How do Books and Articles Get Written?

How do Books and Articles Get Written?

by John C Carr, ThM, PhD, RPsych
SSC Associate Facutly Member

Disclaimer: The views shared herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of St Stephen’s College.

This article came to be written because, when I was sharing about publication of Sensing Sacred (see article on it in this issue of Stevite) at a meeting of the DMin Program Committee, someone asked me how the book came about.

Here’s that story. At a meeting of the Society for Pastoral Theology 3 or 4 years ago, one of the members (Jennifer Baldwin) said that she was looking for authors to write chapters for a forthcoming book on the way we live out our spirituality through our senses. I put up my hand. So did others – and eventually10 authors were working with Jennifer to birth the book. The book also includes a journal article reprint which serves as an introduction.

That’s actually not an uncommon occurrence. Many books have come into existence as a result of formal moments like that one, or of informal conversations, at the Annual Study Conference of the Society for Pastoral Theology. I think that it might increasingly be the same for other academic disciplines.

Here are some other ways that books come into existence.

During my doctoral program, we had a seminar on the Organization and Administration of Pastoral Counseling Centers. The work we did for the seminar, along with papers written by a few other colleagues, was eventually published, with the title being the same as the name of the seminar.

Sometimes a person with known expertise is invited by a book publisher or journal editor to write a book or an article. More often, authors will write their article or book and then go looking for a publisher. By the way, the manuscript should only be submitted to one publisher or editor at a time.

It is always better to have a book published by a well-known book publisher than to self-publish unless you expect that only your friends will buy your book (or you have lots of relationship networks and are prepared to do a lot of work “pushing” your book). Publishers have sales and marketing networks that enhance the probability that your book will be purchased. But make sure that the contract gives you a say in the price of the book. Print books are getting to be so expensive these days that first-time authors are unlikely to sell if their book is priced too high.

There are some reputable publishers who sell books online either as e-books or as print-on-demand books (i.e. the book is prepared as an electronic file and actual books are printed when they are ordered).

Make certain that your book is submitted to as many relevant journals as possible for a review. That’s a way to increase the probability that others will read what you have written. Also, join online discussion groups that allow you to tell other people in the group about what you have published.

Theses and dissertations can seldom be published as books without radical revision. Don’t undertake that unless you get a lot of objective feedback (including the advice and support of your advisor/supervisor) that the dissertation or thesis needs to be “out there” as a book or monograph. A better approach is to write an article that shares its contribution with other scholars and submit it to the appropriate professional or academic journal. Persons wanting to read the entire thesis or dissertation will be able to find it because you will tell the readers of your article how to do that.

Articles based on theses and dissertations should be submitted to peer-reviewed professional journals for maximum credibility. Such journals have panels of two or three persons who review submissions that fall within their expertise to see whether they warrant publication in the journal. Once approved for publication, an article will not likely appear in the journal for 3 to 12 months. Increasingly, professional journals are being produced as e-journals – that is, as journals that are primarily available online.

Some professional journals publish brief reflective articles and/or reflective poetry that are relevant for the journal’s readership in addition to more formal articles. If that kind of writing is what you do, then look for that kind of journal, read what they publish to assess whether it’s a fit for you, and give it a try.

Here is some advice from Andrew X. Pham (

  1. Write for yourself, edit for your audience.
  2. Write as though it’s your last page and today is your last day. The mind becomes very clear at this edge where one’s fears and inhibitions fall away.
  3. Enjoy the “aspiring” part of being a writer. Once you [have already] published, it feels like work.
  4. It’s all about the journey. The most bittersweet moment for every voyager is when the end comes into sight.