Berkshire Publishing has the privilege and pleasure of working with thousands of scholars, some of them famous for major books, others at early stages of their academic careers. They sometimes come to us with book proposals, or to ask for advice about bringing a book back into print. International contributors ask for advice on publishing in English-language academic journals. We have started this page to share recommended resources for anyone who wants to write more easily and publish more widely. This is only a beginning, and we welcome suggestions by email to cservice@berkshirepublishing.com.

Stories from the publishing trenches can be found in the Publishing section of Karen Christensen’s Substack letter, everything from zombie publishing to modern book marketing.

Advice for Scientists

UK Royal Society Pairing Scheme for scientists and policy makers is designed to educate both groups and to improve communication with the public.

“Do I make myself clear? Media training for scientists,” an article in Science, 25 JAN 2018, by Charlotte Schubert. Here are a couple passages:

“If you want your science to matter, tell a story.” Flanking the center message are spaces to write the problem, its solution, the benefit of the study, and why people should care about it.

Overcoming the need for approval from peers is a major communication barrier. When scientists broaden their audience, they often pare down their usual cautionary statements, eliminate jargon, and generate a simple message—all of which can aggravate an expert. “If you are communicating effectively you are only going to satisfy 95 percent of your peers,” says Kelly. “You have to forget about that other 5 percent.”

Public Intellectuals

The term public intellectual is used more often now because such people – intellectuals who speak to the general public and are not career academics -are a rare species. For some history, we suggest The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in The Age of Academe by Russell Jacoby (Basic Books 2000). It’s an oldie, but one we especially value because amongst Jacoby’s public intellectuals is Lewis Mumford. It’s a criticism of the academy, in terms of turning away from the public sphere, but there’s an economic issue here, too: in times past it was possible for serious writers addressing the general public to support themselves and their families.

The Oped Project is designed to train women – academics and others – to pitch opinion pieces and engage in public discourse. Its training materials and templates will be helpful to anyone trying to be published.

The Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China Relations is a rare effort to train China scholars, generally at an early stage in their careers, to speak effectively to the public and to policy makers. They are provided with some media training as well as access to government officials.

Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato (Norton 2003). This book is 20 years old but still has useful advice for any expert trying to reach a wider audience.

Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics by Joli Jensen (University of Chicago Press 2017) is primarily about finding time and space and focus, but the final chapter is specifically about communicating to the public (rather than to students and colleagues). We also recorded a Berkshire Bookworld interview with the author, talking about how to finish an academic project. Here are a few passages from Jensen’s chapter on writing for the public:

Scholars are trained to evaluate truth claims and to gather and discover evidence.  Our academic training can be used to better examine the world and our roles in it.  But for many years, journalists and publicists with very little academic understanding have ignored or made sensationalized hash out of our work.  Unless we find our own ways to get valid research findings, accurate social science evidence, and thoughtful interpretive analyses out into the world, the public will continue to be misled, while we in the academy remain frustrated by media accounts that distort our work.

Effective scholarly journalism can and should inform public debate.  Topics like climate change, immigration, privacy, and technology effects need to be debated with evidence—exactly what we scholars gather and generate.  We may have been trained to present our findings to each other in specifically academic ways, but each of us can also learn how to offer reasoned arguments and validated evidence to non-academic readers.  In order to do this we need to learn how to write in a different way for a different audience. . . .

Re-training is what we need, after all our years of academic writing.  Even undergraduates have adopted turgid writing styles that feel safe, but work against engagement.  When I teach nonfiction writing to undergraduates, I see all too clearly how they have been trained, as we were, to write in the passive voice, without adjectives or descriptions, in a structured format.  It takes real effort to let go of the protective shield of distanced analysis, and try instead to use an engaging voice to tell accurate and interesting academic stories.

Cross-cultural Communication

tom-christensen-teaching-lanzhou-2009

Tom Christensen teaching graduate students at Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, China

Berkshire has worked with authors in over 100 countries and has considerable experience in helping non-native English speakers. CEO Karen Christensen has wrestled with cross-cultural communication for many years and spoken to hundreds of Chinese publishing people at conferences and via WeChat and email. Karen’s 2020 presentation at an online conference broadcast across China is here. We included a section in the Berkshire Manual of Style for International Publishing to address some common issues, and you can download those pages here. (A sampling is also below.)

