I was invited to do a presentation at the Charleston Conference last November and at the end of my talk the editor of the UK journal Insights, who had been in the audience, came up for a chat and asked if I’d write it up as a case study for the March issue.
Woohoo, but whoa! That didn’t seem very far away, especially as the submission deadline for that issue was January.
I must have had a slight look of panic on my face because people started saying soothing things like “if you just write a paragraph for each of your slides you’d have it done”. Anyway, after talking it over we settled on the July issue which had a submission deadline of April. That sounded much better.
I got cracking on writing the paper as soon as I got back, and I’m glad I did. A written paper is definitely different to a spoken presentation and I also wanted to update it with some new data.
My Charleston talk was about the evolution of my university library’s demand-driven ebooks program, and how we’d just introduced a new demand-driven model. We’d only been running the new model for a month before the Charleston Conference so I didn’t have a lot of data to go on then, but I’d have six months of data by the time my Insights paper deadline came around so I had more of a story to tell.
Because I had to wait until almost the submission deadline to get the six months of data I was planning to use, I wrote the remaining sections and checked the data every couple of weeks to give me an idea of how things were looking. Then I did the final write-up with the updated data about a week before the submission deadline. It wasn’t such a close call as it seems, because I really had most of it written, and I had a pretty good idea how the data was tracking.
Not only is writing a journal article different to putting together a conference paper, this would be my first article in a peer reviewed journal and also the first time working with an editor. It was a great experience, and something I’d encourage anyone to do if you get the chance.
I got my draft off to my editor in early April and we worked on tidying things up a bit and editing some of my charts and tables before it went off for peer review. The reviewed paper came back with some really useful feedback about adding in some more explanation and background at a couple of points, plus an extra explanatory chart.
Some tips I learned along the way for next time, that you might keep in mind too:
- I should have paid more attention to the Author Guidelines before I started. I spent quite a bit of time getting things into the publisher’s house style after the fact.
- I created my charts from data in Excel and I should have made working copies and kept them all together as I frequently had to revisit my spreadsheets to update charts and put things like chart labels into the house style.
- As I only had about 3000 words, I’d removed a lot of detail and some of my early charts and tables from my draft, but the reviewer actually asked for some more detail so I had to put some things back in. So, if you do remove anything along the way, make sure you keep a copy of the earlier drafts.
- Some of the reviewer’s comments suggested ideas for future work as there wasn’t the space or time to incorporate them all in this paper.
- A colleague checked and let me know that my article would be in an open access journal and that there were no author publishing fees. As a librarian I should have thought of checking this myself but it never occurred to me!
- Luckily I’d already organised my ORCID identifier, but you’ll need this if you don’t have one.
The editor did a great job and we exchanged emails fairly regularly over several weeks. As she was in the UK and I’m in Australia, the time difference necessarily added some delays but we got there in the end. There was also a proof reader who came in at the final stages just before publication with a couple more requests for fairly minor changes.
I also think it shows the editor’s craft that, although they helped smooth out my wonky grammar and sometimes idiosyncratic use of vocabulary, it still sounds like I wrote it.
So here it is…
Davies, T., (2017). The evolution of an e-book demand-driven acquisition programme at Swinburne University of Technology. Insights. 30(2), pp.36–43. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.354
(Another tip for next time: I probably should have thought up a snappier title.)