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I recently identified a textbook which is currently looking for authors of chapters. It states "For selected and invited authors" on the website, so I am wondering, if I submit a chapter proposal, if it has any chance of being accepted having myself being the only author, and not having graduated with any graduate degree yet. I also have no publications, but several are in the process.

I asked my PI if he would coauthor it, and he responded stating that he gets several requests to write book chapters per year and does not do any of them because he does not have time.

My question to the more experienced: if a chapter proposal has content which is completely golden and is well-written, does it have a chance of being accepted to be included in the book? Are book authors generally desperate to find authors for currently-researched topics, or is it generally competitive? Would they even consider a graduate student author? If it matters, the field is physics/nanomaterials.

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    Not a full answer, but in general you will find a huge variance in how competitive and/or prestigious and/or picky editors are for any given book or collection. It ranges from somewhere to "anyone with a pulse and a decent grasp of language" to "only names we already recognize as at the top of their field" - and there is no real way of knowing unless you apply and see what happens. You should just make sure it is actually worth your time and effort before you apply. – BrianH Nov 7 '18 at 20:25
  • This is good feedback. I've kept my feelers out and found the editor of the book on research gate. Even there, he pretty much asked his community if there is anyone with interest and expertise, but then again, his community might be full of big shots. – RJP Nov 7 '18 at 20:32
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    Be careful and avoid predatory book publishers - there are many out there! – OBu Nov 7 '18 at 21:16
  • If there is a listed article processing charge (APC), does that necessarily mean it is predatory? – RJP Nov 7 '18 at 21:27
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    @RJP I don't think there is a big open access culture among traditional, well-reputed book publishers either. This does not sound like an opportunity I would be excited about. – xLeitix Nov 7 '18 at 21:32
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I don't know about physics, but in Computer Science book chapters tend to be the lowest class of peer-reviewed publication. Most book editors are struggling to get any good contributions, and the only chapter-books (as opposed to text books with a single, or few, dedicated authors) I really see succeed nowadays are written by a closed group of people for a specific purpose. For instance, I know that some Dagstuhl seminars collectively decide to write a book - every participant writes one or two chapters, often together with (a subset of) members of their research group.

For books with an open call, you can in my field basically never be too inexperienced to write a chapter, as long as your English is good. That said, I generally advise my students against writing one anyway. Chapters are fairly long, so they may take an inexperienced writer substantial time to write, and the reputation and scientific impact of having a chapter in a book that is virtually never read is so negligible that the same effort is better directed to writing a different kind of paper.

Finally, the reaction of your advisor may also be a hint that they don't value book chapters either. Even if you can get your chapter accepted, is it a good use of time to work on something that your advisor appears to not put much stock in?

  • Certainly, a good paper would be valued more highly than a book chapter also in physics. – Anyon Nov 7 '18 at 22:06
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I don't know that publishers are desperate, but they are on the lookout for people who can write intelligently on subjects of interest to them. I think you have about as good a chance as anyone in this if your writing is good.

Publishing in books is a bit different from scholarly papers and you will likely get more feedback on your submission than you are used to. It will probably be reviewed by a subject expert, but the writing itself will also be guided by an editor whose main function is to deal with language, not content. The editor may also try to make the overall writing consistent across chapters when they are submitted by different people. I often found this to be very helpful.

Don't worry about the "invited" part. They can't invite you if they don't know about you. Perhaps your advisor can write a letter of introduction to the editor on your behalf as well.

It is possible, of course, that they are looking for the big names as authors, but as your advisor points out, such folks may be too busy to write.

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Strongly related: Is it OK to publish a book as an undergraduate?

It's an unfortunate fact of life that books don't sell well unless the author is well-known and has the authority to write it. Publishers may love books, but there's still no point in getting a book proposal if the book doesn't sell. I realize it's just a chapter proposal, but a chapter written by you still means they can't claim the chapters were written by leading experts in the blurb / promotional materials.

You can ask, but your chances of succeeding are poor unless you can persuade your PI to add his name to the chapter.

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    I guess I disagree. They will claim expert authorship even if some chapters are written by less well known people. There are books and there are books, also. If a book appeals only to the already deeply knowledgeable in a field I don't think they will mind a chapter or two by an "up and coming" academic. If it appeals to a more popular audience, instead, then the readers will be less knowledgeable about who is hot and who is merely toasty. But the big names will dominate any marketing materials, of course. And it is good to get your name associated with theirs. Worth the effort, I think. – Buffy Nov 7 '18 at 20:39
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In the Humanities and Social Sciences it depends on the book’s purpose.

For many HASS fields the primary or most esteemed output is the scholarly publisher monographic book, not the chapter in an edited collection.

Edited collections are often the result of significant small topic conferences, if you missed the conference then your chances are lower. This kind of book is valuable due to the restricted domain and small number of active researchers. It puts your work at the head of the queue, and the introduction hopefully notes it’s field relevance.

Predatory solicitations tend to be with low quality publishers or no quality publishers. Also known is the rat bag editor. For example, The Black Book of Communism’s editor didn’t inform the contributor of the Soviet chapter on the editors “unique” thesis of causation which the editor pushed to great length in the introduction and conclusion. Younger researchers may also be prey to this kind of deceptive intellectual project.

If you have to submit, it is a good sign, especially if revisions are required. If you are solicited, and you don’t know the crew, display caution.

HASS edited collections will judge based off quality and fit (constrained problems or topics in original research). You are as competitive as others working to your standard in that problem or research programme.

That 5000 words of research output might always be placeable somewhere else. And writing 5000 wd of new content based on primary research you were planning to use elsewhere may not be in your queue.

Generally: DOIs and open access are lagging behind the sciences here. But HASS works are usually cheaper than STEM works, and Interlibrary loan usually works, as long as your national level library system has a deal where someone buys at least one.

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