From PhD to published…

This has been published from the train – I’ll be back to sort headings, links, etc when on something other than an iPad
In 1991 (I think it was) I picked up a postcard ‘Women of Britain’ at the Imperial War Museum. So started a fascination with British wartime propaganda posters… With an A-Level project, a BA dissertation, and a PhD in the subject, as well as chapters, articles and press coverage, I think you can call me the world’s No 1 authority on the subject.. And with my specialist knowledge on Keep Calm and Carry On, why have I not published?

Why publish?
I work in academia, and publishing is core to moving forward in the sector, but I’m now working outside of my core discipline of history, so the core reason for me is that I want to see MY book on the shelves. I really won’t feel that the PhD is ‘done’ until I see that, although I have put the PhD (minus images) on my website under a Creative Commons attribution licence.

So why haven’t I published before now?
There are two big reasons. Time is one of them. Those of you who know me, know that I have multiple different interests and get involved in lots of things, and for a while the project felt ‘done’, although I’ve always known that I wanted to publish. A bigger reason, however, is that I haven’t had a stable job (well, a stable/horrible job followed by redundancy/world travels, then contracts), and that I keep moving house. At present, I haven’t moved house for 1.5 years, and have 0.5 of a permanent job, combined with variety of interesting projects… So time is still tight, but I’m thinking a minimum of an evening a week will start to move me forward… The other issue is image rights… And I’ll come back to those. I suspect there’s also a fear of putting the material out there, but it’s currently been outweighed by the fear that someone else (less qualified clearly) may publish first!!

What have I already got in place?
Well, of course, the PhD is already written, but needs to be re-written for that elusive ‘non-academic specialist’ or ‘academic non-specialist’ audience! I have already written a chapter for London Transport Museum, and have journal articles in process. I also have a promise from Lord Asa Briggs (who was one of my PhD examiners and described my work as ‘highly readable’) to write the foreword, so I should chase that up! I have some ideas of publishers, and need to pull that together into a list, and decide where to approach. I can do this with the help of my PhD supervisor, Dr Martin Polley, who I’ve helped to create a website for (expect him to be in demand in Olympics year, it’s one of his specialisms), and who is going to help me get to book proposal stage.

So how to overcome the obstacles?
OK, so time: start! I’ve set myself the start of Semester 2 (15th January) to get the book proposal done, and need to organise times with Martin to do that. I have already been told by someone from Manchester University Press that should I get the image rights sorted I I’ll have publishers biting my hand off … And that was before Keep Calm and Carry On kicked off. So, the image rights. The majority of the posters are out of (Crown) copyright, but as I don’t own the originals I would need to obtain materials from the Imperial War Museum or the National Archives – potentially in a deal to co-publish (although the IWM recently published a text, but it’s very much a populist text), otherwise with at least £8000 of costs. I do wonder, however, about an opportunity to crowd-source poster owners, who would probably love to see their images in a book, and Onslow’s may be interested co-publishing. All avenues to be explored when the book proposal is complete. Then there’s the question of developing a timescale/plan to write the book itself… But that can be broken down to a chapter at a time.

Why now?
On our office wall is a quote: “It always looks impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela), and that was reiterated tonight, when I attended Scanner’s Night – which focused upon ‘idea-storming’.

Stage 1) Identify what you want to do in one sentence (publish my PhD as a book)’ and what excites you about that (holding my book in my hands.. And knowing that others can enjoy it). There’s a sheet to write ideas that you want help with – and others can offer that help.

Stage 2) Identify the major obstacles stopping you, and, in a group, storm ideas to get past it/them. (Time/image rights/#getbexwriting required)

Stage 3) On the action sheet write name/sentence/an action that you can undertake in an hour or so. (Break the project down as to what needs to be done, clarify the obstacles, and think through ways to get last them).

There was also a sheet to ‘give away’ your ideas. So, there you have it. I think, unlike #getbexrunning, I’m not sure I want to force people into another ‘cheer Bex on’ group, but do feel free to cheer me on/hold me accountable via this blog… Combined will encouragement to chill out!!

See @ww2poster for more on the subject of wartime posters…