Do You Ever Feel Afraid? And Other Questions about Failure

I was a guest in an undergraduate class this week, and the students got to ask me questions, both about my work and about how I do my job. I received a number of questions, but one student’s question made me think twice.  The student asked if I’m ever overwhelmed by the process of writing, and just do not want to do it anymore.

And I thought – almost everyday I’m writing. I mean, some days, the writing works and flows. Other days, its 1am and I’m still plugging away at the to-do list or writing quota. Some of those days, its because there’s too much to do or life just gets in the way. But other days, its because there’s some time that I spend in a sense of fear or paralysis about something that I’m probably perfectly capable of writing.

Many will make jokes that my productivity suggests that doesn’t really get in the way; fine, fair enough. And others will suggest that my professional behavior is overall pretty fearless. Also, fine, fair enough. But perhaps it is because it is not totally debilitating to me that I can talk a little bit about that fear.

When the student asked the question, my first thought was about the recent decision of a Princeton professor to post his CV of failures. I thought about my failures. There are the things like that Princeton professor discusses – schools you did not get in to (ironically, for me, that was Princeton), jobs you did not get (I’ve applied for, by my count, almost 1000 academic jobs in my career. I haven’t gotten 1000), articles that were rejected (one article I wrote was rejected at 7 different journals), grants you didn’t get (ever tried to convince NSF that poststructuralist feminism is science?), teaching fails (I once slipped on four-inch heels in a classroom of 400 students), poor professional decisions (remember when I mentioned the kegstand in the last post?), and the like. But, to me, those failures kind of feel like bumps in the road. I’m not afraid to apply for a job I won’t get, or submit an article that will get rejected or a grant that will not be funded. I know that’s itself a privilege – a lot of people are afraid of that stuff too, and feel a very serious sense of failure around it.

For me, my CV of failures would be more of a narrative. It would tell of all the times that I sat around watching reality TV paralyzed and afraid to write something that if I just applied myself I could have. It would tell of all the emails that I leave in my inbox for like six hours for no reason except an inexplicable fear of typing whatever words I would type in response. It would talk about how I actually hide from the “send” button as I hit it sometimes when I send important or risky things. Not metaphorically hide. Actually hide. It would tell about the six weeks one summer I spent doing nothing productive except assembling jigsaw puzzles upside down while I felt insecure about my work. It would talk about how deeply personally I take personal attacks on me by people who don’t know me except professionally – how all of their accusations literally repeat in my head over and over when I am trying to write something that carries with it any professional risk.

I’m pretty sure I zoned out for ten minutes while this entire thought process went through my head, completely forgetting to answer the student’s question. When I snapped back, though, I tried to answer it honestly – yes, I’m terrified – sometimes more than others, but a lot. And I don’t think I admit that very much. I usually just humbly demure to questions about productivity, and provide professional socialization advice when asked how I accomplish this or that. I don’t know whether it is that scholars as a profession are trained not to show vulnerability or if it is just something I am not used to doing – but I do know that this is a very solitary profession with a lot of vulnerability, yet vulnerability is rarely discussed. So I admitted (and emphasized) that its not about whether you are vulnerable or not – its about how you cope with the vulnerability.

Either the student asked or I imputed a second question – so then what do you do to overcome it? Like no two people’s fears are the same, no two people’s coping strategies are the same. Mine are a set of elaborate incentives. Each day, there is a writing quota – how many words depends on the difficulty of the subject matter. It can always be accomplished, with due diligence and when nothing goes wrong, by 5pm. When that happens, those are the sane days- the ones that are functional. But most of the time it doesn’t happen directly – it gets delayed a bit, or it gets delayed a lot. That’s fear and paralysis as much as it is anything else. So, to force myself over the fear of putting the words on the (figurative) paper, I don’t let myself go to bed until the quota is done. Some days, I am done at 5 and go out for a nice dinner. Some days, its 3am. Those days, I learn – both how to keep my psychological composure in a field that lends itself to constant self-questioning and how to manage my time and overcome my fears more efficiently.

