Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On Writing and Editing Books

This is my first blogpost of the New 2016 Year.

I thought it fitting to write about an activity that I have been engaged in both last year and this year and that has also obsessed me ever since I wrote my first book - Network Economics: A Variational Inequality Approach, which was published by Kluwer (now Springer) in 1993, and the second edition of which appeared in 1999.

This blogspot is about writing and editing books.

I was also inspired by an article in The New York Times, "Bill Gates: Billionaire Book Critic," which highlighted what a voracious reader Bill Gates is, who reads books on quite technical and scientific topics, and then comments on them (he only blogs about books that he enjoys) on his blog: Gates Notes. Of course, books mentioned on his blog experience what is known as  "Gate's Bump" in terms of sales - reminiscences of Oprah Winfrey's effects on book sales of a while back.

This past year, I was very busy writing the book, Competing on Supply Chain Quality: A Network Economics Perspective, with Dong Li, which will be out within the next month. The book is being published by Springer International Publishing Switzerland. The book is the second volume in the new Springer Series on Supply Chain Management.  The editor of this book series is Distinguished University  Professor Christopher S. Tang of UCLA's Anderson School of Management. My co-author, who is an Isenberg 2015 PhD alumna, and is now an Assistant Professor of Supply Chain / Operations Management at Arkansas State University, and I are very excited about the book's upcoming publication. It is 400 pages in length and represents a half decade of our collaborative research. There will also be an ebook version available.

Writing books (all of my books, thus far, have been nonfiction, since they are scientific monographs) is challenging but as Professor Dimitri Bertsekas of MIT told me years ago, and whose eminent advice I follow: "Anna, when you have 5 to 10 papers on a topic, you write a book." On December 9, 2015, I had the pleasure of giving an invited seminar at MIT, and Professor Joe Sussman of the Transportation and Logistics Center there and I had a wonderful conversation, which included the writing of our books. He noted that if you think that you are 95% finished you still have a ways to go and that is so true -- that last leg of writing a book, which involves so much checking and paying extensive attention to details, can sometimes seem the most onerous.

The Competing on Supply Chain Quality book is my twelfth book.
In the meantime, 2016 promises to be extra exciting because I am also involved in co-editing a book on Dynamics of Disasters, with Springer also as the publisher. Although I have edited books alone, in particular the Innovations in Financial and Networks, published in 2003, and the Annals of Operations Research (hardbound) volume on Advances in Equilibrium Modeling, Analysis, and Computations, published in 1993, the Dynamics of Disasters  book I am co-editing with Distinguished University Professor Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida and Professor Ilias Kotsireas of Wilfrid Laurier University. The volume is based on refereed papers submitted and presented at the conference on the same theme that we organized and which took place last summer in Kalamata, Greece with additional invited papers from experts in the field.

In editing a book, selecting good referees is important and the reports need to be done in a timely manner. At the same time, one wants to make sure that there is both breadth and depth in the contributions. Authors also, hopefully, revise their papers without delay. An edited volume can bring different perspectives to a topic and I enjoy having contributors from many different countries as well as contributions, in this case, from practitioners, because of the theme of the book. Having such responsive and wonderful co-editors also makes for a very enjoyable book editing project!

When it comes to editing a book, sometimes a publisher will help out in making sure the stylefiles are consistent and, at other times, the onus is on the editor to even put the references in a consistent manner.  Some publishers help with the stylistic editing whereas others do not. Editing a book can take longer than writing one, since in writing a book, the authors have more control and the work and output only depends on them.

Three of my books were single-authored, five of my books (including the Competing on Supply Chain Quality book) had one co-author, one book had two co-authors (both females), and one book (my shortest one) had three co-authors!  And, as I mentioned before, two books I edited myself, and the forthcoming Dynamics of Disasters book, I am co-editing with two colleagues.

I hope that part of my legacy will be the books that I have written. At the very least, some of them are my most highly cited publications, so I know that there is value to them and the hard work is worth it. I especially appreciate when students from around the world thank me for writing books.

Happy New Year to my readers! Best of luck with your writing projects.