Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Nothing But Flowers

It’s Reading Week – or, as various people have sagely commented on the Twitter, At Last I Can Catch Up On Sleep Get Ahead With My Teaching Prep Write Those Reviews Comment On Postgrad Drafts Spend Some Time With Family Do A Bit Of Reading Finally Get Some Research Done Hey Where Did That Go Week. And that’s in a normal year. This autumn, I imagine I’m not the only person who has found the switch to online teaching and the constant worrying about students thoroughly draining, absorbing every minute of the working day and disturbing every night – with the result that I both need to sleep for a week and have a list of overdue commitments that is at least twice as long as usual. (more…)

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Very many years ago, when I was writing up my PhD, I was hired by an eminent ancient historian to do some preparatory work for the publication of a volume of their selected articles, including making recommendations on which of their numerous important contributions should be included. The utterly rubbish nature of my performance in this task can be deduced from the fact that said volume didn’t appear until years later, thanks to someone else’s work, with no trace at all of my efforts, and generally I try not to think about it too much because of the embarrassment. But reflecting on the experience does raise some interesting questions today. (more…)

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Subject Heading: Why you are not getting that article/chapter any time soon

(1) It’s been a horribly busy term and I simply haven’t had any time to focus on research or writing. I have a couple of commitments in June and early July, plus taking a short holiday (at last!), but I’ll then be able to get down to this properly. (more…)

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Citations Needed

A passing thought, largely as a distraction from the fact that the paper I’m currently supposed to be writing is going absolutely nowhere; the idea is that writing anything may get the creativity flowing, or at least an ability to construct vaguely intelligible sentences… I’ve always felt rather uncomfortable when discussion on the Twitter turns, as it sometimes does, to condemnations of self-citation, because this is something I seem to end up doing quite a lot; not, honestly, as a means of self-promotion or gaming citation indices, but simply in order to supply a reference to discussion of a point or a topic that hasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, been discussed elsewhere. Yes, there is an obvious risk that I’ll cite myself just because I’m more familiar with my work, rather than taking the trouble to seek out other relevant material, but in many cases I really don’t think there is anyone else. (more…)

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Expert Opinions

As I’ve remarked before, I am never going to become a popular writer of history: my books will never be sold in railway stations or airports, or reviewed in proper newspapers or included in celebrities’ Books of the Year choices; they won’t ever have embossed gold writing on the cover; I won’t ever be invited to the Hay Festival or the Chalke Valley History Festival or the like, and as for television… Partly this is the result of wilful refusal to submit to mainstream tastes (no, Lord Bragg, I won’t talk about bloody Spartacus…), and partly sheer inability to think or write in the right sort of terms even if I wanted to – I mean, my idea of an accessible work for a general audience was a polemical account of modern theories of imperialism and the reception of the Roman Empire… (more…)

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It seems entirely possible that there are certain people out there reading this blog and noting the fact that I’m currently managing to post at least once a week on average, and also remarking on my occasional contributions to online book seminars* and other non-academic publications, and thinking to themselves: “Okay, Neville, so where the hell is that book review you should have submitted eighteen months ago?” I try not to think about this too much, as I am genuinely embarrassed and guilty about my large backlog of missed deadlines – not to mention the thought of other colleagues’ reactions when they realise that I’m the reason why their book hadn’t been reviewed – but I’m prompted to do so this morning by discussions on the Twitter in the light of the recent debacle at the American Historical Review (links via @helenrogers19c). Why haven’t I got these reviews written? Not because I’m lazy, and not just because I keep taking on too many things, but because writing a decent academic book review is hard, and boring, and fraught with problems. (more…)

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Tip of the Tail

The thoroughly wonderful avant-pop-electro-folk duo Trwbador have just released their second album, Several Wolves (which you should all rush off and buy*), and I was struck by a remark from guitarist and producer Owain Gwilym: “I know this album has done way better than the last because it was pirated within 24 hours and is now on about 300 pirate websites“. And that’s good? I asked him. Apparently yes: unless you’re a really successful mega-band, record sales are basically a loss leader: the real sources of income come either from things that can’t easily be copied (live performance) or from people who can’t get away with not paying (national media, advertisers). The record is now a means of advertising the product rather than the product itself.

Partly because I’m in the final throes of getting a book ready for publication (the 600-page Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides), this led me to reflect on parallels and comparisons with academic publishing. One obvious conclusion is that we academics were well ahead of the game; while there are still plenty of musicians complaining loudly that music piracy is robbing them of a living, I doubt if we academics have ever thought that royalties on academic publications would give us a steady income, or recompense us for even a modicum of the time and labour invested in writing and editing them. (more…)

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lorrie mooreI discovered my all-time favourite short story writer, Lorrie Moore, entirely as a result of a quote on the cover of her first collection, Self-Help. I just googled the book to find an image (see left), and was struck by the fact that every other edition has appeared with tasteful and sophisticated covers, whereas the one in my local bookshop… Dear god, that is so 80s. Would I ever have bought such a thing if it hadn’t come with an endorsement from one of my favourite novelists, Alison Lurie (incidentally, if you haven’t read The Truth About Lorin Jones, it’s a perfect exposition of the unreliability and subjectivity of the past, and the dubious motives of those who investigate it)? “Lorrie Moore’s wry poetic stories of love and loss make me want to laugh and cry at the same time”.

This is more than the sober judgement of a reviewer (though for all I know the quote was taken from a review), and far more than the “You listened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor recently. Want to try Crippled Black Phoenix?” algorithms of Spotify and its ilk. It builds on the sense of a shared sensibility with a writer whose books I love; it’s not suggesting that this new work is the same as or even similar to books I already know I like, but rather that someone whom, in a sense, I feel I know through her writing, thought this was the sort of book I might like. There is, I suppose, a sort of implicit claim to authority, that this is someone whose critical judgements ought to be taken seriously, but it’s grounded in Lurie’s own achievements (contrast the way that many reviews are cited by the newspaper or magazine rather than the reviewer; what matters here is the authoritative imprimatur of the publication), and leaves it open to the casual browser to feel that if Lurie likes it then it’s definitely not for them – in the way that I would never buy a book if I thought there was any risk that Jeremy Clarkson or Toby Young liked it, even if they hadn’t actually supplied a quote for the cover.

All of which leads me to wonder about the increasing prevalence of pre-publication blurbs on academic books; not the old practice of quoting from suitably positive reviews when the paperback edition appears, but – since so many books are published simultaneously in hardback and paperback these days – the quotes that come from people who’ve been sent the proofs to read so their glowing testimonials can be used for the initial publicity campaign. Am I the only person who finds this all slightly odd?


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