I have a lot of other tricks – small writing-windows (15 minutes at my most scared), a less desirable task set up if I don’t keep writing, accountability schemes, and, of course, the Facebook hive-mind. Some or all of my tactics might work for you; others might not. But I do think it is important to recognize that time management isn’t the only barrier to professional productivity: fear matters too,

And, for those of you who this irony is not lost on, it is 1:24am, this is the second-to-last-thing on my list, and there’s a good chance I’ll need to wait until tomorrow to wake up and send the email I’ve been afraid to send today. Or this week.

On Request: Marketing Your Book

So you’ve written a book, and gotten someone to publish it, you’re done, right?

It turns out that, though it depends on the professional incentives around your particular situation, in general, no, you’re not nearly done. You have just started a new chapter. Even without the book/chapter pun.

A friend of mine requested a post on book marketing, and that seemed like a good idea, since knowing how to publish a book and knowing how to promote one are two different arts.

Most (not all, but most) academic books are generally only marginally profitable – think, date night, once a year. If you’re lucky, date weekend, once a year.

Promoting you book is not about making money, though that might be a nice side effect. It is about getting people to buy your book, to read you book, to assign you book, and to cite your book.

Why? Well, I’m presuming the why matches why you published the book in the first place – that you have some professional incentives to construct a CV, develop a professional reputation, make your name, have the opportunity to publish more books, make it easier to publish a second book, etc.

The harder question is how to promote your book. You want to make sure that people notice your book without over-saturating the market or annoying people. Below the fold are some tips.  Continue reading

So Book Prospectuses Aren’t Anonymous …

The first time I sent a book prospectus out for review, I didn’t actually know that prospectuses are non-anonymously reviewed. When I got three (generally positive) revises back, I was kind of taken aback that each of them included an evaluation of my qualification to write the (largely already-written) book.

In fact, I still remember those evaluations. In hindsight, they were fairly generic and really the only thing I could have expected at the time – no, the Reviewers did not know me or my work; yes, my training looked acceptable to produce potentially good work, and the prospectus and sample chapter suggested that I was capable of translating that potential into a full book.

I think I was thrown because I had the expectation that my work would be be judged separately from “me” (as if those two things are separable), and I was jolted when they were not. Its not even like those evaluations judged anything deeply personal. They weren’t (yet at least) commenting on my lifestyle choices or personality traits. It was, in fact, a very narrow sense of professional “self” that was being judged – does the overall reputation of her work suggest that x publisher should expect that her book idea will develop into a well-done book?

This is the purpose of non-anonymous prospectus review. Like the quality of the writing of the abstract and the innovation of the idea, the identity of the author is meant to provide reviewers with more indicators of the potential quality of the book.

Largely, that is what it is used for in the actual review process. I say “largely” because there are two variables that can, and will, come up sometimes if not frequently. The first is conscious bias – people who know you and do not like either you or your work, and therefore judge it more harshly for being able to identify you. This happens much less frequently than you would fair. I have been involved in the book review process as an author, a reviewer, or an editor for almost 200 separate books. I have seen evidence of this sort of bias once during that time. It was minor, and did not negatively impact the process of publishing the book that was involved. The second variable that can come up is unconscious bias – the reading of your name and its sex/gender/race/nationality significations as a shortcut for qualification (e.g., women are less qualified to write about x). We cannot possibly know how often this impacts book reviewing. Statistics suggest that this sort of unconscious bias impacts everything in the professional world; so it probably does here too. There might be some saving grace in the fact that book reviews are often long and detailed enough that it is hard to write a negative one without a real, substantive complaint about the text. Still, I’m not even going to try to tell you it doesn’t happen. Because it certainly does. I can just provide two pieces of advice: a) don’t be the Reviewer that does this (examine you conscious and unconscious bias); b) don’t worry about stuff you can’t control (a decent piece of advice for life, not just a book prospectus).

Instead, when it comes to your identity and book prospectuses, worry about what you can control. What’s that, you ask?

