Before heading out to New Orleans for the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Conference (February 13-17, 2018), Maura Roessner—Senior Editor of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Law and Society,—shares her thoughts on what authors should focus on when writing a book that makes an impact.
Think about the book that needs to be read, not just the book that you want to write.
Know your audience and write for that reader. Imagine your readers in terms of their experiences, motivations, educational or professional background, memberships, reading and writing habits. How are you going to engage them? How do you want them to think or act differently after reading your book?
And the book is obviously just one method of communicating to a particular audience. Join the conversation wherever it may be taking place: on Twitter or Facebook, op-ed pages, your regional society’s newsletter. Leverage your networks, speak and write widely, connect with your campus public relations staff—these are all strategies for accumulating visibility for your work as a whole, not just your latest book.
What are the ways that author and publishers define impact?
I love that this year’s ACJS conference theme is “So What?” It’s a question I always ask authors, not to be dismissive, but to get at solutions, which are at the heart of engaged scholarship. At UC Press, we strongly believe in the power of scholarship to achieve social transformation, and we seek to position our authors as change agents whose research can influence the ways we think and plan and govern.
There are lots of incremental and mutually reinforcing elements of “impact” beyond the traditional citation count. Authors work in a whole ecosystem of ideas brimming with countless potential amplifiers and influencers: news media coverage, blogs and social media, podcasts and Ted talks, legislative hearings…the list is endless. Last week alone our authors and books were mentioned in outlets that reached more than 60 million potential viewers, and each one of those hits can help shape public opinion or pave the way for better policies and practices around a host of issues.
Book reviews or sales might register some key indicators of impact, but they aren’t the whole story. We also think about impact across the academy (can open access business models drive awareness and usage of research monographs amid declining print sales and library budgets?) and in the classroom (can we develop a textbook that disrupts the way a class may have been taught, uncritically and unchanged, for years?).
What are some upcoming books that illustrate the real-world impact of your authors’ research?
James Garbarino’s Miller’s Children: Why Giving Teenage Killers a Second Chance Matters for All of Us takes us up close in the lives of people who have committed horrific murders while juveniles. Though sentenced to life without parole, they were granted the possibility a second chance when the Supreme Court ruled such sentences unconstitutional (Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana). Yet when Garbarino interviewed these young men written off as monsters, he discovered their extraordinary capacity for rehabilitation and redemption. Exploring the science of how young brains can be rewired for second chances, and offering an entire chapter on “Translating Hope into Law and Practice,” Garbarino clearly demonstrates how law and policy can chip away at cycles of violence.
Kathleen Fox, Jodi Lane, and Susan Turner’s Encountering Correctional Populations: A Practical Guide for Researchers promises to be a practical toolkit for academics and practitioners alike who are interested in research with people in jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities and on probation or parole. With soaring numbers of Americans caught up in the correctional system—and increasing difficulties for researchers seeking to gain access to them—it’s more important than ever to develop research that “gives voice to the voiceless.” This kind of step-by-step guide is filled with real-world examples, tips, and templates that readers can put to immediate use.
The list goes on, and we’re thrilled to count so many engaged and activist scholars on the list who relentlessly pursue a research agenda that can help to identify and eradicate social inequalities.
Meet Maura at ACJS at the Exhibit Hall, Booth 402. And see titles that Maura has acquired to help Confront the Criminal Justice Crisis as these authors and books aim to make an impact. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18 #WSC2018