We recently held an online event with series editors and authors from our Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series about publishing their books, with an opportunity for audience questions at the end. Here’s a taster of one of the questions that was discussed, answered by series editors Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan.
What are editors looking for in a proposal when deciding whether to publish a book or not?
Sarah Mercer The key thing is a contribution that belongs in the series you’re submitting your proposal to, so in our case, it must be about the psychology of language learning and teaching. It should have something original to say and the authors need to show that they can identify the gap their research is filling.
Your proposal should be relevant for a global market – it can be researched at a local level but must be reflected on in global terms too. It must be professional in terms of writing and content and should be worthy of book-length treatment and not something that could be covered by an article. It should have a clear coherent thread running through it – something to watch out for especially with an edited collection.
Stephen Ryan In the case of a proposal from an early-career academic, the initial question we are asking is along the lines of “Do we believe this person can deliver a first-class manuscript?” We only have a few pages on which to make that evaluation. We go to each proposal in a positive state of mind; we are looking to encourage publication, not prevent it. It may sound obvious, but a professional presentation of your proposal is important. Careless mistakes, such as errors with names or dates of works cited or clumsily copied chunks of text, start to raise red flags. Basic care and attention make a difference.
Once we start considering the content of a proposal, we are looking for a clear idea; what is the proposed book about and where does it fit within the existing literature? What is unique about the proposed book? Who is likely to be interested in the proposed book?
My own personal view is that reading academic works should not be an ordeal. Reading should be a pleasant, rewarding experience. Evidence of a clear, engaging writing style is always welcome.
You can watch the recording of the event and find out the answers to the rest of the audience questions here:
Last month we held an online event with series editors and authors from our Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series about publishing their books, with an opportunity for audience questions at the end. Here’s a taster of one of the questions that was discussed, answered by series editors Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan.
How do you prepare a successful proposal as an early career academic?
Perhaps the biggest challenge in preparing a book proposal is adapting your research to a very different kind of audience than that of a PhD. As an early-career academic, your potential audience is likely to be unfamiliar with you or your work. That potential audience needs to be persuaded to engage with your work and needs to be persuaded quickly. This means that the scope and purpose of your book must be clear and you must ensure that the findings are relevant beyond the immediate local setting – they must have something to say globally.
When preparing your proposal, it may be a useful strategy to formulate a very brief explanation of your book and why someone should read it – an elevator pitch, if you like. Once you have this in mind, you can use it as a guide for writing the proposal; make sure your proposal does not divert too far from these central ideas.
The proposal should be professionally presented and follow the template provided on the website by Multilingual Matters. It needs to be offering something fresh and appealing to a global audience, so the proposal should make clear what gap it is filling. We would recommend giving your proposal to colleagues for feedback and getting them to ask you questions about it. If you can get hold of examples of past successful proposals, that can help to give you an idea of what is expected.
Take time to get the proposal right, which means getting clarity in your own mind about what exactly you intend and what your main message is. In many respects, a proposal is a unique genre of writing: your task is to present complicated and nuanced ideas clearly and briefly. It is a very difficult balance. When struggling with that balance it is probably better to lean towards the side of clarity and brevity, but a little careful wording can help show that you aware of complexities.
One more point worth thinking about is your title. An attractive, memorable title can go a long way to getting the prospective reader to engage with your work.
You can watch the recording of the event and find out the answers to the rest of the audience questions here:
This June, the third Psychology of Language Learning (PLL3) conference took place at Waseda University, Japan. Japan is one of our biggest markets and a country that we try and visit every few years in order to stay in touch with what’s happening in the Japanese academic book sector. PLL3 therefore gave me the perfect excuse to make my first trip over. As I have recently moved into my new job as Head of Sales, I am keen to learn all about the different markets in which we sell our books, how they differ and the challenges and prospects for each one. I structured my trip with the first part comprising sales meetings, and the conference making up the final (but by no means lesser!) few days.
The first part of the trip provided an ideal opportunity for me to meet our key contacts, ask zillions of questions and to get the kind of understanding of the market that it is impossible to do by email from our office in Bristol. As with several territories, we have a local Japanese rep, Koro, who looks after our key accounts on a day-to-day basis. Having been emailing Koro for the past 8 years, it was great to finally put a face and a personality to an email address. Koro arranged numerous visits for me during my stay, in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and was a fantastic source of knowledge of the market. We also bonded over a love of music and fresh air and not panicking when we couldn’t find the right building for a meeting (Japanese maps are a complete mystery to me)!
