Sussex Research Hive Scholars invited Professor David Berry, as part of Academic Book Week at Sussex (#AcBookWeek), to talk to doctoral researchers about the ‘ins and outs’ of booksprints. Below I have summarised the main questions that came up in this fascinating talk.
What is a book sprint?
In a nutshell, a booksprint is collaborative writing that is ‘timeboxed, fun, and high stress’ according to David Berry, who has been involved in a number of these events. Essentially, it aims to get a piece of writing (e.g. monograph, manifesto, manual, ebook) completed or close to completion in a number of days so that it is basically ready for publication.
Image of David Berry (1): Tom Ottway 2017
How long does it take?
A minimum of three days, but ideally four to five very intensive days of working 9 am. to well in to the evening, often 11 pm. Five days is an absolute maximum (it’s too intense to do more), and three days the minimum.
How many people take part in a booksprint?
A minimum of five, and ideally five to eight people. One of these must be a facilitator.It is also good to have someone on board who can cover the design; ‘look and feel’ aspects of the book as well.
What does the facilitator do?
There are number of do’s and don’ts.The facilitator does not write on the project. They are responsible for motivating, organising everyone and keeping them on track. They must remain outside of the writing itself so that they have academic distance. If communication breaks down or differences occur for any reason, the facilitator must use all their skills to smooth things over.
What is the best environment for putting on a booksprint?
A large, comfortable room, with break-out spaces. It must be possible to have food and drink in the room, so the writers can be fed and watered so they can continue writing. Ideally there should be an outside space as well.
Image of David Berry (2): Tom Ottway 2017
What format should the writing be done in?
This is a very important point. There is specialist software for doing booksprints, such as Booktype. At the end of the booksprint you can literally press ‘publish’ or even print the book on demand.
What are the basic phases of a book sprint?
- Concept mapping: developing of themes, concepts, ideas (all lots of fun) Need large board, unfettered…post it notes. This reveals other people’s position and theoretical backgrounds. At least a day and a half is need for this.
- Structuring- this is very quick.
- Writing: everyone has to pick up a section (if no one wants to do the section delete it!). While you write a section, it’s yours. Once you stop, it’s everyone’s. You drop it if you can’t write on it anymore.
- Composition/editing: working on raw material.
Are booksprints a suitable format for doctoral researchers?
We certainly think so! Watch this space as the Research Hive Scholars aim to put on and participate in our very own Hive Booksprint event in the next couple of months, probably on the topic of ‘Home’, taking a broad interdisciplinary approach. If you are interested in being involved in this, please get in touch with us via the blog or twitter, or in person in the Hive itself.
How can I find out more about booksprints?
Follow the link below, which provides an audio recording of the entire talk and questions and answer session which followed, edited and produced by Tom Ottway 2017.
Our thanks to David Berry for his kind and passionate involvement in this:
Keywords: booksprint, facilitator, booktype, publication, Slack, introduction, David Berry
Tom Ottway is Research Hive Scholar and lecturer, and is doing his PhD Sonic Home & Homelands in Creative Practice in the School of Media, Film & Music.