Image: Sidewalk art by Jeremy Brooks, via flickr.com CC BY-NC 2.0; lyrics from Truckin’, Garcia/Weir/Lesh/Hunter.
Warning: really long post. TL;DR: Publishing a book is really different, and I learned a lot by doing it.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve just published a book, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing. (I’ve tried to make it hard for you not to notice.) And lately, it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.
What do I mean by that? Well, if I were an academic in the arts or humanities, there’d be nothing unusual about having published a book. But in the sciences we don’t write a lot of books. Like most scientists, I knew next to nothing about writing or publishing a book before I started working on mine. If you’re curious about how it works and what it’s like, read on. Who knows, maybe you’ll write a book too, someday. (Caution: since I have a sample size of one – for now – I can’t guarantee that my story is representative.)
Books take a long time
It took almost five years* from the first tentative plan to a published book I could hold in my hand. I knew it would take a long time, of course, but I didn’t see five years coming. Inasmuch as I planned it out at all (and I’ll admit that making and sticking to a plan is not my academic strong suit), I thought perhaps six months to write a prospectus and get the book under contract, a year to write the rest of it, and another to get it published. (Ha!)
In hindsight, of course, I’m not sure how I thought I could write a 90,000-word book in a year. Continue reading