I have three suggestions: 1) Frame yourself as positively as you can; 2) realize the potential interactions between your identity/information and other parts of your proposal; 3) especially if you are relatively early in your career, google yourself. The first and third ones are good advice for being on the job market and just generally, but I will discuss them specifically in reference to the book publishing process here. I’ll detail them below …

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Ways to Composing an Educational Research Proposal

We have the bouquets, the goodies, the romantic love notices that produce the vacation unique for us. Males don’t really get these kinds of reward just because a large amount of ladies get caught about what to have their dude for Valentines Time. You just visit this portal have to know where you can find them. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images) Do Your Research One way to have the response is always to consult your look through this site gentleman 10 excellent questions about your relationship. Showing him that you want to purchase him something special may get him to open. They might be able to share with you what he adored about the costume you donned on your own first date or how he loses target everytime you smile. Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images Which means that your investigation shows that he recalls the weekend you invested hiking around the shoreline. He is extremely happy with the truth that he managed to build a fireplace for that couple to curl by. Whynot create that weekend with another quick trip to the shore? You may also camp-out within the living-room and make s’mores on the cooker.

The Best Service for Detecting Mistakes and Confronting Appropriation

David P Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images Say your investigation reveals that he enjoys can you pay someone to write an essay outfits, but he’s no thought just how to dress to get a semiformal situation or perhaps a business meeting. Get him on the surprise shopping spree for your correct clothing for your celebration. Mark De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images What goes on if all your research doesn’t expose any beneficial info? It really is time to do some snooping. What type of music does he listen to? Where does he want to scan online? If you find out that his favored activity is mixed-martial arts, purchase him a mixed martial arts journal membership.

Best Choice Grammar Checker for Detecting Mistakes and Detecting Plagiarism

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images The best way to have pretty Valentine’s suggestions for him is to consult him what he wants. Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

News Report: Angry Women Angry Again, Part 2 of 2

A few days ago, I posted with a strong reaction to Inside Higher Education’s framing of female political scientists as angry. I think that my reaction was quick and strong both because the piece and conversation warranted it, and because it wasn’t anywhere near the first time I’d had to deal with the “angry woman”/”angry feminist” trope when there is a reaction to gender injustice.

If fact, in December, I posted one of two really important conversations that I had at the “What’s the Point of IR” conference at the University of Sussex – one with Patrick Thaddeus Jackson on epistemology, ontology, and (sometimes) God. The other important conversation I didn’t write here about, because I wasn’t yet sure what to say. That didn’t stop me from tweeting about it real time, though. I’ll show you my “angry” reaction first, and explain the conversation after.

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So, I’ll tell you a (brief, four-month-old) bit of context. I won’t identify the people in the story, though they are more than free to identify themselves if they’d like. A speaker who was discussing the Eurocentric nature of IR was asked a question by a (female, feminist) member of the audience. The question was why the story of IR’s Eurocentrism did not include a story of its sexism and heterosexism as well. I didn’t listen to the whole answer (see previous very interesting [to me] twitter conversation with Patrick Thaddeus Jackson). The part of the answer that I did here, though, caught my attention, not just then but fully for the next two days and off and on for the coming months.

The part of the answer that caught my attention was that the substance of the answer had previously been given to “an angry feminist” who wasn’t satisfied by it, and the speaker didn’t understand why. The speaker did not seem to be using those words as a parody, or to be poking fun at himself. Instead, the sentence seemed to be meant literally, and a straightforward explanation of the position he saw himself (and the “angry feminist”) in vis-a-vis the field. A few more questions were asked on the point (this exchange happened in the early afternoon if I remember correctly), and didn’t bring about any real resolution. Mine weren’t the only angry tweets, though I missed it if anyone else got as colorful as I did in their descriptions of and reactions to the situation.

In those tweets and in my presentation the next morning, I was the “angry feminist.” I justified anger from years of mistreatment, trivialization, intellectual shortchanging, and personal belittling – not (only) towards me, but towards women and femininity in disciplinary IR and in global politics more generally. I justified that anger because anger at injustice is justified, and trivializing and gendering anger is itself injustice. 

