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1. Doctor = Publisher
2. One hundred doctors
3. Train on the track
4. Behind the scenes
5. Home stretch
7. The seventh day
We'll inform you
since 13 May 2005
2. One hundred doctors
No.1 vs. mediocrity - Fart in a teacup - Commitment - Schedule - Structuring - Internet supplement
- Language - Editorial team - Mentor - Time frame - Deadline - Team of authors - Budget
No.1 vs. mediocrity - Fart in a teacup - Commitment - Schedule - Structuring - Internet supplement - Language - Editorial team - Mentor - Time frame - Deadline - Team of authors - Budget
The decision has been made. You intend to take on one of the 100 important medical topics and contribute to the task of making medical information available without restriction and free of charge. As you know, if your book project is well-organised, it can be completed in 9 months, 12 at the most.
Before you begin to structure your topic and put together the group of authors, here are a few brief comments concerning your own personal qualifications.
Firstly: in order to write a medical book, you need expertise (Table 2.1) and time (Table 2.2).
Secondly: you can't write a clinical Flying Publisher textbook all by yourself. Standard textbooks are joint efforts. You should therefore know enough experienced colleagues who can take on a chapter of your project and deal with it competently. This assumes that you know your way around the national scene. This requirement can usually only be fulfilled if you come from a university institute or one of the big teaching hospitals.
The time factor needs to be considered. Getting a textbook on track - i.e. writing the first edition - is not for the faint-hearted. A rule of thumb is: most texts are produced between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., and evolve at the expense of family and friends. This means that at least a minimum level of enthusiasm is necessary. Sometimes, the thought that the sacrifice is only temporary and the subsequent editions will require considerably less work can help. In addition, youth is an advantage. The fifth decade should be exactly right. You push the project through and then say "never again!", because that's life. Some things you only do once, but once they are done, they are done. Think of Andy Warhol: "It's work, the most important thing is work."
If the basic conditions are favourable, you can begin planning the project. Set aside a month for this task. But first, here are two thoughts which will help you to avoid wasting time:
Are you still on board? Good. Then lay down the keel of the project. The following items have to be taken into consideration:
A lot has been written in the past, and anyone who writes wants to do it better. What evolves does not do so in a vacuum but builds on proven material. You are not building a castle like Neuschwanstein, but are being permitted to add a few bricks to existing walls. Thus you should:
A Word document with most of the elements which make up a book (Credits, List of collaborators, Contents, Tables, Charts, Index) can be found on the internet underwww.HIVMedicine.com/textbook.doc Download it onto your hard disk and change the title page, credits, foreword and list of collaborators.
With regard to the planned internet publication, the following points must be taken into consideration:
If English is your mother tongue, you write and publish in English. If not, as a rule, you should first write the text in your mother tongue. If you happen to have the available capacity and/or uncommitted items in your budget, you should also plan an English version in the mid-term. The reason: a text that goes around the world has 10 to 100 times as many readers as a text that does not exist in English.
Furthermore, you can only remove the copyright for other languages if you translate your text into English. It is usually not sufficient to remove the copyright in the native language alone - you are then considerably restricting the circle of possible translators. Therefore, the road to multilingualism leads via the English version.
The editors structure the material, define the chapters and choose the authors. As soon as the authors have supplied their texts, the editors review the contents, discuss any questions not yet clarified and send the chapter to be proof-read.
This all sounds very easy - but it isn't.
The number of doctors who only write moderately well is higher than you would think. This is not surprising, for a doctor does not need to be a brilliant writer in order to be a good doctor. Thus, the editors have to guide their authors. Someone who writes a textbook has to put the contents in order and then write it all down in simple sentences. A textbook editor who has skilled authors who present their material in an inadequate order and in a form that is barely comprehensible, has to take the revision of the chapters into his own hands. In some cases, he will edit texts very carefully indeed.
But what if the editor is not able to absorb the stylistic and didactic finish, and achieve the linguistic harmony of the chapters? Or if he doesn't have the time? Then revision is delegated to external assistants, usually to medical editors. This incurs additional costs which need to be allowed for at the planning stage.
Over and above the textual and stylistic supervision of the project, the editor has an additional sacred duty. He has to bring the texts submitted by his authors into the public domain. Everyone who has ever been involved in writing a medical textbook knows from stories or from his own experience about those exasperating cases where good texts evolve during long nights of work and then are published either years later or not at all.
This means that as soon as an author submits a text, you are under obligation. You must publish the text and increase the fame and reputation of your authors to the best of your ability. If you have decided to publish finished texts on the internet before publishing them in a book, you should put them on the internet very quickly, preferably within 4 weeks of submission. If, moreover, the budget is assured and the project accounts are well-filled, it would be a graceful gesture to pay the authors their agreed fee, or at least an instalment. Editors should be grateful to their authors and demonstrate this gratitude freely.
