Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do you have to write your book ALL by yourself?

The headline is not rhetorical, it's a serious question. Who says you have to do every bit of your book all alone? Participants in the summer publishing groups (six groups! forty faculty members!) are gasping with joy and relief when they learn that it's perfectly fine to assign portions of their books to graduate students we have identified who are eager to help with publishing projects. One professor has hired a grad student to do all of her translations. Another has asked a student to take all of his data and findings and write snappy, accurate prose captions for each of the charts (38 in all -- and a lot of work!). Still another has a grad student double-checking all of her citations and making sure they are in Chicago style. The grad students love this because it's rewarding summer work, there's some pay involved (usually an honorarium), and they are adding actual books to their CVs so that they can hit this bleak job market with experience in addition to the coursework. Book experience is vital for any student who wants to go into publishing, so these are desirable jobs. And of course, every grad student gets a mention by name in the books' acknowledgments.

I worked on three published books during graduate school, and even though only one book offered any pay at all, I made valuable contacts including editors at the W. Alton Jones Foundation; Yale University Press; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; and Ballantine Books. One of those editors went on to become my editor for two books, both with FSG. So if you're a faculty member worrying that you are somehow "exploiting" grad students by enlisting them on your book, think again. You need each other.

Amusing ant image from

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