Post Academic

A publishing how-to: Tips from Stacey Pierson, Ph.D. (Part 2)

"Chinese Ceramics book cover" (Courtesy of Stacey Pierson)

Yesterday, Stacey Pierson–Lecturer (= Asst Prof in the U.S.) at SOAS in London, eminent researcher in Chinese ceramics, and the author of 2 books–described her experiences of getting her books in print, from pitching a project to drafting and editing a manuscript to the overlooked aspects of promoting the final product.  For part 2, we continue discussing what it takes to get published and ask her to don her editor’s hat to explain to us the other side of the publishing enterprise.

Post Academic: What are some tips you can give young scholars trying to get past the mental block of transforming a dissertation manuscript into a book, as someone who’s done this before?

Stacey Pierson: Beyond my personal experience, I think new writers working on their first academic book might find the actual writing process difficult because with your dissertation (if you are lucky as I was) you generally receive a lot of feedback and guidance along the way and it is sometimes quite difficult to do this on your own for the first time. At least the dissertation comes with a readymade topic, so the next difficult hurdle is, of course, coming up with a fresh idea that will be publishable and substantial enough to enhance your CV or, if you are lucky enough to get such a job, your tenure dossier. One way forward is to read as much as possible in your area to keep up with what work is already in progress and to mine your dissertation research for areas which you had to put aside but thought at the time had potential.

The interview continues below the fold…

PA: As a writer and an editor, what’s the best piece of advice you can give someone on how to get published, whether it’s a book or in a journal?

Pierson: The answer to both this question and the previous one would be the same: do your homework. Getting published is like a job interview. You need to research publishers and journals to see how and what they are publishing because the more you know about how they work, the better chance your work has of being accepted. This is assuming, of course, that you have competence in your field already.

One little trick I use to motivate myself and to ensure I submit the best quality work I can is to imagine that the most prominent specialist in my field (in this case, my former advisor, who shall remain nameless) will be reading and reviewing the text. If I think it is good enough for that person, then I am confident it is as good as it can be and, most importantly, everything I’ve said would stand up to a rigorous defense, which is a key consideration in academic publishing.

PA: How does working as an editor affect you as an writer, and vice versa?

Pierson: That’s an interesting question because I’m sure this has affected my writing, but I haven’t really thought about how, until now. I suppose it has made me more conscious of the necessity to gain some critical distance from my writing at several stages in the process, but especially at the end, before I submit the manuscript for review or editing. I also try very hard to follow exactly any manuscript preparation guidelines I have been given because there is nothing more annoying to an editor than having to read text that has ignored this or disregarded it. I would advise all writers to avoid being cavalier because the last thing you want is an angry editor! This also applies to deadlines, which I am religious about adhering to as a writer, now that I know how the publication process works at all stages and how totally disruptive missed deadlines can be. We editors take note of ‘difficult authors’ and warn each other about them, so you might want to keep this in mind.

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