I am tempted to put “Part 1” at the end of the title because I’m sure there are more, but since I have no intention of writing any more of this series at the moment, I’ll leave it. If you report your gremlin’s sneaky tricks in the comments or privately, I will add to the series.
One of the Studio members asked this question:
I’m struggling a bit with my book because it’s going to be one of those £80 books that are marketed to libraries and basically no one reads. Modesty aside, I am writing a lot of quality content that is challenging traditional understandings in my field and I am worried about burying these in a book. Sometimes I wonder if it is best to back out of the book deal and just try to publish everything as articles. Or maybe keep the good stuff out of the book? Do you have any advice? Thanks!
This client has a contract for the book. She has agreed a deadline to submit the manuscript to the publisher that is a couple of months away. She has a plan to meet that deadline. On the same day she sent this query, she announced in A Meeting With Your Writing that she’d just finished a chapter and only had one more to go before tidying up details and sending it off.
This context is important. As I explain in more detail in The Scholarly Writing Process, when you start writing about your research you are writing to figure out what you want to say. At a certain point your focus shifts to who needs to hear this, at which point you may also identify the best way to communicate to that audience. You will begin to think of what you are writing as a conference paper, or a monograph, or an article, or something else. The whole point of Scholarly Publishing (A Short Guide) is to help you make a decision about what kind of publication. It’s not an irrelevant question in general. However …
The client asking the question above is well past that point. She is at the point where she is almost ready to actually put her work out there where people might read it.
Gremlins are trying to protect you from criticism
She was probably prepared for her gremlins to start shouting “Imposter!” or “Everyone already knows this!” or “This will never be good enough!” Those gremlins are pretty well known in the academic community. In fact, this client had already seen off the gremlins shouting about how the reviewers were going to tear it to shreds by asking me whether she could use the Reviewer Comments Procrastination Buster service for comments on a monograph. (Yes, but it might cost a bit more depending on how long the comments are.)
It’s nice to see that her gremlins backed down on the quality thing. This new line of attack has the same kind of effect — it keeps you from actually putting your work out there. Let’s face it. My client has a contract. She is going to submit the manuscript soon. And then it’s going to be out there. Her gremlins are terrified.
How to address this kind of gremlin talk
They think they have a logical argument. They are pretty sneaky. I mean seriously “Your book is going to be so good, it’s wasted in this form”? That’s some quality gremlin strategy right there. My client almost believed them. In case your gremlins try this, here is my take on their position:
While discoverability for books is often a bit lower than for journals (something I talk about more in Scholarly Publishing), if your scholarly colleagues write books then they also read books. They will recommend them to their library. They will borrow them from their library. They will recommend them to colleagues and students. They may even write and publish book reviews.
It’s harder to see the influence your book is having because the time lag for citations to appear is rather long, especially if the person who has been influenced by your book is also writing a book. Furthermore, citation indices aren’t great at capturing citations that are in books. That doesn’t mean that scholarly books have no impact on the advancement of knowledge. It means the impact takes longer to manifest and is harder to measure when it does. Of course, according to gremlins, the only thing worse than no one reading your book is lots of people reading your book (and then talking about it). Be warned, once they’ve failed to get you to abandon publishing, their next job will be to make sure no one reads what you published.
The other sneaky thing in the original question is to posit publishing a monograph and publishing journal articles as mutually exclusive. You can publish the book and publish articles. No, I’m not suggesting a round of self-plagiarism. However, the book is not the entire project. It is one output from an ongoing programme of research. It makes an important contribution. You are going to build on what you said in the book to say other things. Related things, where citing your own book will make a lot of sense. There may be things in the book that you will want to go into more detail about in a separate article.
In other words, your book is important but it is not the only thing you have to contribute to debates in your field. It may not even be the most important thing you contribute. It is the thing you are contributing now. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so with a contract for the book, I say, publish the book. And start a list of all the things you might write after you submit the book manuscript. Start with the stuff that doesn’t quite fit into the book.
Communication vs Validation: why are you publishing? gives an overview of my general approach to scholarly publishing
Gremlin colouring page, for more on what I mean by “gremlins” and a way to notice the gremlin talk
On valuing your work may be useful if you are still battling the less sneaky gremlins shouting “Imposter!”