don’t bother with unsolicited manuscripts.

Writing a Proposal

Proposals look a little something like this:

  • Title
  • Short bio of yourself
  • Summary
  • Audience
  • Need
  • Competing volumes
  • Potential endorsers
  • Word Length
  • Submission Date
  • Sample Chapter

Getting the Proposal heard

  • Meet an editor – network like crazy, meet people, schmooze. You’re incredibly unlikely to be published via an unsolicited manuscript. Your chances dramatically increase if you know the publisher. The editor has to believe in your project over and above the other projects on the table. They have to sell it to their editorial colleagues and the publishing company.
  • Consider the market, ethos, values and theology of the publisher.
  • Be willing to make changes. Negotiate on the size, the scope, the content, the audience… everything is on the table.
  • Be prepared for it to be a long process filled with corrections, proof-reading, endorsers, indices…

Be Prepared for…

Some more things to be ready for in the process:

  • A long delay waiting for a response, it’s ok to make enquiries about the status of your proposal a few months later
  • Rejection
  • Work and family commitments, your circumstances can change which will effect delivery dates.
  • Editors can be brutal, there’s a difference between an academic supervisor and an editor. Supervisors want you to produce defendable work, editors want you to produce marketable work.
  • Copy editors can be incompetent
  • Publishers can change stuff
  • Criticism in reviews

In the writing of books there is much sorrow, mainly for the authors. Bird writes because he learns the most in the publication process. Autonomous learning is the goal of any Christian scholarship. The first beneficiary of the process is yourself, but it’s good to see others. Writing is an avenue for participating in the debate, being part of the conversation, it’s fun.

How the blog interplays with books

Starting a blog was one of the best things he ever did. In the year after submitting his PhD he got several knockbacks. The blog opened doors with publishers (they even took him out to lunch). Some posts now prompt emails from publishers.

The blog has been great for bouncing ideas off people. and nutting out ideas.

AACC liveblog: Getting Published: Bruce Winter: Advice from a Veteran

Bruce says “always contribute to the body of knowledge”…

Argument should take place in the main body of the thesis, not in the footnotes. Some have used footnotes to disown arguments.

In the metamorphous from student to scholar we need to move on from attributing every notion or idea in footnotes and be prepared to argue things out in the text.

What does it mean to be a Christian and an Academic?

Bruce resolved never to engage, in his writings, with trashing other scholars. He believes that evidence should be argued out in the pages without playing the man.

A non-Christian friend made the comment that one of Bruce’s books “wasn’t an easy read.” He came to the realisation that the first paragraph has to be engaging if we are to grab the attention of a reader. Bruce’s rules of thumb:

  1. The heading must entice.
  2. The first sentence must grab the attention.
  3. The second sentence must inform.

This, in my opinion, a good rule of thumb for writing anything. Basically you’ve got to think about how you yourself approach a text – how many academic books have you read right through?

Bruce resolved to agonise most over headings and sub-titles, and introductions. They are important.

Chapter headings need sub-headings. They need to be well thought out structures. We must write with purpose.

Bruce reads the preface, the chapter headings, the chapter introductions and the conclusions (including the links between chapters) before deciding whether to read the whole book. His approach to writing follows his approach to reading.

There must also be a Christian approach to criticism, and especially to the review process. Some journals offer authors the right of reply to reviews – how do you take this opportunity without trashing someone who has trashed your work? We want academic interactions to also be Christian interactions.

Bruce avoids fads in academic circles because they pass. Some publishers love fads and are always in search of the next new thing.

We are accountable to Christ – not to reviewers or audiences.

Questions to ask of your work.

  • Have we added to the body of knowledge?
  • Have we illuminated the text?
  • Have we built people up?
  • Who are we writing for?
  • What we write is the application of our gifts for the benefit of others. So does it benefit others?

Publish or perish is not the motto of the Christian.

AACC liveblog: Getting Published: Eisenbraun’s guide to getting published

If you have a monograph you want published here are Jim Eisenbraun’s tips for getting there.

