Anthony Haynes’ Writing Successful Academic Books

Last week I posted about three of the books I would read this summer. Every summer, I dig into one book on writing, one book on teaching, and one book on the history, philosophy, or state of higher education (along with plenty of other reading, of course).

I’ve finished Anthony Haynes’ Writing Successful Academic Books. It’s a no-nonsense orientation to most aspects of writing an academic book. Haynes covers motivations for writing academic books, types of academic books, the publishing landscape, book proposals, the writing process, time management, working with people (e.g., acquisition editors, developmental editors, copy editors, contributors to edited volumes), and more. 

I can recommend this book highly to anyone who has not yet seen a book through to publication. Authors who have published any type of book before will find that Haynes gives a basic introduction to many things they already know well.

The book’s sections on the writing process (especially planning projects and editing your own work) are helpful, as is the chapter on time management. The strongest point of the latter is actually a distillation of Eviatar Zerubavel’s The Clockwork Muse. Those who for some reason do not want to read all of Zerubavel can feel confident that they are getting the highlights from Haynes. I remember liking Zerubavel’s book quite a bit and Haynes presented some of the most important points very concisely.

That gets to the main strength and weakness of this book: Haynes attempts to be both comprehensive and concise. Each chapter presents in very short form what other authors have written about at greater length in other books (Haynes gives due credit to those authors whose work he leans on hardest). This is not to say that Haynes adds nothing original, but you can find excellent book-length treatments of nearly every (perhaps every) topic that Haynes covers in brief. Haynes’ concision is great if you want a brief overview. On the other hand, some readers could use a lengthier orientation to writing book proposals, managing their writing time, or another important topic.

So, is Haynes’ book for you? If you haven’t yet published a book and you want a concise overview of the writing and publishing process, then pick this book up. If you have published before or want a more in-depth treatment of some aspect of the writing process, then you might want to pick it up at the library and skim some of the chapters of greatest interest to you.

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