In June 2018, I had my first monograph published, Negotiating Nursing: British Army Sisters and Soldiers in the Second World War (Manchester University Press). Some of you will already have published your first book, but for those of you who are considering it, here are some thoughts. It has been a labour of love and not-love.
Strangely perhaps the most difficult part was the proposal. Having not produced a monograph before, I was not sure of the level required and had not clearly identified in my own mind the thesis or ‘hook’ of the book. My first thought would be therefore to spend time thinking about the research question/hypothesis very carefully first. Having a clear thought as to what it is you want your audience to know before you write means that the proposal should be far more coherent and hopefully therefore needing fewer iterations. I was amazed at the level of detail required. It is almost as if the book needs to be written in your head before you write the proposal. You certainly need to have considered the structure and the publishers will probably want a couple of chapters to send to the reviewers. For those of you who are basing your book on your PhDs, this may all be a bit easier – though take care over rules related to how close the book can be to your thesis.
A very dear friend and colleague recommended coloured folders, one for each chapter. Some of you are perhaps more technical than this and will have your folders in the computer, but I found that the process of putting pen to paper and then clearly defining what should go in which chapter and therefore folder helpful. Also, coloured folders brightened up my office…. Do make sure you have a critical friend. Another work colleague was having a family holiday and offered to read it then – yes, I was slightly surprised too, but she seemed happy to help. Her advice was useful, especially as she wasn’t a historian, but a nurse. She therefore asked questions that perhaps I hadn’t considered. When the book came out a few weeks ago, it was a marvellous feeling. The finished piece looked so beautiful and although as a hardback it is rather expensive, it does make one consider its permanence.
The history of nursing is so diverse and offers a window, not only into the lives of our predecessors, but also the people they nurse, the communities they inhabit and the work they perform. So please, consider publishing your work as a book. Whether you go for an academic and formal text, or a more readable work for the wider public, it is a valuable and worthwhile endeavour and one that will only expand our discipline.