news writing

Self-Publishing For Academics, out now!

Last week I wrote to say that I had a new book out today, so here it is!


Helen and I worked hard on this for months, and the end result is a compact how-to guide on self-publishing, aimed at academics who are wondering what it’s all about and if it’s right for them. Yesterday, the awesome Research Whisperer blog published a post by us which explored how Helen and I collaborated. This morning Helen has published a blog post that we both worked on, a kind of dual Q&A where we explore the whys and hows of self-publishing and this book.

We’ve been quietly hyping the book on Twitter, as shouting from the rooftops is not quite our thing: still, it was great to wake up this morning to find that our book had made it’s way to the Number One spot in the College & University chart of the UK Kindle Store!


Self-Publishing For Academics is available now from the Amazon Kindle Store! It’ll be available from other e-book distributors soon, and I’ll update this post with a list of links as and when those links go live. Check out the Research Whisperer post and Helen’s blog for more details. I’m really proud of what Helen and I have produced in such a short space of time, and I hope you check it out and find it really useful too.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Announcing: Self-Publishing For Academics, new e-book!


It’s been a few months since I last wrote, but that’s all for a good reason: I’ve been working hard on several things, but in particular on Self-Publishing For Academics, a new e-book that I’ve been writing with Helen Kara. Helen is an indie researcher, I’m an indie skills trainer and we’ve both self-published books before. Helen got in touch with me at the end of last year with an idea, which has now become:

We wanted to write something to help others in academia figure out how to self-publish something that’s important to them, like I have with my viva books and Helen is doing with her series. We each had different experiences and ideas for how to get it done, and by joining forces we were able to write this pretty effectively and get a lot done in a relatively short space of time (we had our first Skype meeting to throw some ideas around in mid-January!).

In Self-Publishing For Academics, aspiring self-publishers can explore the practical realities of making an e-book, find the perils and pitfalls that can trip you up, and learn about some of the great ways to make progress. We can’t teach you how to write something awesome, but this book can help you get your own amazing writing out there and in front of others.

Self-Publishing For Academics is due to launch next Wednesday, May 18th 2016, and we’ll be tweeting and sharing it widely on that day. We would love it if you could help us tell others about it. Tweet, share it on Facebook, email your friend who has always been talking about self-publishing something – and email us if you have any questions about it. You can email me here and look for Helen’s contact details here.

Thanks for reading this post – Helen and I are really pleased with how this project has turned out, and hope that it’s a great help to academics who want to self-publish.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Here I Am!

February already?

The run up to Christmas and the New Year was busy in our house, and then it was straight back into work. Except that work was not the way that it is regularly. I’m trying to add to my business, or rather my outputs, by being a publisher of role-playing games and materials. Unpacking that is a post for another day, but I found myself working on that business a lot in the quiet days of January – when universities are less likely to hire a skills trainer for workshops and the like – but also feeling secretly like that was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

I earn a living and support my family by doing workshops (and sometimes selling books!), not from games. It felt wrong to spend my time on those things. And yet I wanted to be working on making zines, developing games, commissioning artwork and laying out text. So what was wrong?

quick thought writing

Comma Chameleon

I can’t spot my grammar mistakes until long after I’ve made them. Despite taking time and not just dashing out 500 words and hitting publish, I often find bad grammar in what I have created. Or, more typically, my wife spots it. The post that I did yesterday for Viva Survivors went live and I got it sent to me by email (I signed up for my own subscriber list; it helps me remember what’s going on when I’m busy). I scanned it quickly, thinking Yes, another post out there, another connection with- Wait what’s that comma doing there?

They blend in. The commas and the semi-colons lurk in among the words. They make sense in my head. I use them to create pauses or to moderate how I speak – which is how I write to an extent, sort of conversational-like. But it does mean that I risk creating confusion. I want my writing to be conversational, fun, informative, challenging – but not challenging because people are really working to parse things. I think my biggest problem with writing is my own self-belief in what I am doing, a kind of sabotaging impostor syndrome. Not too far behind that is missing the commas, the parentheses and the exclamation marks that just creep in the background.

I wonder what I can do about that. I want to read something about good grammar – which I think I know on some level, but don’t apply consistently – but maybe reading and trying to apply something isn’t enough. Does anyone out there have any suggestions for me? Have you built up good written grammar, and if so, how did you do it?

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

creative thinking work writing

Under Pressure

I stopped work on a planned series of books in the summertime because it no longer felt like fun. I felt pressured.

