When to publish a book, and why?




In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

How do folks know when they have a project that’s best suited for a book format, and not, say, a series of articles? And is it risky to write a book before tenure?

Fair questions, and I’m curious to hear what readers think!

I suspect that how risky it is to write a book before tenure depends a lot on the kind of institution one is at, as different departments and universities can have very different tenure standards. At a university like mine, it is not risky at all; all things being equal, publishing a book is a clear benefit. But, at R1’s where one is expected publish X number of articles in top journals for tenure? That might be another story. And obviously, how helpful a book is for tenure at such an institution may depend greatly on the prestige of the publisher.

In terms of how to determine whether a project is better-suited for a book or series of articles, I don’t know if there’s any good formula for deciding. However, as an author of two books, my main test has been how ‘self-contained’ each chapter/paper is. For example, in my first book, the first chapter defends a particular method for doing moral philosophy, and the rest of the book then aims to show how fruitful that method is. So, in part, the reader is asked to judge the method itself (Chapter 1) in virtue of the latter 7 chapters–and, in turn, the plausibility of the argument in each individual latter chapter depends in part on the other chapters. Broadly the same is true of my second book, which tells a single coherent story. Given that (as their author) I wanted readers to consider each book’s chapters as an integrated whole, and given that publishing them as a series of journal articles would have spread them out in different places (and probably taken many more years to do), it seemed to me to better advance my goals as their author to publish them as a book.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?


Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More



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