I’ve been accused of reifying the stereotype that gender scholars are humorless by expressing being appalled at the casual nature of gender and sex subordination in the discipline and in the world. I could defend myself by suggesting that I have both a sense of humor and a generally laid back outlook on life – and those who know me will understand that to be the case – but that’s not the freaking point. The point is that you don’t have to find gender subordination funny to be cool (in fact, I think its not cool to find it funny), and you don’t have to remain calm in the face of injustice to merit that injustice being solved (in fact, its perfectly fine for injustice to piss people off. It is, in fact, unjust).

My use of profanity in those tweets (and the next morning in my talk), and my performance of anger, then, was meant to express simultaneously how not ok sex and gender and race subordination are, and how not ok it is to stereotype anger about those subordinations to perpetuate them. Perhaps the speaker in Sussex and/or Scott Jaschik did not mean to link up with a long tradition of subordinating women and trivializing anger/expecting calm, but both did. I could have reacted calmly and explained the problem (in both instances, I did do some explaining), and some would suggest that’s the appropriate reaction – I’ve been instructed more times than I can count in my life not to play into this or that stereotype. This is what I wanted to say that day, and what I’ve wanted to say most days:

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News Report: Angry Women Angry Again, Part 1 of 2

The other day, Wendy Wong posted at the Duck of Minerva about race, gender, and having a career in IR – particularly in response to the American Political Science Association’s choice of a stock image of a random Asian woman as the image to advertise their article on authority in International NGOs. Wendy asked a series of important questions: what did this image have to do with authority? or NGOs? Or politics? What happened to her co-author? What search terms led to this picture? Are we still relying on stereotypes that all Asians look alike? How hard is it to google NGOs?

After initially not apologizing, APSA issued an apology, promising to monitor their social media posting better. Still, many of us were horrified that such a ‘mistake’, and all of the stereotypes that brings with it, was even possible for APSA as an organization, given all of the work our field has done on race and gender stereotypes both in scholarship and in the world. My tweet below is only one example:

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Political scientists’ anger was picked up by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed, in a post titled “Twitter Illustration Angers Women in Political Science.” My immediate reaction was to criticize the gender stereotypes inherent in the article title:

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A 140-character tweet might not have been the best place to explain it. Several other tweeters, and facebook posters, have expressed discomfort with Jaschik’s wording. Steve Saideman noted in a comment on the post:

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Will Moore, on his blog, critiqued the title for suggesting that only women were upset by it, and thereby reifying the normalization and prioritization of white men’s problems over the problems of people who aren’t white men, which are treated as less serious or of lesser import. Wendy Wong and Sarah Stroup suggest a better title for Jaschik’s piece on twitter:

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I think that this is an important correction, and that it is important that Jaschik acknowledge it. But I find Jaschik’s title even more insidious than other critics have explicitly because it plays on and entrenches an embedded (masculine) stereotype of the scary “angry woman.”

Narrativized accounts of the “angry woman” frame her as more scary than, and more dangerous than, any angry men could be. Subtly drawing of gender stereotypes, often descriptions of women’s anger suggest that women (who are understood as emotional) have, deal with, and express anger in more unpalatable ways than men (who are understood as irrational). The “angry woman” is characterized as angry at whatever the offending man might do, however justified and possibly even sympathetically intended. The “angry woman” is a way to characterize feminism as hysteria and not a search for justice and emancipation. The “angry woman” distances women from both agency and normal femininity. The “angry woman” is belittling, sexist, and deeply both intellectually and normatively problematic – even when it is not deployed intentionally. 

I can’t speak for whether Wendy was angry, because I’m not her. I was angry. However unintentional, APSA’s post was sex and race subordinating, and trivialized Wendy and Sarah’s work. But Jaschik didn’t say that. He might have meant to. Instead, he said that women were angry. He didn’t say APSA made them angry. He didn’t say APSA belittled them. He didn’t say APSA’s mistake trivialized their work. He said that the tweet had “angered women.” And watch out for those angry women …

So, I have two take-aways:

  1. I think Jaschik needs to apologize for/change the title of the post on Inside Higher Ed.
  2. “Angry women” don’t come from femininity gone awry –> anger. They come from ridiculous essentialism and subordination –> anger. And a great way to prove the justness of that anger is to stereotype women who stand up for themselves as “angry women.”

