It is Academic Writing Month at SAGE MethodSpace, and for 2018 we are looking at ways researchers develop a holistic publication strategy. This means looking at all of the options, and choosing the type that fits with our content, will allow us to reach our target audience, and create real impact. Scholarly books and articles are central to some researchers’ strategies, but for others, professional books are more appropriate. For some, traditional publishers offer the best route, while others decide to take an independent or self-publishing path.
Joshua Fuehrer and Joseph Butchko translated doctoral research into a practical book for business process management practitioners, and published it with an independent publisher. I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Fuehrer about the experience and lessons they learned when writing and publishing Learning BPMN v2.0: A Practical Guide for Today’s Adult Learners.
JS How did you use or build on your doctoral research when writing this book?
JF I conducted additional research using a mixed methods approach. First, quantitatively, I began assessing the models that were being delivered to various customers. I was examining the modeling errors that occurred both before and after individuals learned BPMN. Second, qualitatively, we both had been observing how learning occurred in various organizations. We engaged in conversation with individuals to understand their learning experiences with BPMN. These findings and data points were used to help build on my dissertation findings. This was key for us in applying various learning modes and techniques throughout the book, really trying to create a set of meaningful learning experiences.
JS How did you choose a publisher? What did you consider when making that decision?
JF I struggled with the decision on whether to go down the route of traditional publishing, self-publishing or an indie publisher or hybrid type publisher. After careful research, I quickly realized, that to do self-publishing, it would require me to learn a lot of various fields to be successful. I think traditional publishing is great, but being a new author with so much competition, it was an easy choice to go with an independent publisher.
The most significant consideration was the time it would take to get the book to market while also producing a great book. Although I didn’t want a rushed product, I also did not want to spend a year to get to launch. From my research, that was the best-case scenario with traditional publishing.
JS Why did you choose an independent publisher?
JF After consulting with various independent publishers, I choose an independent publisher because the time it would take to get to market was faster, and they offered many key services needed to launch a great book.
JS Did the independent publisher provide editorial or design services? Did you have to contract with editors/designers?
JF We choose Indie Books International because of the services they offered. Specifically, they had editorial, image designers, and a marketing team. They were awesome during the whole process. Their team did all of the work regarding contracts for any services offered.
JS What did you learn from this process?
JF Oh, I wished we had about a week to discuss. I learned so much. But the most significant learning experience I enjoyed was the process of going through each stage with the publisher. For instance, after the editorial team provided their inputs and suggestions to improve the readability of our book, the graphics team or image designers were working with us to do page layout and designing the cover. It was a very iterative process, where if we didn’t like something, we could go back and tweak or ask for additional guidance. Additionally, we had created some concepts for the book, but after consulting with their marketing and interior page designers, they provided, what I think was a better way for displaying some of the graphics.
JS You have a co-author, so please tell us how you organized the collaboration.
JF Our collaboration was unique but probably wouldn’t change in the future because it worked so well. I started out writing this book on my own. I had actually completed, what I call v1 of the book. As I read it over and over, I felt it was missing something. So, I reached out to some fellow practitioners, and Joe joined the team.
JS Did you each take specific chapters, or did you write them all together?
JF So, after Joe joined the team, we took v1 and did a re-write. He would review a chapter and provide comments. While I was reviewing his comments, incorporating changes, restructuring or adding new concepts, he would review the next chapter. This continued until we had v2 done. Joe is a great philosophizer, and he would always pose interesting questions that would take me back to the drawing board, both from a learning perspective and from a teaching perspective. I would re-write or re-model a concept or idea and pitch to him.
JS What tips can you suggest to people who are planning to co-author a book?
JF The most significant experience I can share when working with a co-author is set timelines for when input, reviews, or feedback is required. This will help keep you as a team moving forward and getting you closer to your goal of publishing your book.
JS Your book website contains a lot of resources and community features! Did you develop all of them? What tips can you suggest about creating ancillary materials?
JF Thanks, I sure did. It is a great experience creating something that someone else will use to gain a deeper understanding. While I did create all of the videos for the learning experiences in the book, I decided to hire a voice actor to narrate the videos. Ronald Stafford provided video narration.
I have two tips…First, I can suggest that when you are creating ancillary materials, figure out your audience. What I mean by this, who do you anticipate will visit your website or your use your ancillary materials? Knowing that, helps shape how you create learning exercises, videos, forum posts, blogs, and much more. Knowing your audience will help set the foundation for meaningful learning experiences because those who use your materials will have a great appreciation because it resonates with them. The second tip, it’s ok to fail when creating learning material! Fail often with your ancillary material. For some of the Learning Centre material we provide, I did dry runs with other practitioners from different fields to see how useful the material was. Some of my earlier work didn’t make the cut on today’s website. If you create something, get feedback, friends and family, colleagues, anyone but yourself. You have great ideas, but input from others can help shape meaningful ancillary material.
JS Any other suggestions for people who want to build on their dissertation research and write a book?
JF First, ask yourself, what is the vision of my book? What I mean by this, you have your dissertation research and findings, but what do you hope to share with the outside world with your book? Write down that vision statement of your book. For instance, before I even started writing my book, I wrote my vision “A book that creates meaningful learning experiences with BPMN.” I could have easily gone down several paths writing about each awesome concept, idea, etc., from my dissertation, in which case, I might be still writing. That vision statement was vital in what material I used from my dissertation.
Second, as you complete your dissertation, ask for candid advice from your dissertation mentor and committee. Their feedback can be so valuable, as my mentor Dr. Vincent DeFazio provided excellent feedback and insights in which I literally went from graduation to writing the outline for my book.