One of frequently given piece of advice I’ve heard about academic publishing is to avoid book chapters. The logic is that they’re not given the same weight as a peer-review journal article, but it’s often phrased as “no one cares about book chapters” or “book chapters don’t count for anything.” While I know this to be true from my experience in academia thus far, there are reasons why you might still might consider writing a chapter for an edited volume.
Reason #1: Name Recognition
Writing for an edited volume may be important to you because it will associate your name with your subfield. For instance, a handbook is being published with the who’s who of your subfield. You might want to make sure your name is on that table of contents so that YOU are also associated with the who’s who of the subfield. While it will probably not be your most cited work, it could put you and your other publications on the radar of more senior scholars who will someday be reviewing your job application or writing you tenure letters.
Reason #2: Networking
Depending on how the book is being implemented, writing a chapter could be a networking opportunity. Some editors are able to bring together the writers for the volume for workshopping the chapters, for instance. In other cases, you might be interested in getting on the radar of the book editors themselves for future collaborations. In this case, writing the chapter is more about the connections you make through the process and impressing others with the work that you’re doing in chapter.
Reason #3: Practice
Some of you may want to pursue a book chapter as practice in the research process. One of the first publications I landed as a graduate student was a book chapter, which I chose to pursue because it was an opportunity to code interview data, analyze it, and write it up by myself. Since I had previously worked in a team-based research environment, I wanted an opportunity to practice what I would be doing in my graduate program through my MA and dissertation. Doing that for a book chapter was a low stakes opportunity to get my hands dirty and get used to not having co-authors.
Best Fit for Book Chapters
If you do decide to submit to an edited volume, make sure not to put your most exciting and interesting findings or innovative analyses into your chapter. It’s often appropriate for a book chapter to be based solely on a literature review and either descriptive statistics from a quantitative project or a single case study example from a qualitative project. Limiting what you include in the chapter to this will ensure that you still have plenty to say in your submissions to peer-review publications, so you can save your best work for more valued publications.