Sunday, January 31, 2016

Writing & Publishing a Book with ASQ Quality Press - Part 1

If you are like most people, you probably have entertained the notion of writing a book. Maybe you imagine writing a memoir, a family history, or a crime novel. For those of you with a more technical, Quality bent, perhaps your aspirations lean more towards writing a book on Six Sigma leadership skills, Hoshin Kanri, or statistical sampling. If this is the case, how can you go about writing a book on Quality and getting it published? In this series of blog posts, I’ll share my recent experience writing a book for ASQ Press and give a few pointers on making the process run smoothly.

Deciding on a Topic

First things first: what do you want to write about? Ask yourself these questions to home in on a Quality topic:

  • What aspect of quality do you have a passion for?
  • What are your areas of expertise?
  • What is your main focus? For example,
    • Are you an expert in a niche field?
    • Or, are you a generalist with a broad range of experiences to share?

As for me, I am an industrial engineer and statistician who has been working in the field for 30 years, so my daydreams of authorship naturally gravitated toward a text on statistical methods. In my doctoral program at Georgia Tech, I did write a dissertation, which I assume counts as a book. The dissertation compared the response model and dual response model analysis methods for experimental designs that combine both control and noise variables in a single array. It contained such gems as the derivation of the following equation for the relative efficiency of the dual analysis and response model variance estimators:

You know, a real page-turner.

In the end, the quality topic that ultimately spoke to me was probability. When I was a graduate student working in the statistics tutoring lab at Tech, students would come in for help on their probability homework, not for their statistics assignments. Once I became a professor, I noticed that students in my introductory statistics class had the most trouble with the probability topics. Once the class made it past the chapter covering mutual exclusivity, conditional probability and Bayes’ theorem, grades invariably improved. I suppose by comparison, performing a hypothesis test was a piece of cake compared to finding the probability of choosing two black socks from a drawer.

This difficulty with probability concepts often followed students as they graduated and advanced in their careers. Many seasoned, certified quality professionals would voice their discomfort when solving probability problems in the ASQ exam reviews I participated in. It seemed to me that a book that used a clear, conversational approach to explain probability concepts and distributions would be welcome in the field ─ and read by more people than just my dissertation committee.

Once you choose a topic, do some research on similar books in the marketplace. Study their tables of contents, and read through the major chapters to get a feel for their depth of coverage and writing style. Take note on what works well, and what is lacking. Now you will be better prepared to outline a proposal that explains why your book is needed, and how it will address the topic in a fresh way.

In the next few days, I'll publish a post on crafting the book proposal.

© 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn

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