Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing & Publishing a Book with ASQ Quality Press - Part 3

Writing the Manuscript
Earning a book contract may give you a great sense of accomplishment, but don’t rest on your laurels for too long! Signing the final contract starts the clock ticking toward your submission deadline. You already have three chapters written from the proposal, so you do have a head start. Your detailed table of contents will now become the roadmap for your writing project.

Chances are you already have a full-time job and a family. How can you find the time to write a 200-page book while you are answering work email until 9pm and coaching soccer on weekends? Completing a project of this magnitude requires some self-reflection: knowing how and where you work best will make the writing process more efficient.

Some authors commit to writing two pages a day, every day. After a mere 100 days, they have a 200-page draft manuscript. Others research and think through their topic for months, and then sit down and binge-write over a matter of a few weeks. Which method meshes better with your work style?

Writing is a solitary activity. Will you steal away and write in a quiet corner of the town library, or will you be happier writing at the kitchen table with family life swirling around you?

Once you decide on how and where you will work, you need to gather your tools. Request the Quality Press Style Manual from your editor, and read it thoroughly. This manual gives authors direction on how to properly present abbreviations, label appendices, cite sources, present equations, number figures and tables, format footnotes, use italics, create lists, represent numbers, punctuate sentences, and present quality terms. Adhering to the style manual as you write will save you and the copy editor hours of time during the production cycle.

Buy a Chicago Manual of Style now so that you can properly cite your sources. If you are like many people of a certain age, you might not have written a bibliography since the advent of the web. The manual will help you cite web sites, articles, white papers, and books. As you research, be fanatical about recording sources at the time you read them. This will make writing the bibliography a much easier and faster task.

Your choice of font and manuscript layout is actually not very important. Quality Press has a standard font and layout template for its publications, so the final manuscript will be typeset according to these standards. In the meantime, choose a font that pleases you and double space to make your text easier to edit.

I used three levels of numbered headings in my manuscript, and had the navigation tool opened at all times so I could easily move around my document. Microsoft Word also has some time-saving and sanity-preserving features that you might not have used before. My advice is to become very familiar with the References tab! The commands on this tab allow you to insert footnotes, citations, and cross references for figures, and will automatically update them for you. For example, each figure in the manuscript must be referenced in the text by number. Using cross references automatically updates the figure numbers as figures are removed or added. There is no need to make a table of contents or a list of figures and tables in your manuscript, since these will be generated during the production process.

Give yourself enough time in the schedule to let the completed manuscript sit for a month. Then go back and start editing with fresh eyes. I also strongly suggest sending out your “final” draft to several colleagues for review at this point. Assign the reviewers specific sections of the book to proof. Otherwise, you will get a detailed proofing of the first few chapters, and then, less scrutiny as the book chapters go on, as the reviewers (and you) run out of steam. You will be amazed at how much the SMEs can catch! Incorporate their suggestions and make the corrections, and remember to thank them profusely in your acknowledgments page.

Once your manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, it will be scheduled for the three-month production cycle.

© 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Writing & Publishing a Book with ASQ Quality Press - Part 2

Crafting the Book Proposal
The ASQ website gives potential authors specific guidelines on how to construct the book proposal. See http://asq.org/quality-press/become-an-author/index.html

The book proposal consists of seven sections:
  • 1. the title of the book
  • 2. an analysis of the market for the book and the current competition
  • 3. the author’s biographical sketch
  • 4. the book’s estimated length and completion date
  • 5. a detailed table of contents
  • 6. the book’s preface
  • 7. at least three sample chapters.
    This is not something that you can knock out in an afternoon, or even a month. But, researching and crafting a well-written proposal will ultimately prepare you for success when you do sign that book contract. For example, the market analysis will guide your choice of the book’s features, depth and tone. Writing the preface will help you clarify the reason for the book, and how it will be used by your readers. The estimated deadline section and the table of contents will provide the input for a detailed project plan. And, of course, the three chapters will give you a huge head start on your manuscript.

    Here are some tips for completing each section of the proposal.

    • The book title should be straightforward, and not overly “clever.” This is a technical book, not a fiction title.
    • There are many books on quality. Why will people buy yours? The market analysis section answers this question for the publisher. Know who your audience is, and what their job functions are. What other titles are in the same space as your proposed book? Look through the catalogs of not just ASQ Quality Press, but CRC Press, Wiley and Springer Verlag as well. Buy several of these titles and read them carefully. What strengths and weaknesses do you see? Are there important topics that seem to be missing, or are given a cursory treatment? How will your book address any deficiencies you see in the current titles?
    • The biographical sketch can be one page. Don’t be shy here; include the work experience and education that shows the publisher that you are uniquely qualified to write this book.
    • The book’s length is a rough estimate. Use the length of similar books as a guide, and remember that appendices and statistical tables can add many pages to the final count. Will your book be 150 pages, or 500? The publisher uses your estimate to arrive at its projected production costs and to set the price of the book.
    • Will you finish the manuscript 6 months after a contract is signed, or 12 months? Try to offer a realistic completion date! The publisher will place your manuscript in its production schedule based on your estimate. When in doubt, err on the high side.
    • I  had never really taken much notice of a book’s preface before writing a proposal. Take a few quality books down from your shelf and open up to the preface. You’ll find that the preface is generally written more informally than the text itself, and gives the reader the author’s rationale for writing the book, describes what is covered in each chapter, and offers tips to the reader on how to use the book.
    • The table of contents should be as detailed as possible. In my proposal, I used chapter headings, and two levels of subheadings.
    • The sample chapters you provide in the proposal do not need to be consecutive. The chapters should give the publisher and, importantly, the SME reviewer, a good feel for the overall tone, style, level and content of the book.

    Once the proposal has been submitted, you will receive an email confirmation from ASQ Quality Press. The editors will then read the proposal, and if they think it has merit, will send it out to a subject matter expert (SME) for review. This process may take 4 weeks or more. If all goes well, you will receive an email with a draft contract and a copy of the anonymous SME’s review. Now is the time to adjust due dates if needed. Signing the final contract starts the clock ticking in terms of your deadline. Now it gets real.

    In my next post, I will give some tips on writing the manuscript.

    © 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn

    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