In part 2 of this post, I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this a couple of months ago, and how I think of analyzing anger in gender analysis in IR.

Never Tell a Soldier the Costs of War…

Jon Lindsay over at PV@G said most of what needs to be said about Eye in the Sky. I will only make a few points but mostly reiterate the need for any IR scholar to see this movie. It is frankly incredible but it is also a “hard watch.” It wasn’t exactly the best movie choice for my last day in Los Angeles, but it is something that needs to be seen by those in our community.  EITS_Ex_Original

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Writing a (Kick-Ass) Book Prospectus

Whether it is your first book or your tenth, books start at prospectuses.

Ok, that’s the first lie I’ve told you. Selling your book starts at the prospectus. But your book idea, and your book description, should not start at a prospectus. First expressing your book idea in the form of a prospectus will lead to a prospectus that is more difficult to read than it needs to be, less strategically organized than it could be, and less likely to sell your idea to the press than you’d like it to be.

Your book idea, and book organization, should always start in some other form than a prospectus. And, no, ‘dissertation’ does not count.

That form can be personalized. For me, its aloud. My professional background before academia – my professional comfort zone, I guess – was in sales and public speaking. Ideas just make more sense to me aloud than they do in writing, and I work through stuff aloud. So I formulate the initial articulation of new ideas through explaining them to other people. When people ask – “what’s your next book about?” (and sometimes even when they don’t), I explain the idea. I do it about a dozen times to about a dozen different people until I finally have an account of what the book is about, what it is for, and what holds it together that doesn’t leave the person listening with either a perplexed or bored look on their face. Then I try it a dozen more times, then its time to write a prospectus.

Others explain themselves better on paper – in a four-or-five page summary of the book. Don’t mistake a four-or-five page summary of the book for a prospectus, though. That summary is an internal accounting, for you, so you know what the book is for, where its going, and what its claim to uniqueness is (a question we’ll return to later). You need to have a good sense of what the book is going to look like, and be able to express that in the prospectus, but the prospectus shouldn’t just be a summary of the book. Prospectuses that are summaries of books sometimes get contracts, but, in my experience, they’re less likely to, and less likely to be greeted with enthusiasm at the press, than prospectuses that do the job that prospectuses should actually do – both express and sell the idea, while giving the publisher a good sense of what they are buying. 

Make no mistake – a prospectus is you selling a book to the publisher, and the publisher deciding whether or not they can sell it to other people, or, in the case of some presses, whether it is independently important to take a risk on. This means that the prospectus needs to do a good job selling the book, without having the salesmanship of a used car salesperson.

This post will deal with what is, in my view, one of the most important questions in prospectus-writing: 1) What goes in a book prospectus, and how is it organized? Follow-up posts will deal with only-slightly-less important add-on questions: 2) How do I write a prospectus for a dissertation-book as a junior scholar? 3) How do I capitalize on my previous publishing history as someone who has written one, or multiple, books before?

For now …

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What to Look for In a Publisher (and a Contract)

(cross-posted at Bombs and Dollars)

About a week ago, I posted about book publishing in academia. I’ve gotten responses from a number of people, both interested in more information and happy for the first post. If its useful to even one person, I want to answer as many questions as I can with the information that I have – so I’m making this a follow-up post. I’ll focus it around two main question that I got in response to the first post – what should I look for in a book publisher, and what should I look for in a contract.

The bad news is that there’s not one answer to either question. The good news is that there are both some strategic things that it is useful to know and some shortcuts to finding out your answers to the questions.

So, first, what do you want in a publisher? This, of course, depends. Like I talked about briefly in the last post, there are some universals about this. You never want a publisher you have to pay to publish your book, and you always want a publisher that has a genuine interest in your project as a project and you as an author. But beyond that, it depends on where you are, what options you have, and what you need from it.

