After writing a book, deciding to publish it, submitting a proposal, getting accepted, and finalizing the manuscript, I though I was done with my first book. My publisher disagreed: afte rwriting, editing, submitting, rewriting, and resubmitting followed: editing, copyediting, proofreading, indexing, marketing. It would have been easy to drown in these tasks, particularly as a perfectionist. So what to do?

While I transit back from Lucknow to Bielefeld and the printing presses at SAGE spit out the first copies of my first book, I am going to publish a series of posts on - publishing, especially book publishing to be precise. Book publishing before you got your PhD (though a lot will be relevant for any first monograph). I will reflect on my own experiences in transforming what once was a study abroad project, turned into a dissertation and further into a refereed monograph published by an international press. I will try not to repeat too much advice found elsewhere1 while writing about the following over the coming weeks:

Fundamentals: Some uncomfortable questions before you write any book
Proposal: Landing a book contract with little (yet) to offer
Review: Your book's first honest readers are its reviewers
Letting go: From author to published author
Technicalities: You thought you were done? Your book post submission

  • 1. One resource I can particularly recommend for its sound and concise advice is the following book by Gerald Jackson and the accompanying blog: Jackson, G, Lenstrup, M. (2009). Getting published. Copenhagen: NIAS.

Once you have observed something, once you have interviewed somebody, how do you get from this pile of data to a compelling research report? Today's blog sums up the gist of a lecture I recently gave on this issue as part of my field methods teaching at SIT Study Abroad. It looks at four stages in turn: explorative analysis, draft writing, confirmative analysis and editing. These stages are, of course, most likely circular activities, through which you go back and forth until you a) arrive at a decent report or b) simply run out of time. Which is the chief reason why it is advisable to start the circle as soon as possible, not letting the pile of data become so scaringly tall in the first place...

When I began to blog regularly a year ago with a post on academic writing, I wasn't quite sure about this experiment: will anybody read what I have to say? Will I have enough to say? And the less obvious nags: how will it feel to be a public frog, and will people accuse me of shameless self-promotion?

An anniversary is a good time to reflect. Nobody has accused me of shamelessness so far, and being a frog feels nice enough (though I would prefer to think of myself as a buffalo, or indeed as one of those most anthropological goats). More importantly, and more surprisingly, I also had indeed something to say every week - and found readers for it! Around 15 readers on an average day, to be precise, mostly from India, the US and the UK (and more, sometimes considerably more, on Mondays, when I put a new piece online). According to my stats, these readers - you - found the following posts most interesting:

Questions for better research (impressive, given that it's fairly recent)
Muslim belonging in Lucknow (kind of expected)
How to get an Indian research visa (a true surprise, see below)
Academic writing (which is also the oldest post, and still one of the best)

Today ends the pity state of this blog as a convenient dump for preprints of book reviews, since today starts a new bi-weekly series of posts on my PhD project. The series will include empirical vignettes from Lucknow, an introduction to theoretical and methodological aspects of my research, and more general musings about academic life. I begin with a post of the latter type and address the core of what I do as an academic: writing. Writing papers, chapters, articles, reviews, that dreaded book - and now a blog as well...

To be sure: I also "do research", read, and occasionally teach. But I mostly read to ground my writing, I teach topics on which I also write (occasionally, I even teach students how to write), and I spend most of my time during field research locked in a chamber - trying to write. Unfortunately, nobody really taught me three rather important points about (academic) writing: why it is crucial, that it is hard work, and how to get started. This I had to find out on my own. Here is what I discovered: