Self-Publishing For Academics

Self-Publishing For Academics - High Resolution.jpgToday Dr Nathan Ryder and I are launching our co-authored e-book Self-Publishing For Academics. Self-publishing offers a huge opportunity for many academics, and they’re beginning to take it up. Nathan and I have self-published several e-books between us, and have self-published in other forms too such as blogs and zines. We wrote the book we wished we’d had when we set out on our self-publishing journeys.

Working together turned out to be a dream collaboration and we’ve written about that this week on the Research Whisperer blog. For this blog, we thought we’d interview each other; this gave us a chance to ask some questions we hadn’t got around to before. Here are the results.

Helen: What surprised you about our work together?

Nathan: How easy it felt. Writing a book is hard, and I’ve always thought that collaboration is quite tricky too, despite how necessary it is. We started from a concept, expanded out, divided the areas up and got to work. I know we’re both busy, but we made this a priority, and I think because of that it’s got done in a far more timely manner than I thought.

Given your own experiences in publishing and self-publishing, why did you want to co-author this one?

Helen: There are so many different options for self-publishing and marketing that I suspected you and I had taken different routes, even though we have both self-published for the same audience, i.e. doctoral students (up to now, anyway!). When we began talking I found we did indeed have different, but complementary, experience and knowledge. I think the combination of our approaches has made for a much better, richer book than I could write by myself.

Where do you think self-publishing will be most useful for academics?

Nathan: A big problem for many people is that they wait a long time to be “picked”. Someone waits for someone to pick them for a job, or a project or to write a book, say. The need to be chosen is a really tough need to overcome, but it’s barrier that can be hurdled. Academics don’t have to wait for a publisher to say yes to their monograph: it’s perfectly possible to do it yourself. A consequence of this could be that they could do the work that they think matters and will connect rather than what someone else thinks they can sell. There can often be shortened turnaround times for publication too.

What have you learned about self-publishing by doing this project?

Helen: I learned a lot about covers. I guess I vaguely knew it was possible to design your own but, not being a very visual person, I didn’t think it was something I would be able to do. Now, though, I might just have a go! It’s also useful to know where good bespoke covers can be obtained more cheaply than by commissioning a professional designer. Also, I learned a lot about self-publishing for free. I haven’t spent a huge amount on my e-books, but I certainly haven’t done them for free, and it’s really useful to know about the options there.

Which makes me wonder, what have you learned about self-publishing from our project?

Nathan: The value of beta-readers and an editor. For both of my previous books I had relied on myself and asked my wife to look through the drafts, but we don’t have the experience to know everything to look for when it comes to editing. And for this book, the beta-readers really helped us to spot gaps in our writing or logic – and even corrected us on some of the terms we used!

Do you have a routine or process when it comes to writing?

Helen: For the first draft of a book, I calculate how many words I need to write per day or (more often) week to get the draft done by the deadline. Then I add that to my weekly to-do list, and ensure I get those words written – even if that does, on occasion, mean spending Sunday at my computer. Also, I am quite focused about using my writing time for writing, so I’ll produce several hundred words in an hour rather than spending my ‘writing time’ fossicking about on social media or surfing the internet. I don’t need a particular place to write, I just need my laptop – I write on trains, in airports, on friends’ sofas, and in bed. However, unlike many writers, I’m not keen on writing in cafes because I find the people-watching and eavesdropping opportunities too distracting!

What do you plan to self-publish next?

Nathan: I’m going to finish a project I started some time ago, and get my first book available for print-on-demand. Fail Your Viva came out in January 2013, and within weeks I was exploring how to get it in print. At the time and for a long time since I’ve convinced myself that I can’t manage a print run, but as we were working on our book – and through doing a little hobby self-publishing – I’ve gained the confidence to finally make it happen. That, and digging some older writing out and seeing if I like it again.

I know you’ve got your series that you’re past the halfway mark on. Have you got any plans beyond them?

