Roughly one year after the publication of my MA thesis as a book, I received in the mail a special package, containing the first peer-reviewed and fully-recognized publication of academic relevance I have ever written. This one sounds more like the first real step into the academic world.
The book, although cherished by parents, relatives, and friends, was crafted by me, with the dear help of my mentor and my partner. The paper published by European Perspectives weeks ago was the outcome of my first international conference as a protagonist and the first peer-review process. One question keeps me confused: what should authors do to emerge from the crowd and make their voices heard in the midst of a world where publishing (and self-publishing) has become easier and easier?
My youngest cousin was born on 11/11/2011. The doctors planned the date for the cesarean section for that unique day. However, I was already set to go to London for my first international conference as a speaker, the presentation ready and a first draft of the paper completed. I was disappointed to miss such a happy family event, but everybody had a full understanding as I was going to set a milestone as well. Small, lively, and intense, the One-Day Energy Workshop organized by Diana Bozhilova and Tom Hashimoto was a great success and featured young scholars from all over the world. Two emerging experts in energy politics, Diana and Tom arranged everything to be smooth and effective at the Bulgarian Embassy where the meeting was held. From the final applause onwards, we knew we had to work hard to finish our work, include the suggestions received, and send it to an academic journal. The plural used for the following part relates to the fact that this publication was co-authored with colleague, friend, and dreamer Elvira Oliva. November passed and the January deadline approached. Rushing through our many occupations (Elvira actually has a structured, real one!), we send in the paper, get a very thorough peer-review, and edit it accordingly. Finally, the paper is ready, shifted to another journal, and published. Granted, we could have done a better job with the graphs and with some of the content, but this effort, which lasted almost one year, generated our best achievement so far.
The process of academic publication is fairly long. You have to make sure your writing is impeccable, clear, and inequivocal. You have to take care of style, subdivision, quoting and referencing, and spelling rules. Once this process is complete – and of course, the content must be outstanding, original, and intriguing – you get slashed on something you had not previously taken into consideration. Ah, the beauty of many eyes and brains! Collectively, the whole work is perfected and solidified. Freshly out of the printer and freshly linked online, this paper conveyed the sensation of being a delicious cookie.
Back and Front of the European Perspectives journal
On another note, I just received the yearly statement for my book which has sold eleven copies. Not enough for generating royalty payments (I would have needed at least double the amount), but enough for boosting my morale even further about the recognition of my efforts. Eleven brave individuals have emptied their Amazon cart with my – rather expensive, unfortunately – book in it. Soon, after I complete my editing and I add a section on China, Russia, and Central Asian energy, I will be able to publish it for free on the website of the research center I am working with (PECOB). Free means more access and more opportunities for intellectual dialogue. As I complete my first year of relationship with my publisher, I would not repeat the experience if I were to publish another book. Mainly because the book was placed at a very high cost on the market and, although not asking for anything in return, the publisher gave me back less than I had dreamt of. [Incidentally, I think the book would have sold way more copies were it put at 1/4 of its current cost. Probably more than 4 times as much copies would have been sold. Making still zero returns for me, probably higher profits for the publisher, but chiefly, making the book available to more readers! – Here I am teaching marketing…]
The question, the main puzzle keeps standing. How should academic publications be advertised, promoted? I go around on Facebook, Google, Academia.edu, Twitter, and other social media, I published several articles online which linked to my work. I started a blog also with the purpose of promoting my writings. I received a few rewarding reviews that allowed me to improve my understanding of my own work and my mistakes in it. However, I feel that the work of this young researcher has been left out from some circles in which I was eager to participate. What sould I have done? What should I do in the future? Carpet-bomb academics, libraries, and journalists with emails about the new cookie? Have promotional events (although I hate “events” and that would accrue a significant cost and therefore push me towards the need of sales)? Circulate free copies of the manuscript? I did a mix of all of the above, minus the event, and I would like my eclectic audience to suggest what marketing strategies should I have undertaken and how much “poking around” is enough.