Loyola Alumni Share the Secret to Getting Published

By April Arnold

As students, John Walters, ′09, Christopher Appel, ′09; Crystal Callahan, ′09; Nicholas Centanni, ′10; Steven Maex, ′10; and Daniel O’Neill, ′09, wrote the book that became Econversations: Today’s Students Discuss Today’s Issues, released in July. Loyola magazine invited the alumni to share their thoughts on how to get a book published.

Crystal Callahan:

•    Expect publication to take a long time. Expect to comb through multiple drafts. Expect quick turnaround deadlines for assignments. Expect harsh reviews. If you know these things are coming, you can keep a clear head and work with your publisher to make sure things go smoothly.

•    It’s important to develop a thick skin. Don’t take criticism personally! You’re not a bad writer. It’s all part of the process and your book will come out better because of it.

•    If you have the luxury to shop around for a publisher, make sure you pick one who really understands your message. We were lucky enough to end up with a wonderful publisher. Quite a few reviewers didn’t understand what we were saying, who cares about the student perspective? But our publisher stood by us and never asked us to deviate from the student voice.

John Walters:

•    Luck definitely plays a role in publication.

•    The old joke that authors write for free, but get paid to revise, really is true. Although, so far, we’ve done that for free too!

Daniel O’Neill:

•    As a writer, you can’t please everyone, especially economists! We sent our manuscript to a lot of professors, and it amazed me how varied the reviews were.

•    No matter how much writing, rewriting, and fine tuning you do, you can always make improvements (and that’s a good thing!)

Christopher Appel:

•    Writing about a politically sensitive social issue and selling this writing is always going to be challenging. Even if what you write is based on careful research and theory, publishers and reviewers might still shy away from it for fear it will alienate potential readers. Maintaining your personal tone and voice is hard, but preserving the meaning and intensity of your opinions is even more difficult. Achieving what publishers and reviewers consider balance without losing all meaning whatsoever is a constant battle. Thankfully you can learn a lot about yourself and your beliefs during the process.

•    There are few things more exciting than receiving a box from Amazon that contains a book with your name on the cover. Stay motivated!

Stephen Walters, Ph.D., professor of economics:

•    Think BIG. My skepticism when the students came to me and said they wanted to write a book was exactly the wrong reflex to have. It came from my conditioning as an academic to be cautious. In our field we’re supposed to focus narrowly and work years on projects that often contribute tiny, even trivial, bits to the stock of human knowledge. Useful but limiting. Plus, just because you’re young doesn’t mean you “don’t know enough yet” to be wise.

•    Be persistent! Thinking and writing are hard—which is why a lot of people don’t do much of either.  But when you keep at it day after day, and page by page, it gets easier. Covering a little ground regularly works better than trying to run a marathon once every couple of months.

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