If you ever are asked to write a book chapter, think about your answer long and hard. When your boss tells you to contribute to a chapter, that’s one thing – you do it. But, if somebody else asks you to do it, realize that writing a book chapter will take up a lot of your time, and it may or may not turn out how you expect. My first experience writing a book chapter left me reconsidering the merits and benefits of writing it to begin with. Of course, my old boss told me to write it, so I did.
The book itself is a neat concept, as most book ideas are. The title of the book is Ecosystems and Biodiversity of the Arabian Gulf – Saudi Arabian Waters: 50 Years of Marine Research and it highlights the contributions to the study of the Arabian Gulf system by the Center for Environment and Water at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Parts of it are great, but parts of it are not.
I contributed to two chapters, one that’s not great and another that’s fine.
The two chapters are on Plankton and the Pelagic Environment of the Arabian Gulf.
Here’s the deal. Publishing a book means deadlines. Hard deadlines. Deadlines based on the publisher’s needs and when they can slot printing your book into their schedule. When you are given a deadline by a book publisher, you kinda have to stick to it, or else your chapter may not be published at all. It’ll just get cut by the editor. Deadlines have to be met or else. A rush to meet a deadline on this book put us in a pickle.
I was a co-author on the Plankton chapter. I wrote the section focused on zooplankton and ichthyoplankton and let co-authors handle the portions on nutrients, environmental conditions, phytoplankton, and primary production. The sections that I wrote were thin and needed some extra details to make it better. I knew I needed to rework those sections, and I was hoping that the lead author would give me some pointers. Or, I was hoping to see what the other sections looked like so I knew what direction to take. The problem was that we got hit with a deadline – finish up by the end of the week! Almost everything I wrote was re-written at the last minute by someone else. The Zooplankton section of that chapter still retained some of my text to the point where I recognized a few sentences I wrote. Two or three of those words are mine, yay! The Ichthyoplankton sections was completely redone by someone other than me. That’s why the Ichthyoplankton section is wholly about shrimp. Shrimp are not ichthyoplankton. Ichthyoplankton includes fish eggs and fish larvae, but not shrimp. All the material I wrote about fish larvae in the Arabian Gulf got tossed out, for reasons that are still unclear. I still don’t know if or where my Ichthyoplankton section wound up. Probably, it just got deleted.
The second chapter went better, but the finished product still had some issues because of the rush to make the deadline. I was the lead author on the Pelagic Environment chapter. It was on me to deliver a final product that was solid if not spectacular. There were a few things we wanted to do to flesh out the final product, and, regrettably, we did not have much time to proofread everything. The end result is a book chapter that is short and has a few errors. It’s better than the Plankton chapter, but it still isn’t what I hoped it would be.
Ultimately, I think both chapters contain some good information and are decent enough primers for people interested in the Arabian Gulf, but they turned out quite messy. I refer to some of the chapters in the book, particularly those dealing with the Physical Environment of the Arabian Gulf (with “Physical” written as “Phisical” in the Table of Contents) and some of the fauna chapters, because they contain some good information. The real benefit of the book is the references, which are comprehensive and a good source of primary literature on the Arabian Gulf. If you want a basic overview of the Gulf, the book has some use, but, if you want accuracy and detail, use the references cited within the book to find the good stuff.
I will not say no out of hand to writing another book chapter. I will consider it. But, I will need to be very clear with the editor and/or lead chapter author on expectations and deadlines before I commit. I recommend that you do the same if anyone asks you to work on a book chapter.