We met with booksellers (including our biggest customers Kinokuniya, Maruzen and MHM), librarians, academics and subject specialists, in both linguistics and tourism studies. We have a number of exciting titles which were of specific interest to the contacts, most notably the forthcoming book on akogare (desire) by Japanese author Chisato Nonaka and the recently published 3rd edition of Sport Tourism Development which sparked interested because of the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. As well as meetings by day, we went out for drinks and dinner with a number of our contacts, at which I learnt a lot about Japanese culture, food and alcohol!
After the sales part of my trip, I took a day off to reset my brain from sales to editorial work and to enjoy the sights of Tokyo. Sadly, it was a wet break (the rainy season had just begun), but as I had been fortunate enough to enjoy some sunshine the previous weekend, I was not too disheartened to have to spend the day browsing cookware shops on the famous Kappabashi Street and enjoying tea and cake in various tea shops when I needed a break from the torrential downpours!
The PLL conference is now in its third meeting and I am fortunate to have been able to attend all three (you can also read about previous conferences in Graz and Jyväskylä on our blog) and to see the event evolve and thrive over time. This year, Waseda University welcomed 375 delegates from both across Japan and around the world. Stephen Ryan and his colleagues and students meticulously organised and hosted a conference that both lived up to and went beyond previous editions.
Among the highlights of the gathering were the plenaries which were always packed and stimulating. Richard Ryan opened the conference with a talk on self-determination theory and Ema Ushioda ended the first day with a thought-provoking talk questioning the social purpose of academic research. The plenaries of the second day saw Mimi Bong introduce her work on achievement goals and Lourdes Ortega asked how the field of PLL can address issues of social justice. On the final morning, Jean-Marc Dewaele gave a rousing introduction to the closing speaker, Zoltan Dornyei, who focused on the topic of perseverance within the domain of motivation. The final slot is always a tough one (especially the morning after the conference dinner!) but it certainly enthused and engaged delegates who hung around in the entrance foyer long after the conference was officially over.
The conference was also a good platform for the new IAPLL association to be launched and for delegates to hear more about the benefits of membership. With the new association and another successful conference gone by, the stage is now set for the continued development of this subsection of the field and I am already looking forward to PLL4, which is due to take place in June 2020 in Canada.
Both of us started our careers in the classroom as language teachers and it was there that we first developed our fascination with the differences we noted in how our learners approached their learning … or did not, as the case may be. Little did we know back then just where that fascination would take us. From those initial sparks began an ongoing interest in language learning psychology. Our curiosity led us to seek ways to understand what made our learners tick and, somewhat inadvertently, into the exciting world of educational psychology. Once exposed to these – at least to us – new ideas, we then became interested in how best to apply these insights in our teaching. It was classroom practice that triggered our early interest and that practical focus continues to be a key driver for us in our research and we hope in this new Multilingual Matters series too.
Over time, our own understandings of psychology have grown and become – we like to think – more nuanced. In the same way, and over a similar timeframe, a new academic field has grown, both in scale and sophistication, around in interest in the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching (PLLT). One of the great joys for us in recent years has been the discovery of many like-minded, curious teachers/teacher-researchers/researchers looking to explore the potential of educational psychology theory and research in an attempt to better understand language teaching and learning. For many years, discussions of psychology in language education were dominated by the concept of learner motivation and while that remains a key area of inquiry, we are now seeing a whole range of other topics moving into focus. In addition to motivation, the new field covers various dimensions of the self, identity, affect, cognition, attributions, personality, strategies, self-regulation, and agency among others. A distinguishing trait of this new field is that it seeks to explore the connections between these concepts as opposed to separating them from each other and attempting to analyse them in isolation. Another key shift has been a growing attention to teacher psychology. While there is a strong body of research in certain areas, large domains of teacher psychology have remained almost completely unexamined in the field of language education. Given the tight connections between learner and teacher psychology, it is surprising we know so little about what makes such key stakeholders in classroom life function and potentially flourish in their professional roles.