The editor is not only there to organise and delegate: the third duty of the editor is to bear a part of the work on his own shoulders. This doesn't have to be the exemplary commitment of HIV Medicine's Christian Hoffmann who writes 350 pages himself and proofreads 450 pages, but the editor should reserve a pivotal chapter for himself. Young colleagues, in particular, don't wait to be asked twice and take the pickings while they can. They are perfectly entitled to do so. The more the editors write, the better they understand their authors and the more qualified they are to give advice.
A young editor profits from discussing his textbook project with an experienced colleague; an older editor should seek the advice of a good friend and colleague. It is possible to publish a book as a lone wolf, but it is easier to lose your way alone than in pairs.
The role of the older mentor has gone out of fashion lately, and that's a pity. It is not only the younger colleagues who refuse the help of the older ones; sometimes the older ones no longer possess the mellow goodwill to watch their younger colleagues working on projects for which they themselves are too old.
In the section on editors, we saw that medical readers may be needed to help with the stylistic and didactic finishing of a book. Medical readers are often doctors themselves, and a proof-reader with 20 years experience can be a valuable addition to an editorial team. The additional financial burden should be allowed for in the budget, but it is worth every penny when editors are unable to perfect texts for the final print version due to lack of time.
There is no such thing as an error-free book, but you should make every effort to produce as perfect a text as possible - gifted proofreaders can help you. Proofreaders are the last ones to work on the chapters before they are put together as a whole. It is not easy to find good proofreaders. Make sure you attend to this as early as possible.
A text passes through several stages before it is published. The stages which it must complete before it is incorporated in HIV Medicine are shown in Table 2.3.
For each text, a careful account is kept of the stage it has reached. In the production of HIV Medicine, this task is performed by the editors; other projects have a project secretariat.
We have defined the time frame for a new book project in Table 2.2. If all the authors get to work straight away, a textbook project can theoretically be completed in 6 months. 9 months are more realistic. 12 months should be the longest time accepted.
The workload of the editors depends on how many chapters they write themselves and how deeply they are involved in the textual and stylistic correction of the authors' chapters. For the first edition, this can be anything from 100 to 400 hours. However you organise it: the first edition means work and stress. It is not until the second edition, and more so in the subsequent ones, that the workload is reduced to between a third and a quarter of the initial number of hours.
The co-authors have to read up on their subject, structure the material, write and correct the text. This needs to be organised and fitted in to the full schedule of a busy hospital doctor. If the circumstances are good - the colleague is highly motivated, happens to be on holiday and throws himself enthusiastically into his work - it is realistic that a chapter of 20 pages can be written in 6 weeks. So do not be afraid to ask your co-authors if they can submit their text "at the end of next month".
In other cases, more time may be required, but it does not make sense to set a deadline too far in the future. If you give someone 12 months, he will rarely start work before the last four weeks. Therefore, a deadline of four months should only be extended to six months in justified exceptions (post-doctoral lecture qualification, work on an important publication, etc.) Someone who cannot deliver 20 pages within six months will not deliver them in 12 months either.
Perhaps you should give your co-authors the option of choosing a deadline of between six weeks and four months. Make sure that the deadlines are spread evenly over this period, so that the texts do not all arrive at the editorial office at the same time.
Point out, once again, that a deadline is just that - a dead line - and not a midsummer night's ball. If you sense that this unsettles your author, you can always modify the date for text submission, but insist that a deadline is deadline, and that means the new deadline too.
The budget you require for your project is made up of the items printing costs, webhosting and authors' fees.
The printing costs for a book comparable in size (24 cm x 15 cm) and length (800 pages) with HIV Medicine 2005 are listed in Table 2.4. The relatively high costs for small editions are due to the fact that print preparation (construction and setting up of printing plates, adjustment of the printing machine, test printing, etc.) are unchanging cost factors, regardless of the size of the edition. Once the printing machine is up and running, the costs are reduced dramatically. While for an edition of 500 copies each print costs 14 Euro, every book over and above the 1000th costs only 3.50 Euro (see Table 2.4).
* Calculation for an 800-page book; dimensions: 24 cm x 15 cm; printed in Germany
So you see: printing costs are not just trivial amounts. In chapter 4, we have to make sure that we recover this money.
Compared with the printing costs, the cost of placing your text on a computer with internet access is relatively low, at between 10 and 30 Euro a month.
There are two possible concepts:
Concept, structuring, editorial team and scheduling make up the framework of a project. What is missing now are the people you need to press ahead with the project. It is not easy to find them, especially as you have to acquire between 15 and 30 co-authors for a large medical textbook. What are the criteria for assembling a team of authors?
The following should be regarded as rough guidelines:
E-mail is the modern method, but the telephone is better. Call your preferred candidates and explain your project. Emphasise the fact that it is an Flying Publisher project and that you could publish the individual chapters on the internet within a few weeks. If the candidates are not familiar with the principle, refer to this book. Discuss the following items:
The most important message to put across to your authors during this discussion is: "You will be No. 1". The authors need to know that they are not working on just any old project, but on an adventure with exciting and successful years ahead.
Immediately after the phone call, send an e-mail summing up the details discussed. Set a time limit within which you expect a final decision about the candidate's participation in the project.