- Getting Published: A Companion for the Humanities and Social Sciences
When reading books on writing for publication, I habitually appropriate the authors' own guidelines as criteria for evaluating the quality of their works. Getting Published: A Companion for the Humanities and Social Sciences challenges my usual evaluation strategy. In it, Gerald Jackson and Marie Lenstrup provide an approachable guide to writing academic books in, yes, the humanities and social sciences. They cover not only higher-order skills needed by authors—conceptualizing, organizing, targeting, framing—but also the technical nuances of book production in the twenty-first century, describing academic publishing as 'one of the world's most globalized industries' (144, 242). Aiming to 'disseminate rather than create knowledge' (27), yet designed for an academic audience, their book eludes my regular method of appraisal by not being an academic book itself. The authors do, however, provide recommendations and advice on writing that are applicable to their text and its presentation. In short, Jackson and Lenstrup present a most helpful work; but, in their own writing, they overlook one of their own repeated exhortations for authors: that of the need for consistency.
The authors bring years of experience in academic publishing and a refreshing international perspective to their presentation. Jackson is editor in chief of the press that issued this book, the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press in Copenhagen; Lenstrup, of Utrecht, The Netherlands, manages a marketing agency and consulting firm for academic publishers. Their collective insider's perspective illuminates the current (though ever-changing) state of the book industry; describes 'successful' manuscripts from authors', editors', publishers', and distributors' points [End Page 116] of view; emphasizes the roles authors can play in promoting their work; and even discusses the possibilities of self-publishing, wisely presented as a 'last resort' (xi) for academic authors. Like most other books on writing for scholarly publication, this one spells out the importance of a strong publications list for academic advancement and rewards.
Getting Published includes a brief preface, eleven logically organized chapters, an epilogue, eight 'top tips' (which might have worked better as an appendix), three appendices, an annotated bibliography of excellent references (in which the authors craftily differentiate their book from useful and important works by such authors as William Germano, Beth Luey, and Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato),1 and a thorough index. The opening chapter offers a behind-the-scenes look at the various players in the publishing industry and a brief but particularly fascinating section on the state of the global academic book industry (15–9). This chapter should be required reading for all aspiring academic authors. In the next three chapters, Jackson and Lenstrup consider approaches to planning an academic work, whether it be a single-authored monograph (which itself might be a recasting of a doctoral dissertation), a journal article, a chapter in an edited volume, or an edited volume in its entirety—the latter being a 'potentially poisoned chalice' (65). The focus of the work, however, remains on the preparation, production, and dissemination of single-authored scholarly monographs; and the authors recognize that readers should look elsewhere for additional information on preparing other types of publications.2 Helpful pointers are aplenty. For example, with respect to choosing a title, think 'clear, not clever' (35), and imagine how the spine of your book will look on a library shelf. As to length, 'your book should be like a feast that tempts the restaurant patron with look and smell and afterwards leaves her pleasantly sated, but not feeling over-stuffed' (34).
Chapter 5, 'Writing Your Book,' is more a collection of things to keep in mind while writing than an actual how-to chapter, although the authors include some strategies for maximizing the 'writing experience' and overcoming writer's block. Jackson and Lenstrup stress that consistency is the greatest of the 'three C's of all good writing,' the other two being...