As a part of the emergence of this new field, there has been an accompanying increase in the number of publications with a PLLT focus. At first, these were scattered across publishing houses, but we felt that there was a need to bring them together under one roof to make it easier for people to find related works, to see connections across areas of research and practice, and to foster cooperation rather than further fragmentation. Multilingual Matters already housed many key PLLT publications within its broader SLA series and it is from that highly successful series that the new PLLT was born. The birth of the new PLLT series has coincided with the further growth of a biennial conference dedicated to the field as well as the formation of a professional association for those working in the area. It is tremendously exciting to witness the new series taking shape and we feel enormously privileged to be a part of this innovative new project. We can already see some thrilling publications on the horizon as academics from across the globe come forward to share their work on PLLT through the series. We hope you will enjoy reading the books that will make up the new series and we also hope that some of you may consider making your own contribution in the future.
Ahead of the publication of Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA next month, we asked its editors, Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams, a few questions about the book and their experiences working on the project.
Could you tell us a bit about where the idea for the book came from?
Sarah: I’ll perhaps respond to this as it is partly a result of my personal journey that has brought us to this point. Whilst I was doing my PhD on self-concept in foreign language learning, I became aware of the vast number of constructs in the field. In discussing my work with others, I often found myself having to explain the different nature of self constructs and ‘defend’ my choice of construct. However, the more I work in this area, the more acutely aware I become of the vastness of the self and, hence, the more humble I become about what I feel we can know and understand about learners’ and teachers’ sense of self in respect to language learning and teaching. Although we perhaps tend to have a preferred way of viewing things, we both feel it is important to respect a diversity of views on the self. Rather than feeling that one perspective is inherently superior or ‘more valid’ than another, we feel it is more important to appreciate how different perspectives can each contribute a piece of the puzzle towards a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of self in SLA. We thus felt a book was needed that brought different perspectives together.
What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
Marion: As Sarah explained, many books on the self consider it from a single particular perspective. Our aim with this book was to bring together multiple different perspectives in one volume to facilitate an overview and help make salient where interconnections between perspectives may exist and how they may complement each other. We were keen not to specify how or in what ways the self should be conceptualised and/or researched by the contributors, as we deliberately wanted to explore the diversity of perspectives on self. As we conclude in the book, the self is so complex and vast that we feel it cannot possibly be explained by one single theory or perspective. Instead, we believe that the field will ultimately benefit from engaging with multiple perspectives.
This is not the first book that you two have edited together, how did you first come to work together?
We actually first worked together back in 2007 when we worked on a symposium for IATEFL on language learning psychology. Building on our shared interests, we then went on to co-edit a book in 2012 together with our colleague Stephen Ryan entitled “Psychology for Language Learning” published by Palgrave Macmillan. It was the first time that the three of us had worked together and we found the experience positive and stimulating and we learnt a lot from each other in the process. So much so, that we are currently working on another book project together. Although other commitments prevented Stephen from joining us in editing this collection, we were delighted that he contributed a chapter to the book with a colleague and we are very grateful to him for his help in the indexing – a skill we knew he had from our last book together. We have found working in a team to be such a rewarding and enriching experience that we are sure it won’t be our last project together.
So, what is your next research (or other!) project?
We are already working on our next book, jointly with Stephen Ryan, again in the field of psychology in language learning. We mostly work with each other online with regular Skype sessions, but sometimes we find the chance to work together at Sarah’s house in the hills of Austria, which aides our productivity! We are also all involved in a conference Sarah is organising at her home university entitled “Matters of the Mind: Psychology and Language Learning”. Within the conference, we will be promoting this book and there will also be a symposium on the self in SLA run by Sarah and involving several contributors to the collection. So, plenty to keep us busy!
Finally, you have chosen an unusual piece of artwork for the cover – can you tell us a bit more about the artist and why you thought it relevant?
Marion: For some time I have been an admirer of the works of Desmond Morris, the UK’s renowned surrealist, with their strong colours and powerful images. I have attended his exhibitions in Oxford and talked to him about his work. When it came to choosing an image for our cover, I had the idea of asking this great artist if we could use one of his paintings as many of the themes link to psychology – indeed, he generously allowed us to use one of his paintings for our previous book. When I approached him again in respect to this book on the self in SLA, to my surprise and delight, he agreed again. We think the image makes a fantastic cover and we’re thrilled with it.