Thinking Like Your Editor (Rabiner & Fortunato) – my reading notes – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

One of the things I’ve learned through the years is that there is no single panacea for anything. In the line of research I do (comparative public policy), I always find that there are so many different ways of getting governments and individuals to do things and achieve certain goals that there is no single public policy instrument to solve all society’s ailments. The same is true of academic writing. By now, I have read probably a dozen or so books on how to improve scholarly prose, and how to produce better text at a faster rate. I’ve pored over workbooks, short volumes and reference texts in order to find You can find several blog posts that summarize my Reading Notes of each one of these books, under my Resources website tab. The truth is that panacea, information that will make books automagically appear DOES NOT EXIST.

At the very least, it does NOT exist in the form we would like it to exist.

One of the books I’ve recently acquired, and I did so because I have a few books on the go (as in, writing, completing, finishing up), is the Rabiner and Fortunato volume ““.

… I *know* that one of the key questions editors and publishing houses ask is “is this book financially viable?” – can the book sell? pic.twitter.com/uBzyxVUaZ8

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

There are a number of books for when you want to publish a scholarly book (like William Germano’s ), when you want to edit your doctoral dissertation to make it into a university press or scholarly, more general book (like Germano’s ), but Rabiner and Fortunato’s volume is specifically for academic trade books.

Rabiner & Fortunato are clear on what this book is intended to do: help authors of “trade books”. Even if there are academic trade books… pic.twitter.com/Y1YkfzGEpe

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

It’s important to decide which one you want to write (or when revising your dissertation to become a book, which book you want to produce). I really enjoyed that Rabiner and Fortunato showcase acquisitions editors’ thinking and decision-making processes.

Any editor worth their salt will tell you the first thing you need to consider is audience. How do you evaluate these? 4 solid criteria pic.twitter.com/HpsHK02UQa

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

For anyone who wants to write a book proposal, having the answers (and good responses, specifically!) to The Big Five is fundamental.

The Big Five that Rabiner and Fortunato propose are present in every single book I’ve read on publishing. Practice writing these for yours. pic.twitter.com/tJKAABD5Kt

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

Something I noted in a Twitter thread on publishing I posted a couple of weeks ago that Rabiner and Fortunato make clear: your book proposal should tell what’s different.

How does your book change our thinking about something?

Why are previous treatments of the subject insufficient to provide a fuller picture?

One of the best ways to learn how to write the answers to these questions is, as I’ve noted in this thread, to read book introductions.

Thread on key piece of advice provided by an @OUPAcademic at the #ISA2018 Speed Mentoring table on Scholarly Publishing (thanks to my fellow Outreach Committee member Dr. @BethDeSombre for organizing and @ESS_of_ISA for sponsoring the session). The advice: READ BOOK INTRODUCTIONS

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 14, 2018

As I’ve noted in earlier threads, you should read A TON of book introductions to see the stylistic manoeuvring that comes with showing a gap. For example, as I noted on Twitter, this would be a way to write about how a book on subnational Mexican water laws improves our understanding of water governance above and beyond what we already know.

“Gomez and Gonzalez showcase how Mexican water laws evolved. However, their analysis lacked subnational comparisons, which I do here”.

As I noted on Twitter, I love that Rabiner & Fortunato provide so many concrete examples that they work the reader and prospective author through, asking them “now, YOU go and do it“. Academic writers need LOTS of examples, and at least I can say I learn better when shown how I should be doing things.

From my experience, this insight by Rabiner & Fortunato is often overlooked: if an editor seeks you out: MEET UP AND FOLLOW UP. JFC. Do it! pic.twitter.com/NpMzDj9Sto

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

Something disappointing from books about academic writing, as I noted on Twitter and here too, is that there isn’t a book about How To Write A Book. They all compress lessons.

“Oh and by the way here’s one or two chapters on issues that will come up with your writing”. That’s why these books all have a market.

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

I will give Rabiner and Fortunato credit for providing 3 chapters on writing the book though Ch 7 is the most process-oriented of them all.

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

I was also impressed by the abundance of examples and walk-throughs that Rabiner and Fortunato offer. For me the most impressive of them all was their Full Sample Submission Package. Germano does this too, in both of his books, but I found Rabiner and Fortunato’s submission package really useful to think about mine.

After reading a few of these books, I believe one shouldn’t purchase just one but keep a small library. </thread>

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 28, 2018

Truth be told, I am beginning to understand why the market for books on academic and non-fiction (and fiction!) writing keep getting sold. There’s always SOMETHING that you can learn from each one. In this case, I learned A LOT from Rabiner and Fortunato for the kind of books I want to publish later in my career (academic trade books). Definitely worth reading.

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