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Do Side Writing Projects Sideline your Book Project?

By John Bond

Journal articles. Grant proposals. Book chapters. White papers. Blog posts for a friend. Contributions to the university newsletter. Alumni magazine articles.

There are lots of “opportunities” or requests from colleagues and friends to write. As you develop in your career, the number will increase, especially if you can deliver. On time and with the expected results. But there may come a day when you will have a contract for your own textbook or monograph. Then things will all be on your shoulders.

And the other writing request will keep on coming. Is this a good thing? Do they help or hinder the book project? As with most questions, the answer is that it depends.

Your book project writing and side project writing needs to all be driven by deadlines, definitions, and expectations. What is expected of you, precisely and when? Make sure it is clear about the deliverable.

Same with the book project. Before you make any promises to the publisher, and definitely before you sign any book contract, be certain that the deadlines are realistic with your schedule and the other demands on your life. I appreciate optimism, but a publisher is looking for realism (and one might suggest even pessimism) in regard to date setting. They have obligations on their end.

In regard to side projects, some might suggest paring back or eliminating them for the duration of the writing of the book. But hold for that thought.

Why are you involved with these other efforts? They bring you many benefits. Any serious writing makes you a better writer.

They also keep you in the conversation within your subject area. These efforts make connections for you, perhaps for future chapter contributors or peer reviewers for your own work. You are part of a village and need to be a good citizen.

These efforts are part of the equation that makes you the expert you are m which is the reason the publisher signed you to write your book! They bring you prestige (and promotion) within your institution. They also bring you the funding you need to continue your work.

As you move toward a book project, start to be deliberate. Wrap up the projects you have in the works. Be deliberative about future ones you agree to. This does not mean saying no to future projects but pick and choose. Pick the “high value” ones. Be firmer on the deadlines and don’t stress yourself.

These projects are also an opportunity when it comes to the future marketing and promotion of your book; an important aspect of your project’s success. The people associated with these side projects can help you. Perhaps they can provide endorsements for your work. They might connect you to podcasts or blogs in your subject area for you to contribute to. New books need ambassadors. The editor for a peer review journal or the editor of the book you contributed chapter for can be a powerful ally.

Consider these side projects as opportunities, ones that can be the foundation for your future book project. Be firm in what you commit to and make sure you deliver.


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