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how to write a book 2: the publication process

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The book publication process is very different than journal publishing. The journal process is fairly impersonal and bureaucratic. Yes, once in a while, an editor will help out his buddies, but journals receive hundreds of submissions and they have to be processed. Most are judged impersonally (though with the editors’ tastes). In contrast, book publication is a very soft, often personal process. Some book publication histories resemble the journal process. You send it in, the editor sends it out for review, and then the reviews determine if it gets published. In other cases, editors will suggest that someone write a book and then work personally with the author to guide it through the process.

Let’s start with nuts and bolts and then move to some Q&A:

  • The author either starts with a proposal, a sample chapter, or the whole thing. They contact an editor who then decides to review.
  • Editors come in a few flavors. There are “acquisition” editors whose job it is to sort submissions. The “list” editors are in charge of certain types of books. E.g., the health editor managers health books. There are also more senior editors who have a leadership role.
  • Once something is submitted, you fill out a survey. Who are you? What is the book about? Who will buy it?
  • Then, the book is sent to 1-3 peer reviewers. It is usually single blind. Reviewers see the authors, but not the other way. Usually, they are peers. Sometimes, non-academics or professors on the publisher’s board. Reviews range from “good job, move along” to very detailed responses.
  • The proposal, the manuscript, the survey, and the reviews are then taken to the board for academic presses and to more senior editors for private presses. The whole package is evaluated. Sometimes you get a reject. Sometimes you get an “advance contract” (see below). Sometimes you get an “interesting, try again” – an “R&R.”
  • If all you submitted is a proposal and sample chapter, “thumbs up” means you have permission to submit the entire packaged when ready. You can ask for the “advance contract.” If you submitted the whole thing, “thumbs up” means you get a publication contract – the final step before the book is “in the system” and moving toward publication. You might be done with it, or you need to do some revisions.
  • Next week, I will talk about the nitty gritty of making the physical/ebook.

Q&A:

  • Q: Should I submit a proposal or whole book? A: My opinion is that you should try to submit the entire book, unless you are pressed for time. The reason is that it is much easier to judge the quality of the book once you can see all the parts. Less micro-managing by reviewers. Also, it signals to an editor that you have your act together.
  • Q: What is an “advance contract?” A: It is a contract with the press that says that they will consider the book for review upon completion. It is not a promise to publish. Some people find this useful because it shows hiring and promotion committees that the project is real. So yes, it is good, but it is a very modest step. That is why a lot of people won’t get hired just on the advance contract. There needs to be a “real” publication contract.
  • Q: Can I submit to more than one press at a time? A: Yes. The norm seems to be that you can submit to a few at a time and of similar prestige. Too many submits, and it looks weird. If you get an offer from a low tier press, the high tier may not take it seriously.
  • Q: How do I identify a good press and the editor? A: First, look at your bookshelf. Cambridge published a lot in protest movements, so movement scholars should try that first. Second, think about impact. Will the press help you reach the right audience. To learn about editors, use your networks and talk to them at professional meetings. Email sometimes works, but I have found it to be highly variable.

Next week: more on publication and writing it up.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 3, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, books, fabio

how to write a book 1: the mindset

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Today and tomorrow, I will discuss book writing. Today’s post will be about the basic mindset behind book writing. Most academics are trained to write articles. In some fields, an article might be a few pages long, or a few dozen pages. Books are longer and more ambitious in scope. Their length and sustained argument is a challenge and many academic are not able to complete such a book due to training or temperament.

So here, I want to outline some key differences and help you get in the mindset about writing a book:

  • Books are not about narrow nitty gritty arguments. They are sustained arguments in a (mostly) verbal format. You should only write a book when each part of your argument involves a journal article length explanation. Otherwise, think about cutting down to journal size.
  • Books are good for very verbal areas (historical work); arguments that collect a lot of different data and thus can’t fit in a 35 page paper; and big ideas that might reach a broad public.
  • Books often have wider audiences, even technical books. A well written book can be discussed in academic journals, learned journals (e.g., Foreign Affairs), and mass media (e.g., the NY Times). Even a technical book might reach out, in that other specialists will want to consult “the book” on a topic that goes into gory detail. So when you write a book, be prepared to explain what bigger audience you might be shooting for.
  • Books need to justify their existence. It costs about $20k for a single print book. These costs will only be recouped if you sell about 1,000 copies at $20 a pop. Only offer an idea that will (a) be bought by libraries and (b) have some justification to a larger public or cross-disciplinary academic audience.
  • Bill Germano’s book writing guide gets it right – you only have 20 pages to really justify the book. If an editor doesn’t get it after about 10 minutes, it won’t get published.

Tomorrow, the book publication process.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 2, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, books, fabio

when anarchism is a decent option: the case of somalia

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Africanists like to toss around the words “failed state.” But what they falsely assume is that there is only one option – building a stronger state. What would happen if the state just withered and people just let it go? Are people better off by just ditching the weak state? A 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization by Benjamin Powell, Ryan Ford, and Alex Nowratseh asks exactly this question. They ask, what happened in Somalia after their state collapsed 1991?