I strongly recommend spending some time putting together a kick-ass prospectus to give yourself the most options you could possibly have (I see that being the subject of my next post, now that I mention it). But, basically – you will be in different situations at different times in your career with different projects, and identifying your situation will help you be able to think about the question of what you want in a publisher more clearly.

So, first, at minimum, you want a publisher who will publish your book. There may be only one, or a couple, none of which optimize every value that you’re interested in.  Sometimes, the one publisher who will publish your book is a good if not perfect fit. If that’s true, yay! You have a publisher!  If its not, you may want to reevaluate the framing of the proposal and start asking people with experience in publishing why you are having the trouble.

There are, if you have options, other things you want to consider. The major ones, in my view, are academic incentives and marketing possibilities.

Academic incentives are the career-related demands and pressures that might help you select among publishers. Many of us have different incentives along these lines, geographically (its different in the US than it is in the UK than it is in Australia than it is elsewhere), by type of institution, and by stage in career. Here are a few factors that matter differently to different people:

a) Prestige. It is not true that all university presses are better than all commercial presses, or that university presses give better and more thorough review, or anything like that. It may work as a rough metric around the top 15 or 20 publishers, but even then, there are exceptions, and ‘down ticket’ (as we say in political science) it is not at all obvious to me that even the rough metric works. It is also crystal clear to me that some publishers are better at some subfields (e.g., Kansas at American Politics, or Chicago at Comparative Politics) than they would fare in an overall ranking, and ‘the’ presses to be at not only vary on subfield but even on sub-sub-field (e.g., Security Studies or Environmental Politics).

But absolute ranking of book publishers isn’t possible (remember, I’m a post-structuralist who at the end of the day does not believe in the possibility of objective knowledge at all – and that’s not the least of the problems with ranking publishers). Even if it were possible, its professionally useless. Your prioritization of publishers on the basis of prestige should not be based on some objective ranking, but instead on a subjective reading of your audience. There are some absolutes (I don’t know of any political scientists ever who got any shit for publishing with Cambridge, for example – though that does not make a perfect incentive for seeking publication there). Other than that, its important to think about how presses will be read by your various audiences. If you are junior faculty in a department that thinks that all university presses are better than all non-university presses, you’re probably not going to change their mind at tenure time (trust me, I tried this one, and I was right, and it didn’t matter). If you are an IR person in a department full of Americanists, the Americanists are less likely to know presses that are really only great at IR than generalist presses. Letter-writers can help with this, but if there’s a ceteris paribus, well, the audience helps determine prestige. If the audience is the open market, then the question of what kind of jobs you want (research/teaching/both) matters, as does the subfield in which you’re most likely to get hired (do people who do Your Subfield know that the two biggest people in Your Subfield run a series at Kinda Known but Otherwise NBD Press? – if so, that might be the best option).

b) Likelihood of getting reviewed. It used to be that Reviews ruled the roost in terms of determining the quality of a book in the short- to medium- term for the purposes of judging employment, tenure, promotion, and the like. It also used to be that Reviews helped people decide whether they were going to buy, read, and assign your book. These Reviews happened in generalist journals (think International Studies Review), but they also happened in subfield journals (think International Feminist Journal of Politics or Global Environmental Politics). Book reviews still matter, though more some places than others.  Now, google searches and Amazon help people choose books, and Google Scholar citation counts check citations to books. Still, the likelihood that the book gets reviewed coming from one press rather than another is another ceteris paribus condition that you might want to look at. You can influence if and where your book gets reviewed (sometimes), but publisher track record matters too. So if you’re choosing between publishers and looking to see which one is more academically valuable to you, looking through the Reviews is a good place to start.

c) Timing. Timing works differently for different people in different places. But, as I mentioned in the last post, different publishers’ timescales, both at the consideration and production phases, differ a lot  – not to mention differentiating between publishers willing to give you advance contracts and those that are not. There are no right answers to this question – publishers that take longer often (but not always) produce a more polished product; publishers that get stuff approved and out quicker are often able to produce books that feel more up-to-date (especially if your topic is current-events-related). You may have a wide variety of timing incentives – from a grant, from a promotion and review process, from the job market, or even from current events. Those should be factored into academic benefit calculations. Still, don’t choose someplace that is quick but doesn’t meet your other academic needs – that ‘wastes’ the credit you would get entirely, rather than speeding it up.