  1. Start with a well thought out proposal – including your idea, its genesis, how it compares to other works in the field or underway, what need it meets. Is there a market?
  2. The right time to submit a proposal is a bit of a Goldilocks question – you want to have the ability to provide more information upon request without too big a gap in time, but you don’t necessarily need an entire manuscript. Sometimes things come in the form of an expanded article. Which is fine, and a good basis for decision making. Writing a Phd dissertation with publication in mind is useful (if the adviser will permit that). There are dissertations that aren’t worth publishing as a monograph. They’re always so tuned in to the adviser’s goals and philosophy that they can become unmarketable.
  3. Publishers like to be asked what they want, and they are fine with dispensing advice on how to edit a work to make it publishable.
  4. Don’t send an entire manuscript right off the bat – give something that can be read in 15 minutes.
  5. Put effort into your proposal – a badly written proposal will go no further. Grammar matters. Write well. Publishers love good writing. If they have to do a lot of work to your prose it will give them pause. The biggest cost in publishing is human – it’s not the paper and ink. Time spent fixing a manuscript raises costs.
  6. Good English is plain English. Sometimes academics get stuck in the notion that esoteric or made up words sound stronger. That’s not the case. Avoid jargon that I can’t understand what they’re saying. If the publisher, who works in the field, can’t understand what’s being said then what chance does the market have. Unclear jargon is faux-academic.
  7. How to Edit Your Own Writing is a great book full of “aha” moments. The Chicago Manual For Style is the American publisher’s bible.
  8. Eisenbrauns will ask for a proposal, then a chapter, then check with others in the field to make sure the idea will fly. They’re always looking for manuscripts that will advance the discussion, unless it’s a textbook that summarises the state of knowledge.
  9. If it’s a monograph that’s presenting a new idea the question is “will this carry scholarship forward?”
  10. Academic publishers care. They are engaged in the process of developing scholarship.
  11. Eisenbrauns’ review process is double blind and shared – reviewers and writers are not named.
  12. After the review process Eisenbrauns have to make a market decision. There are valuable materials that might only have 50 readers. Print on demand is an option but it looses some of the aesthetic value of the hardback high quality tome.
  13. Eisenbrauns still copy edits. Unlike some other publishers. Authors look at two sets of proofs. They print using traditional offset printing.
  14. The decision to publish, and a contract, may be made at multiple steps in this process. Even from the proposal. Especially if it is someone with a reputation. For first timers a contract is likely to come after seeing some of the finished work. If you want to be published multiple times avoid entering contract limbo.
  15. Finding the right publisher is an issue for writers – find the publisher that markets to your audience. Anybody can publish a book, with a few dollars, the test of publishing is to market. Rejection may not be a question of the quality of the work, find a shoe that fits. Publish with a publisher who prices things in a way that mortals can afford them. $200 monographs are unaffordable.

AACC Live: Getting Published – Jim Eisenbraun

I’m at the Annual Australasian Christian Conference this week – so expect a bunch of posts reporting on theologs and their new and interesting ideas.

Today kicks off with “Getting Published” a guide to those looking to get published now, or in the future.

This morning we’ve got Jim Eisenbraun, the CEO/owner of Eisenbrauns Publishing.

“The rate and volume of publication is expanding rapidly, and that is a challenge for everybody in the academic world.”

It’s no longer possible to read everything in your field – there’s so much out there in terms of the history and the stuff being written in our time, even last month.

The challenge is now to pick what to read.

The reality for publishers is that fewer copies of any work are selling. The rate of publication is increasing while the rate of purchasing is decreasing – you don’t have to be an economist to see a problem. This explains why academic books are so expensive.

Publishing in an esoteric area you’re looking to sell about 350 copies. Publishing is an economic exercise. Electronic publishing is becoming a factor.

You can charge for content, but people are unwilling to pay for content when it’s online. There’s a changing social component in the move from printed content to content online – are we willing to pay for something that we can’t physically carry away with us. There’s something psychological at play. There’s less of a reality in our minds.

Publishers are facing this difficulty. Publishers primarily provide a service, not a product. They take a manuscript and turn it into a reader friendly format. Print will stay with us for a while – but the future is electronic. Which creates piracy concerns.

Information wants to be free. Even as a publisher Eisenbraun agrees with that philosophy. But somebody needs to be paid for their efforts. This has an effect on the way publishers view their role and their product. Dealing with this clash between commercial imperatives and the public’s view that information should be free is the modern publisher’s job.

The Google Books program is kind of an uneasy marriage between Google and libraries, and Google and Publishers. Nobody is entirely happy with where it is going, but everybody sees the value of continuing.

There’s a view that the distribution mechanism for academic works is broken – and that the institution should own the copyright to works published by their staff. Harvard make any work produced by their academics freely available – which removes some incentive from academics to publish.

The manuscript review process is being scrutinised by academics and by those seeking to be published. There’s a perception that publication in the modern age does not signify quality. In the past, when a publisher had to put significant resources into publishing there was an understanding that the final product would be worthwhile. One solution is to let the market sort it out – buyers will decide what’s worthwhile and what’s not. Eisenbraun doesn’t think this works. I think The Shack is a case study in why this doesn’t work.