“A superbly organized, presented, 188-page compendium of guidelines, rules and rule exceptions for writing on a global level of readership, the Berkshire Manual of Style for International Publishing also includes thoughtful and thought-provoking meditations and asides on writing and word use, as well as thematically relevant writing and publishing anecdotes and lore.” Midwest Book Review

“Informed by its network of international scholars, Berkshire Publishing incorporates knowledge about and from all corners of the world, to offer users–including those whose first language is not English and/or those who are new to publishing in English–a collection of guidelines, rules, exceptions to rules, meditations and asides on writing and word use.” SciTech Book News

“This distinctive style manual draws on the reams of rules, publishing mechanics, and guidelines garnered from the publisher’s experience providing international coverage. Bottom line: The Chicago Manual of Style remains our bible, of course. But this supplementary mother lode of information is still a required purchase for anyone who works with words that will find their way to an international audience.” Library Journal

From the Berkshire Manual of Style for International Publishing:

2.2.1 What Western Publishers Expect

The best possible way to understand and address the expectations of Western publishers is to read widely and to correspond with your peers in other countries in English. We gladly help our authors find suitable contacts and potential research partners. Reading Berkshire encyclopedia articles can be an ideal way to learn more about your subject, discover other scholars’ research, and delve further into the history of your topic or field, and we urge you to contact us for access to sample articles. At the same time, we recommend reading carefully edited, much-praised English prose by a range of the world’s leading scholars.

2.2 For Authors Whose First Language Is Not English

The Further Reading lists (bibliographies) that follow all Berkshire encyclopedia articles are in themselves easy-to-access, topic-specific repositories chock-full of recommended sources—in books and in articles, in print and online—written by the world’s leading scholars. The Western academic world places extremely high value on originality. (The content of an encyclopedia article is often thought to be an exception because its purpose is to summarize all that is known about a particular topic, but text must not be copied from the author’s previous publications, whether in print or online. Western publishers will require you to demonstrate a command of your topic and provide proper citations for source materials. Please see section 2.3.3, which is specific to encyclopedias.) In every other kind of work you might seek to publish in the West, reviewers will be looking for evidence that you know the literature thoroughly, and that you have assimilated the work of others and made use of it in developing your own well-justified analysis. A convincing argument (and, in the case of laboratory or field research, verified and reliable results) is vital. Beyond that, reviewers will expect you to offer something original—new, fresh, groundbreaking, and thought-provoking—in your conference paper proposal, journal article, or book proposal.

As we explain in section 2.3.5 with greater detail, plagiarism—which means the unacknowledged use of the work and words of another writer—is both illegal (because it is the theft of intellectual property) and unethical. Several famous Western scholars have been castigated in the media because of plagiarism, and we do not want to see our contributors suffer a similar fate among their colleagues. Plagiarism can be committed unintentionally (though in the law this is not considered an excuse), so notes taken during research should be carefully annotated, with full citations and careful distinction made about text quoted from another author. Read section 2.3.7 for more extensive information on citations.

If you teach students who are likely to do graduate work at a Western university, these guidelines will also help you to prepare them for the standards their academic institutions have set.

Rights and Copyright

Advice from the Authors Alliance on getting rights reverted to you by a publisher. This can be done, or at least attempted, at any stage after publication. Berkshire has gone through this process for some of our books, reclaiming rights so we could republish backlist titles ourselves. You can download a copy of our Word template here – this is a very simple one that we used for trade titles. In other cases, we went through a much more complicated legal process because the original publishers – major international big-box companies – had breached the contract terms and also had to pay settlements. That’s also something to keep in mind.

Copyright termination after 35 years is a little-known provision in US copyright law. The law provides a window during which an author can have a contract essentially voided, even if the book is still in print, and start afresh. This makes particular sense when a title is still in print, as long as you feel you can do more with it than the original publisher. Since publishers have figured out that by offering old titles as print-on-demand they can avoid triggering the out-of-print reversion clause in contracts, this legal provision is a boon to authors who have fresh ideas for a classic title. And here is a template we have used to reclaim rights to classic titles.

Copyright Basics

This presentation comes from a webinar Karen Christensen offered before the pandemic, explaining a few less well-known points about copyright and urging that you register copyright on your online writing.

From the Table of Contents, Berkshire Manual of Style

Organizations

Authors Guild (USA) – especially valuable for legal advice and webinars. It used to focus on professional authors (that is, people who make a living as writers) but now is targeting self-published authors as well.

Authors Alliance (USA) – new organization with a focus on Creative Commons and Open Access, relevant to academic authors who are not concerned about income from their writing.

Society of Authors (UK) – generally excellent for legal advice and also offering many online programs, with an academic authors group.