It is the marketing side that scholars looking to publish books know less about, and that might be worth discussing for a while. First, again, if you have limited options, you might have less to work with here. But if you have more than one option, these are some things you might want to think about (also contract-negotiable sometimes, which we will talk about soon):

1) How much is my book going to cost? 

The cost of a book does influence whether people will buy it or not. and people buying the book actually does influence the impact that it might have on the scholarly literature and in classrooms. A book that costs $160 might be worth it to you for other professional reasons, but it will be very difficult to have such a book reach a wide audience. Books that cost less than $40 are more likely to sell than books that cost more than that.

2) What format will my book be published in? 

What you want is for your book to be published simultaneously in hardcover, paperback, and e-book – that will get it the widest readership. Some publishers will offer hardback only, or hardback and then a time-delayed paperback if the hardback is selling. If you get to choose between publishers, a willingness to do a paperback (or an affordable hardback – for example, Cornell’s hardbacks are less than $30, I believe) should matter for getting your work out there; it might even, in my view, ‘skip’ a publisher a few places up the priority list.

3) Is there a chance they will publish my book as a trade book? 

This will be an issue for very few academics. But there is a classification our publishers have called “trade book.” They print more of these, and they try to put them places normal people go, like bookstores. The marketing system is completely different (and much more visible). If someone is talking to you about treating your book as a trade book, and you like either money or visibility, you might want to think about it.

4) Does the publisher go to the sorts of conferences I go to? 

The conference booth matters. If its a great publisher, but the publisher doesn’t publish a lot in your discipline or subdiscipline, then the value of the publisher goes down for you, reputation-wise. Conference booths signify engagement with the field, and they also help to sell your books. So if you have two publishers whose absolute prestige and  academic benefit feel about the same, the level of investment that those publishers have in the conferences you go to might be a good way to tell their relative benefit to you.

5) Ask to talk to the marketing person. 

If you are considering more than one press, or considering which press to allow exclusive review, and all else remains equal, talking to the marketing person about what they think about the book might be useful. You can tell from such a conversation how hard the book will be sold post-publication by the level of enthusiasm shown by the marketing person.

So then, okay, I chose a publisher, what should I look for in a contract? 

Here’s the place where you do not have to just be grateful that someone is willing to publish your book. If you ask for some concessions at the contract stage, no publisher is just going to walk away from negotiations (unless you’re a total ass, but I’ve actually never met someone who managed to be that big of an ass). They might say “no” to your requests, but then you’ll be no worse off. Here’s a list of 10 clauses I look at when evaluating a book contract:

a) The right of first refusal? 

Many standard book contracts have a right of first refusal clause in them – where the publisher gets the option to look over your next book project first, and either engage or pass on it. The value (or annoyance) of this clause is different depending on the quality of the publisher with which you are negotiating and the stage of your career that you are at. If the publisher is Absolute Dream Publisher, … what’s the harm in a right of first refusal? If the publisher is Among Few Dream Publishers, then the clause remains not a huge problem – the worst they can do is give you free feedback while they pass on it. If the publisher is anywhere from Eh, Well, There Will Be a Book to Okay Publisher, you probably want to try to have the right of first refusal clause struck. Most publishers will do this if you request.

b) How many copies do I get? 

While this is nit-picky, sometimes we’re broke. And I want one for my mother and my father, and one for me, and some to give out to important people in the field I might convince to read the book. Especially if the book will be somewhat expensive. This is something that is generally to negotiate up as well – publishers are less grumpy about getting you books than they are about many of the clauses I will discuss below.

c) How much money will I make? 

Disclaimer: Most academic books make very little money. You’ll get a check that feels like a participation prize most years, and no check other years. Still, both on general principle and in case your book is one of the small percentage of academic books that really sells, you want to check out the royalty structure. At the very worst, your participation-prize-check might buy dinner at McDonalds, or it might buy a very fancy date night.

