24 February 2006

Very much worth your time: William Germano

Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend a seminar given by William Germano, the author of Getting It Published and From Dissertation to Book. Germano has been editing scholarly books for more than 25 years, and has much to say about the business, the philosophy, and the psychology of academic publishing. His presentation was low-tech but highly personal and humane.

Germano was speaking to an audience of Ph.D. students drawn from across the disciplines. He took great pains to spell out for us the differences between doctoral dissertations and publishable book manuscripts--two beasts very often confused for one another by writers of the former. Many dissertations, Germano said, are actually “big book reports,” written for an audience of five (the dissertation committee) and afflicted with the “aphonia”--the “willed voicelessness”--of the academy. Books, meanwhile, must be narratives with a voice that tell a story around a particular “through-line”--a central thread that ties together all the parts into a whole.

In the past I’ve read Getting It Published and enjoyed Germano’s essays for the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was a pleasure to find out that he is so thoughtful, funny, and engaging in person. If you’re in the business of writing for scholars, do yourself a favor by reading Germano’s books, and by all means take the opportunity to hear him speak if you can.

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