Opportunities at Conferences: Getting Published

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by Dr Catherine Armstrong

Regularly attending conferences is of great importance to an academic's career. It is important because you can disseminate your research findings to your peers and therefore win prestige for your university. You will also get some useful and practical feedback, questions about your topic and have the opportunity to ask others about their work.

Conferences are also important in a general networking sense too. Sometimes the most valuable connections are those made informally during social periods of the conference. You never know whether that professor you met is going to be on an interview panel or reviewing your next book, for example.

However, another factor is how conferences can be used to get your work published.

From a conference paper to a chapter of a book

The most obvious way of getting a publication to add to your CV is by giving a paper at a conference and then converting it into a chapter of a book. The organisers of the conference should let you know either before the event or immediately afterwards whether they are soliciting papers for publication and you will be asked to present a version of your paper to them. Depending on how you prepared your spoken paper, this might require a lot of work. You will often need to expand a short conference paper in order to turn it into a piece of written work. For example a 20-minute paper will only usually be about 3000 words in length, whereas a typical chapter of a book will be around 7-10,000 words.

It will also need all the formal academic accompaniments such as footnotes and bibliography so make sure you present your written version in the format required or it may be rejected straight away.

Also do not assume that your paper will be accepted for publication. Just because it received good feedback as a spoken presentation does not mean that it will fit in with the proposed publication. This method of getting published is especially useful for scholars in the early stages of a career.

Networking your way to a publication

Another way of using conference contacts to get published is by networking. It is important to find out who is working in the same field as you. This can lead to such opportunities as being invited to co-author a pre-existing project. This is why it is important to make sure that other people know who you are and what you are interested in. Discussing the paper you are presenting is a natural way to introduce the subject of your work. Other people present at conferences may edit journals and be in need of articles. If your work interests them you could be invited to submit an article, which is another avenue of opportunity.

Meeting with publishers' representatives


A final way of using conferences to get your work published is by arranging to meet publishers' representatives. Specialist publishers often send representatives to sell their products at large conferences, particularly those held by major professional bodies. In part, these publishers want to sell individual copies of their books and attract interest in their textbooks from teachers. But part of their remit is also to meet with potential authors of the future. So, if you have an idea for a book project but haven't yet found a publisher, a conference is a good place to approach them.

In order to do this you need to prepare some materials before the conference. Draw up an abstract (i.e. a brief summary of the project), a chapter-by-chapter outline and a sample chapter if you have already written some material. These should be smartly printed out and nicely presented. Think about which publisher you are going to target: you do not simply want to talk to every publisher who has a stand. Do they publish books that are in fields very close to yours? Are they a reputable long-standing publisher or a new company? Are you impressed with the cost and look of books they have already published? Have colleagues already had a good experience working with them? You need to ask yourself these and similar questions in advance, preferably before even reaching the conference.

You can arrange a meeting beforehand by contacting the relevant editor at the publishing house and asking for a time slot in which to discuss your work. Alternatively at the start of the conference approach the representative on the stand and ask if they will be free for a discussion with you. If you are a more experienced scholar you will find that publishers approach you and ask for meetings at conferences in this way.

If you impress the publisher you may be able to negotiate a contract there and then, in which case, to secure your services, the publisher might offer you an advance. This is not always the case, however, and you will not always receive a decision on the day. These one-to-one meetings are an invaluable part of publisher-author negotiation and you have the chance to make the sort of lasting impression that someone dealing with an editor via email simply does not have.


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