Somalia is a nation that was hammered by war, famine, dictators, and an out of control socialist state. In the 1991, the state collapsed and people reverted to tribal forms of governance based on Islamic courts and kinship (the Xeer system). In 2005, Powell et al. collected basic data on longevity, health, roads, money, and law. Then they asked, how does Somalia compare with other African states?

The answer is surprising. On many measures, Somalia post-1991 actually does well compared to 42 other sub-Saharan states. On at least five measures (including life expectancy and mortality), Somalia is in the top half (p. 662). On a few important measures (such as water access and immunization), they are near the bottom. Even then, they often improved in absolute terms, though not in relative terms. When you compared Somalia with neighbors that had been at war, they report improvements in most measures while other warring states saw declines. Somalia has also seen an expansion of its pastoral economy, a functional currency, and the best mobile phone system in the region. The major setback for Somalia is a depressing performance with regard to infant mortality, which probably relates to poor immunization rates. Still, statelessness did not lead to chaos. Rather, Somalia continued to resemble other African societies on most measures.

This is not an argument for selling off the White House, but it does make an extremely important comparative institutional point. High quality Western systems of governance are simply not on the table. There is no way these impoverished societies can create the level of wealth needed for Western style states in the short term. It is also the case that the options are horrible – dictatorships or Marxist states. If those are your choices, it might be plausible to evolve into a decentralized legal system.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Stree

Written by fabiorojas

July 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

the emergence of gay rights: a sociological perspective

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gaymarriage

On Friday, the Supreme Court rules that marriage should be available straight and gay couples in all 50 states. This represents the most important policy victory so far of the gay rights movement. How did it get there? Future scholars will no doubt write extensively on this issue, but it helps to start with political science 101: social change starts with the median voter. Courts, in general, do not create rights. Rather, courts tend to codify and formalize the political rights that people are already willing to accept.

The graph is taken from an article in the Gallup web site and it drives home this point about public opinion. Somewhere around 2011, the public tipped in favor of gay rights. Not surprisingly, courts and states became more likely to support gay rights after this point. The question is, why did public opinion tip? When I think about this question, I often start with the “repetition hypothesis” – repeat your point enough and your previously weird idea will become normal (i.e., you shift from non-doxa to doxa, for you Bourdieu nuts). Dorf and Tarrow discuss how gay rights groups thought about this process in this Law and Social Inquiry article. Basically, they anticipated conservative push back to their views on gay marriage and crafted their appeals with that in mind.

Bottom line: Lawyers and Supreme Courts are the end game. The battle is won and lost in the arena of public opinion.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 29, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, social movements

bill dixon’s winter song (1964)

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Hipsters: the arrangement was once published in Downbeat; pop out the microfilm reader and get your tuba out.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 28, 2015 at 12:01 am

art museums should sell more of their collections

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Michael O’Hare of UC Berkeley talks about policy reform in art museums in this Econtalk podcast. He made two points that I like a lot:

  1. Art museums hold tons of materials that are never shown, looked at, or studied. Why not sell the bottom 1 or 2% of holdings to make attendance free?
  2. Museum ticket prices should be zero. Why? Marginal cost is equal to zero. In most museums, the galleries are empty most of the time and most studies show that raising prices decreases attendance. In most cases, viewing art does not exclude others.

Listen to the whole talk here.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 26, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in art, fabio, policy

institutionalism 3.0

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When I was finishing grad school, I thought we were done with institutionalism. At that time, folks were publishing study after study of diffusion within organizational communities. Didn’t seem like there was much more to say. Then, there was an explosion of interest in contentious politics and organizational fields. Brayden is part of that cohort, as was Huggie Rao, Lis Clemens, Marc Schneiberg, Sarah Soule, Michael Lounsboury, and myself. Later, people like Tom Lawrence and Roy Suddaby articulated the idea that effort needed to be expended to create or attack institutions, which is now the foundation of the “institutional work” branch of institutional theory. The idea was simple. Institutions not only regulate behavior, but they can become the target of politics.

Then, again, I thought we were done with institutionalism. What else could be said? Well, I realize that I was very, very wrong. The next stage of the theory is linking the main ideas of institutionalism to other more established areas of sociology. For example, I was reading Melissa Wooten’s book, In the Face of Inequality, which looks at race and institutions through the example of HBCs. My suspicion is that institutionalism 3.0 (or 4.0 if you consider the Selznick/Merton/Parsons generation) will be about theoretical and empirical integration with core sociology like stratification, small group processes, and a re-engagement with the “Measuring Culture” generation of scholars. Overall, this makes me happy. Early on, I thought that institutional theory was too inward looking and only cited external authors in a ritualistic fashion. With this new effort, I hope that institutionalism will be more strongly enmeshed in wider sociological discussions.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 25, 2015 at 12:01 am

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