Helen: Lots and lots of plans! I want to narrate the audio-books for all the e-books I’ve self-published for doctoral students. I also want to start making videos for YouTube. That’s something I’ve tried several ways but haven’t yet got the hang of, but I feel as if I’ve learned quite a bit in the process and if I keep trying I’ll get there eventually. Also, I’m doing preparatory reading, thinking, and interviewing for my next full-length trad-published book, on research ethics, and I expect to start writing that in earnest in the autumn.

So if you could sum up in a sentence the main piece of advice you’d give someone who was thinking of self-publishing… well obviously that would be ‘read our book’! But apart from that, what would you say?

Nathan: Start now! There are a hundred-and-one things that can get in the way of finishing any writing project, but the only thing that’s really in the way of starting is the writer. Start today. (then read our book)

Last question from me: what are you going to do to celebrate Self-Publishing for Academics being finished and out there?

Helen: Have a cuppa with you on Skype! After that: take your advice, and start writing the next e-book. That’ll be the last in my series for doctoral students, and the last one I write for a while, so when I get that one finished I’m really going to celebrate.

Analysing Data For Your PhD: New Book Launch!

ADFYPhD_darkbrown_neurons_LC_RGBToday sees the launch of the third in my Phd Knowledge series. The subject of data analysis is close to my heart. It is at the core of our work as researchers, yet it’s often poorly understood. Doctoral students can find themselves facing the analysis of a sizeable amount of data without really knowing what it is they’re supposed to do. My new e-book, Analysing Data For Your PhD: An Introduction, is designed to help in this situation – or, if you read it in time, to prevent you reaching such a stressful impasse. This book follows on from the previous books, Starting Your PhD: What You Need To Know and Gathering Data For Your PhD: An Introduction, but it works equally well as a stand-alone volume for anyone who only wants to delve into this part of the process. It is concise – around 10,000 words – and clearly written (says my editor – in fact, he said ‘As usual, this was a beautifully written little document to work on’). And, as with the others, it costs less than the price of a coffee: £1.99/$2.99 and equivalent prices in other jurisdictions.

But wait! There’s more! To celebrate the launch, and in recognition of the new academic semester starting soon in Australia and New Zealand, I have reduced the price of Starting Your PhD to £0.99/$1.49. This is a time-limited offer for one week only, so get downloading. And happy reading!


Gathering Data For Your PhD – New Book Launch!

GDFYPhD_red_data_LC_multi_RGBYou may remember that just two months ago, on this very blog, I announced the start of my indie publishing career. I’m publishing a range of short e-books for doctoral students, and the first one was Starting Your PhD: What You Need To Know, launched on 8 September. I’m delighted to launch the second one today: Gathering Data For Your PhD: An Introduction.

Again, it’s around 11,000 words, and is suitable for all doctoral students, whether studying for a scholarly PhD or a professional doctorate. Here is the blurb:

You can’t do research without data. But what kind of data will help you answer your research question? Where can you find that data? And how much data do you need? If you’re doing doctoral research, particularly in the social sciences, arts, or humanities, this book will help you answer those questions. It offers an overview of traditional and innovative methods of gathering quantitative, qualitative, secondary and primary data. The book also outlines the pros and cons of devising your own method of gathering data, and lists a range of resources for further exploration of the methods that interest you most.

Just like the last book, it’s available for the price of a coffee: $2.99/£1.99/E2.99 or thereabouts – exact prices may vary slightly with different distributors. Talking of which, it’s available (or will be any minute) from all the major players: Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.

This seems a perfect time to launch my latest oeuvre, as it’s the first ever Academic Book Week here in the UK. There are loads of events and discussions happening all over the country. There’s very little, though, about indie publishing – perhaps because Academic Book Week mostly involves traditional publishers and booksellers. I want to emphasise here that I don’t see indie publishing as a rival to traditional publishing, though I guess there may be some booksellers who wish digital books had never been invented. I love p-books and I don’t want, or expect, them to disappear. But I think there is also room for e-books in academia, and it surprises me that so few academics and alt-acs are taking up this opportunity.

