Publish or Perish

     
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Getting published is arguably a must for a successful career in academia. Publishing at least one book under your own name seems to be an affirmation of your worthiness to the academic trade.

“Being published is crucial to most academics: it has in the past been captured by the notion of ‘publish or perish’” says Karen Phillips, Editorial Director of SAGE Publications. “This means that for academics there is pressure to be continuously publishing new research to further their career.”

Why publishing is important

Ms Phillips says getting published not only has an impact on your standing as an academic but also on your university, with research playing a critical role in the allocation of research funding and on a university standing on most league tables.

Dr Toby Green, a Leverhulme Early Career Research fellow in history at King’s College, London, expresses similar sentiment and points out that in the academic jobs market, without a minimum of several articles in good journals and at least a finished manuscript of a book, the chances of moving on to a lecturership or tenure are very small.

“Research projects should always be considered with a view to how they will assist publication,” he says.

Know the publisher

While every publisher will have different guidelines for their different book or journal programmes, Ms Phillips says you must look at the publisher’s website for their requirements.

“Most publishers will welcome unsolicited book ideas, but we also actively commission by meeting with authors at conferences and academic meetings,” she says. “Be sure to approach publishers at these events for informal discussions.”

Ms Phillips says that most editors will also be willing to give feedback on your proposal even if it is not accepted for publication.

What publishers look for

“I think a clear and focused proposal is always important, especially for a book,” says Dr Green, who has been published several times, his latest book came out in January 2012. “If you cannot write clearly about your subject for non-specialists like publishers, then how can you expect them to appreciate its significance?”

Dr Green believes that writing is often about judging your audience, and it also helps to have something genuinely new and different to say.

In addition he says many publishers would rather you are not just publishing your PhD thesis and that you should also show evidence that you are respected in your field.

From acceptance to publishing

Ms Phillips points out the length of time will vary widely, depending heavily on the length of time it takes you to write the manuscript, and the agreed timeline for its submission, in addition to a publisher’s publication cycle.

“For a textbook, the timing for publication will normally be agreed to fit with an academic teaching cycle, so that the book is available for students or researchers at the right time,” she says. “Other books are less time critical. We spend a lot of time working with our authors and in-house in our production, marketing and sales teams to make the timing of publication as optimal as we can.”

Advice for new PhDs

Both Ms Phillips and Dr Green enjoin new PhDs to consider their audience and what they want to tell them. They point out that they should get out and meet colleagues in their field to get them to read their work.

“Choose a publisher who specializes in monograph publications in your academic area,” Ms Phillips advises. “Go to the publisher’s website to get guidelines on how to submit a proposal, and if you need any clarification contact the editor responsible for your academic subject. Be willing to listen to feedback on your proposal and be passionate about your subject!”

Dr Green agrees.

“If you are not open to criticism, you are in the wrong profession,” he says.

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