10 February 2018 / New Researchers Network

NRN Blog: The Practicalities of Publishing

On Sunday 4th February NRN invited people from as many different publishing backgrounds as we could muster to talk to our new researchers about ways to share their work with the world. We covered the traditional- journals and monographs- to aspects of non traditional- journalism and creative practice.

For those who couldn’t join us here are some key take-aways from the event.

Panel 1: Journal Publication

Panelists:  Trevor Griffiths-Theatre Notebook editor (STR)

                  Pascale Aebischer-Outgoing editor of Shakespeare Bulletin

                  Kate Dorney-Editor of Studies in Costume and Performance

Each panelist offered their own personal experience of editing- and managed to reassure us all that Journal publishing isn’t as terrifying as you might have heard. Hearing from three experienced editors who clearly had the interests of writers in mind as well as the quality of their publication was a reassuring experience.

There were some useful pointers on the steps to publication which go something along these lines:

1) The editor reads essay or abstract really quickly & tries to find the right readers for you. Ideally on the editorial board, but the goal is to find the best person.

2) Readers send back a report of scholarly rigor, significance, interest, and fit for the journal.

3) Editor decides based on reports whether to ask for revisions or reject. (You will basically never not be asked for some revisions.)

4) The author gets the reader reports. They can be harsh. “You have to just sit back, take it, and think. Then respond.”

5) Revise, send it back, and explain what changed. It gets another read… and then is published!

Naturally much of the conversation turned to peer review and they assured that it’s okay to push back about notes from your reviewers, but make sure you have well-reasoned arguments for doing so. Remember you are the expert on your subject and if there’s valid reason for questioning what a reviewer has said an editor will appreciate that. But first take time to reflect on the feedback. Don’t just respond because you feel hurt and angry. The panel also added that- in layman’s terms- some peer reviewers are just jerks. It’s not good, it’s not good practice and don’t be a jerk if you’re a peer reviewer, and try not to take it personally if you get one who is a jerk.

Finally, remember that Journal staff are all volunteers. Respect their time- and them.

Panel 2: Publication Strategies

Panelists: Charlotte Mathieson, Lecturer at the University of Surrey

                 Victoria Cooper:Founder of Cooper Digital Publishing

                 Camilla Nelson: Founder of Singing Apple Press

All of our panelists here had very different approaches to the publishing process- and had been involved in the ‘traditional’ process as well as striking out on their own. A nice element to see was that a balance between the two was possible, and that a more ‘creative’ approach to publishing is also feasible.

In the more ‘traditional’ end Charlotte Mathieson talked through the process of turning your PhD into a book. As a starting point looking through the works you used in writing the PhD and seeing who published them is a starting point. Following this, looking around more widely in the field at the new and popular works and who publishes those. Once you find a publisher you may not get a contract if it’s your first book- which can be good and bad- no deadlines to be held to but can add to a feeling of precariousness.  In practical terms turning it into a book and be prepared to take some time over re-writing it.

Our panelists on other means of publication were very different in output styles- Victoria Cooper’s work focuses on new media and digital outputs for publishing while Camilla Nelson’s publications bridge artisan work and publishing. Having such diverse approaches proves how diverse a field publishing your research work can be. And how you can in the creative sector particularly bridge practice and research with your publishing.

Both speakers were keen to stress that firstly think of creating a recognisable ‘brand’ that you display on all your social media output/ website etc- even if you are going down the artisan route. For both as well thinking about the audience for your publications should be at the heart of the work. Finally some great advice that if you feel like the integrity of your project will be compromised by the traditional book format or traditional publishing process, don’t be afraid to experiment. 

There are lots of different publication avenues available to you. Also, if your work doesn’t fit into an established avenue, invent your own!

Non-academic publishing

Panelists: Rosemary Waugh and Alice Saville: Editors of Exeunt Magazine

                 Emma Whipday:  Playwright and Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at UCL

                 Stephanie Boland: Head of Digital at Prospect Magazine

This panel showed that there is a place for academics to publish work outside academia- whether that’s because you choose to focus your work there or just as a nice add on to the ‘traditional’ academic publishing market.

One great starting point to keep in mind is that unlike with academic journals, it’s sometimes okay to email an editor without a super concrete idea, especially if you are just interested in reviewing things for them. But remember that most outlets already have a drama critic, so make sure you’re only pitching work that they actually have freelancers do– essays, profiles- as with academic journals, spending time looking at the work they make first will help you pitch. 

Unlike in academic publishing however you can be persistent! Especially in non-academic media, you’ll often get a lot of “no”s because the work is so time-based. Just keep trying, and eventually you’ll hit on the right idea at the right time. Unless they tell you that your style/ideas just fundamentally aren’t a good fit– then try somewhere else. 

For those just wanting to try out another style of writing Student newspaper/blogs show editors that you are interested in what you’re writing about- and aren’t just there for undergrads! 

When pitching non-academic publications know how to condense your ideas into a quick easy to read email:

In the subject line put the idea, the in the body of the email flesh this out in 1-2 sentences, add in  date it can be completed by, who you are and what you’ve worked on before.

And finally a couple of tricks and ‘hacks’: always address the person by the correct name, prefix- don’t risk annoying them before you start. But if you’re pitching somewhere and can’t find an email – try a sneaky to try and get your work to the right people. 

General Q&A 

Following the panels we hosted a general Q&A the results of which and much more from the day can be found via our Twitter and on #NRNPub