What a wimp! I hear you cry, and you’re kind of right. If everyone stopped everything because there was a bit of pressure then we wouldn’t get anywhere at all. But nevertheless, it stopped being fun as a project to work on, and so I stopped working on it.

Pressure is by no means a bad thing: it’s just a thing, and things are used for good or bad, for great things or poor ends. With a bit of reflection, I realised recently that the problem with the situation – and the books – was me. We’re not surprised by that Nathan, I hear you mutter, and neither am I, but I forget from time to time that I am my own worst enemy, and that that enemy is a saboteur by nature.

On this occasion, the enemy was supplying bad pressure:

  • The last book wasn’t that good, this one will be even worse.
  • You’re not like those other writers, you know, the good ones.
  • You need this book to be good. You need it to be loved.

With pressure like that, the end could only come in one of two ways: a book which I was never happy with, or an abandoned project. I think, on this occasion, that I chose correctly.

quick thought

Isn’t A Blog Supposed To Have Writing And Stuff?


A combination of things have meant that I’ve not been maintaining this space as regularly as I have in the past. Mostly due to focusing on other projects and getting things in order for the rest of this year. The kind of work that I do can have a certain seasonality to it, and my diary is pretty jam-packed for the next six or seven weeks.

I do plan to post something once per week or so from now on, but the topics will be quite wide for now. While I decided to stop a writing project that I had been working on (which might be the subject of a blog post of its own), I have not stopped writing. At the moment the ideas are fermenting away: at a certain point this mixture of thoughts will explode I’m sure, and I’ll be on my way towards my third book!

Until then, take a look back through the archives, get ready as the 50th episode of the Viva Survivors Podcast is coming soon, and I’ll be back soon with weekly posts.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

quick thought

Seven Years

I often think about my PhD as being one of the defining things that I’ve done with my life (thus far). It was a huge deal, doing research in that field, and I know that it’s something that has set me up for the rest of my life – good or bad!

But it was actually a long time ago now. For me, perhaps because of the kind of work that I do, it feels like it was much more recent, but I woke up today and realised that I’ve been in business for seven years now.

Twice as long as my PhD.

Like my PhD, it’s not what I thought it would be at the start, I’ve learned a whole lot of things that I never would have imagined. I break my working life up into smaller projects, but unlike the PhD I have no deadline for when this job will be done. It’s changed (most recently, the business became a partnership between me and my wife), and it will continue to change.

I love what I do. I grew into this job, thinking “I wonder…” and where I am now is completely different from where I was at the beginning. That’s no bad thing. I wonder what I’ll do next… Any ideas?

If you have been, thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Summer Experiments Revisited

Just over two months ago I wrote a post where I talked about my plans for the summer. I would be blogging less, and on different things, and I’d be doing that because I had a writing project that I was super keen on! I was going to change the world! I was young, the world was good and nothing was going to get in my way!


Well, what actually happened was I went on holiday for a week, came back, looked at what I was writing and fell head over heels out of love with it. I thought that the writing itself was alright, but I wasn’t sold on the overall project any more. It didn’t sing to me. And similarly for the alternative blogging that I was thinking of doing on here, I just didn’t have the heart for it any more. I liked the concept, but wasn’t sure about where the execution of it was going. I guess, maybe it didn’t need to be going anywhere in particular, but still I just wasn’t feeling it.

So I did something completely different: I started a role-playing game business.


On YouTube: Preparing for the PhD Viva

In the last post I talked about going down to London for the day in order to meet Emma Cole and film a video for her vlog. We chatted for the best part of an hour, and now Emma has edited it down to the best bits. You can follow this link to watch it on YouTube, or click below the more tag to see where I’ve embedded it.

It was lots of fun to make this, and I know that in the few days that it’s been up so far a lot of people have already seen it, which is great. If you watch it and you have some questions or comments then get in touch – and be sure to drop Emma a comment or thumbs up on her channel!

quick thought work

A Trip To London

Last Thursday I went down to London for the day. It wasn’t for sightseeing – thank goodness as the Tube was on strike – but to see Emma Cole who does the PhD Vlog, and chat with her about viva prep and other related things!

It was great to meet up with Emma after watching the final month of her PhD (leading up to submission) and after chatting with her via Twitter for a little while. I don’t want to say too much more about the trip, as the main output of it isn’t finished yet: Emma and I filmed a video for her vlog about the viva and viva prep!