So, it depends on the sort of book (you should be looking for a larger percentage on textbooks than on academic books; you should be looking for a larger percentage on trade books than non-trade books; you should be looking for a larger percentage on a lower price than on a higher one) and on the number of authors (co-authors split profits, and generally can talk a press into only a little more money than a single author total, if that) how much money you can expect to make. As a rule of thumb, though, I ask for 2.5% more than I am offered in the contract.  I mean, what’s the worst that happens? They say no? And more often than not, they say yes.

d) What am I going to make money on? 

You percentages will be on hardbacks, paperbacks, and ebooks, for sure – but there will also be percentages on translation rights, other editors, etc – a list of about 10 things. Make sure that they’re all there, and that the percentages aren’t artificially low for any of them. Try to up the number for translation rights especially.

Also, in most contracts, the royalties will be onset, or raise, after a certain number of sales. That number is often negotiable. In my view, 250 is nice, 500 is still good, 750 is ok, 1000 is high.

e) Who is obligated to who when? 

If it is an advance contract especially, but even if it is a regular contract, look at if you are obligated to the press and if the press is obligated to you. Most contracts have an escape clause for the press. Only about half of  them have an escape clause for authors, and those generally have conditions. As I mentioned in the last post, you probably don’t care about this. But it is good to know.

f) Who is paying for the index, and when does it need to get done by? 

I am a big fan of ‘do your own index’ – but if you’re not, you want to look at this clause in the contract and make sure it makes sense to you. It may or may not be negotiable – its worked some places and not others to try to negotiate it.

g) Who picks the cover? 

This is a recent lesson I learned the hard way – you may or may not agree with my disapproval of the cover of my own book, but we went to the mat about this one. We figured out we didn’t have the right to choose at the end of the day. Should have read that contract more closely. So, now you will.

h) Do I get an advance? 

This doesn’t mean you make more money overall (it is deducted from any profits you might have made later), but it is money upfront. This is mostly a non-starter for first books, but can come into play later. And if you have multiple presses competing, why not ask? $1000 is good for a book without textbook potential; a narrow textbook might net $2-4k. A generalist textbook (“Intro IR”) that will sell will net significantly more.

i) What happens to my book if it goes out of print? 

Some places let you have the rights back. Others keep the rights and make you buy them back. While you might not have a dog in this fight (I like to have the rights revert in case I want to do something with it), it is something else to look for.

j) What is the contracted length? 

You should have talked about this with the publisher before you got to the contract stage, but, if you didn’t, pay attention to it in the contract, and decide if it is realistic. Generally, presses retain the right to make you shorten a long manuscript to the agreed-on number of words, or lengthen a short manuscript to deliver a full book to their specifications. Often, they take advantage of that right. So, make sure you agree with the delivery length.

Note that I didn’t mention or pay a lot of attention to the delivery date. That’s because, while presses prefer it, most don’t enforce it.

I hope this helps. More on the book process soon!

The Ugly Truth(s) About Book Publishing

So a number of people at ISA asked me about the mechanics of book publishing, and how it differs from journal publishing. Since I’ve increasingly been thinking about turning this professional-development-advice-thing into a trade book, I figured this was the perfect time to talk about some of the differences between publishing books and articles, and some of the differences among book publishing houses.

Most of these lessons, I learned by trial and error. I sent my first book two places, and chose the first one that said yes. By contrast, I sent the prospectus for my 3rd authored book to every University Press in the US and some in the UK. I would recommend neither strategy. But make it sufficient to say – between doing a fair number of books and interacting with even more presses, I got a sense of the author-side of book publishing. Now as the editor of a couple of book series, I also have a pretty decent sense from the publisher side.

Book publishing works very differently than journal publishing. Some basics from what you learned about journal publishing hold: most are peer-reviewed, some aren’t; some peer reviews are more rigorous than others; most book publishing is a highly competitive process. But there are other things that are very very different, and worth exploring here.

We’ll go over four:  1) norms of simultaneous submission; 2) who is committed to who when; 3) the approval process; and 4) the production process.

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