Starting Your PhD – New Book Launch!

SYPhD_green_SQmarks_noblend_LC2_RGBI’m launching my Top Secret Project today. It is a short e-book (11,000 words) called Starting Your PhD: What You Need To Know. I published this e-book myself, under the Know More Publishing imprint (see what I did there?!), which I set up for the purpose. The book is available via Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Scribd, and Inktera. So as well as being an indie researcher and writer, I’m now an indie publisher too!

I wrote three drafts of the e-book, each of which received feedback from a small group of different beta readers, including people who might do a PhD one day, current doctoral students, and experienced supervisors. The final version was professionally edited. I am very grateful to my beta readers and to my editor, each of whom provided input which improved the book’s quality. And you can buy the fruits of all this labour and experience for the price of a coffee: approx £1.99/$2.99/E3.29 or equivalent (actual prices may vary slightly due to circumstances beyond my control).

So why did I take up indie publishing, you may ask? There are times I’ve been wondering that myself over the last year or so, as it’s been a massive learning curve. I think if I’d known how much work was involved, I probably wouldn’t have started the process. But now that the curve is beginning to flatten out, I’m very glad I did. There are a number of reasons I decided to publish independently. In no particular order, the main ones are:

  • I spotted a gap in the market that a short e-book would fill
  • I’m intrigued by indie publishing; it seems to fit with being an indie researcher and writer
  • Short e-books are increasing in popularity
  • I wanted to offer good quality and affordable help for doctoral students

I expect you’re wondering whether I’ve done all this work just to produce one short e-book. No, I haven’t. ‘Starting Your PhD’ is the first in the ‘PhD Knowledge’ series, with other volumes of similar length to include:

  • Gathering Data for your PhD: An Introduction
  • Analysing Data for your PhD: An Introduction
  • Writing Your PhD: An Introduction
  • Research Ethics for your PhD: An Introduction
  • Finishing Your PhD: What You Need To Know

The second volume is scheduled for publication in November, and I aim to publish the others in the course of 2016.

ALLiEthicalAuthor_BadgeThis is an exciting new venture for me. I’ve had loads of help already: from friends, colleagues, people I’ve met online, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. I’m proud to be a member, and would recommend them to anyone; their closed Facebook group is an invaluable source of support. Also, I’m particularly pleased that they have a code of ethics for indie authors, with the guiding principle of putting the reader first – a principle that guides all my writing.

With that in mind, I need your help too, because there are some things you can do for potential readers that I can’t: tell them about the book, and write honest reviews to help people decide whether the book would be useful for them. Of course I can tell some people, but with my traditionally published books, I’ve had access to an established publishing firm which employed a range of professionals to help spread the word. As an indie publisher I am my own marketing, distribution, and sales departments. So it would be enormously helpful if you could talk about this e-book to people who might find it useful: people considering doctoral study, people embarking on doctoral study, or people supporting someone else through their doctoral study. When I say ‘talk’ I mean the virtual kind too, i.e. tweeting, blogging, Facebook etc. And I absolutely can’t, and wouldn’t, review the book I’ve written; that would be most unethical, so I’m completely reliant on others to give their honest opinion in a way that will help prospective readers decide whether it’s worth investing a few of their hard-earned coins.

Doing a PhD – or a professional doctorate; the e-book is applicable to either – is an enormous undertaking. It can be really difficult even to start on this long, complex process, much of which is incomprehensible at the start. I began mine, back in the early 2000s, with a complete false start which cost me a year and a lot of wasted time and effort; I ended up at a different university with a completely different topic, supervisor, and discipline than I’d originally planned. I guess that is another reason I wrote the e-book: to help others make a more sure-footed start, and to save them timchampagne launche and effort.

If this works for you, please do let me know, either in the comments or on Twitter where I always love to hear from my readers. But for now: I declare my indie publishing career in general, and the Starting a PhD e-book in particular, open!