Finishing an Academic Monograph: What I Wish I’d Known

After years of preparation The Book is almost done. I’m tying up loose ends, doing the mundane and boring little tasks that need doing, in order to convert my thoughts into something other people can actually go out and buy (here, as a matter of fact). I feel like I’m about to give birth. At least, that’s what my mum has been telling me. I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know, but she insists my feelings are comparable with approaching your due date. So there you go.

Over the past few years I’ve read a lot of manuals, instructions and self help books about writing but few cover this stage of the process in any detail. Yet I’ve found it’s one of the most important, time-consuming, tedious, but also enjoyable parts of the project. So here’s a quick recap: things I wish I’d known before I started. If you’re thinking of writing your own book you may find it helpful.

  1. Copyediting is a lot of work

A few months after submitting my manuscript I was sent proofs by the copyeditor. I was asked to check all the corrections she had made, approve them if I agreed with them, and add information where needed. The mindset required for this type of work is quite different from the one you need for research or writing. Creativity is no longer a good thing. Attention to detail and determination to keep going are more important than ever. You have to decide whether you want to keep this comma or not. You have to back to your notes to supply missing page numbers. If you’re the type of person who usually can’t be bothered with this kind of stuff, you’ll find this stage quite difficult.

  1. Checking the final proofs is fun

After I’d sent back the first proofs – and had informed the copyeditor that I was happy with her insertion and deletion of commas where appropriate – I received a PDF version of the finalized book. It included copyright and title pages, which was hugely exciting, as my manuscript finally resembled a proper book. I was asked to read through the entire manuscript one more time and remove any remaining typos. You can’t really make any significant changes at this stage, as this is expensive and your publisher will therefore hate you for doing it, so I restricted myself to correcting typos and grammatical mistakes. If you have any concerns about the quality of your writing at this stage, you’ll have to let them go. Save them for your next book.

  1. Indexing takes forever

Although it’s possible to outsource the indexing process, and worth paying for this if you don’t have time to do it properly, I opted to do it myself and found it surprisingly enjoyable. Yes, it’s time-consuming to go through your entire manuscript to collect entries and page numbers, but it also offers you an entirely new perspective on what you’ve written. I’ve noticed recurrent themes I didn’t even realised were there and indexing has actually given me some good ideas for future side projects and conference papers.

  1. It’s never too early to think about marketing

While ever good publisher will do their best to sell your book, it doesn’t hurt to sit down and think about what you can do to help. You might be involved in professional networks or be able to use your social media accounts to promote your work. In fact, you should already be doing this whether you’re writing a book or not. Don’t just rely on others to do your promotion for you. You know your field and your audience best. Why not use that knowledge?

  1. Seeing your book advertised is terrifying

When I discovered my book was available for pre-order from my publisher’s website and  Amazon (hello!), I felt proud and happy, but mostly scared. While I was writing The Book, publishing it was still a distant dream, even though I had a contract under my belt. Staring at my author page, I suddenly realized that publishing The Book means that people can buy it and actually read it. Which is great but also scary. They may or may not like it. They may decide it works better as extremely expensive toilet paper. Who knows. No one ever told me how terrifying it is to see your dream come true.

Image my own

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