Information and Communication Sciences Professors Steve Jones and Frank Groom recently published their twelfth book together — an edited text on artificial intelligence and machine learning. However this book, like three other books prior to that one, comes with a twist; the authors of the chapters are alumni from the Center for Information and Communication Sciences at Ball State University (CICS) and experts in various segments of information and communication technology (ICT) industry. Additionally, publication royalties are donated to the CICS Foundation account. In this post Dr. Jones explains how you, too, can handle alumni outreach to support your research agenda.


Step 1: Nurture your Alumni Network Long Before You Need it

I learned this from the master, Dr. Ray Steele. If you are not nurturing an alumni relationship when they are students, bringing them along for a process like this will not happen. Dr. Steele started our own alumni file more than thirty years ago. I also have one created in LinkedIn with a few hundred alumni. In industry, it’s called ‘the customer list.’ ​

We have an email list that provides our alumni with updates about the program, job opportunities (yes, we do our own career placement and networking), which provides a good reason for the them to stay connected. We also make sure to let them know while they are in our program that none of the extra-curricular activities CICS is hosting could be made possible without the generosity of alumni. Giving back is how you pay it forward.

Step 2: Identify your Emerging Topic

Flesh out an emerging or bleeding edge topic that appears to have some momentum. Such topics in communication technologies pop up every month—for example, blockchain, cybersecurity, unified communications for remote workers. This could be accomplished either by a faculty member or with a survey to your alumni to see where the current industry interests may be pointing. This may be unattainable for units that do not keep a decent relationship with their alumni base. Then narrow your topic down based on YOUR interest level to support because ultimately as the editor, you will need to spend a considerable amount of time with that content.

Step 3: Ask for Authors

When the ask happens, a brief guideline on publication parameters should be shared so the potential authors know what they are getting themselves into! I always let potential authors know that there isn’t any money in it for them. Folks believe there is a gold mine behind every book published (only for Danielle Steele or Janet Evanovich). Any royalties that I receive from co-authored/edited books are routed to the CICS Foundation account, minus taxes to my income level.

Step 4: Plan Ahead to Meet Due Dates

I only ask my alumni for one draft. After that, my graduate assistants and I step up to “clean” the work. I know what is expected from the publisher so it is less burdensome on the alum author to try and be perfect in their work. I have found it makes the process go much faster (and cleaner) this way. Major revisions where I cannot figure what the author was trying to say will result in the chapter being returned with extensive discussions over the phone to clear up the challenges.

The publisher will want all chapters with signed off permissions from the team of authors on a specific date. Depending on the complexity of the topic, I usually give alumni between 30 and 45 days to write their chapters. I also ask for the work to be done at least 45 days before the publisher’s date.

Step 5: Editing — Where the Real Work Begins for You

Once (if) all work is submitted, editing must be done. Over the years I have been blessed with a few worthy graduate assistants — they are duly recognized in the Acknowledgements of every book — who can organize chapters, images, references, and author bios exceptionally well. Along with my graduate assistants, I edit all submissions for grammar, structure, citations, and compliance to the publisher’s guidelines. There is lots of work here too as some authors forget that citations are required and just write.

Step 6: Submit to the Publisher

This starts a new dance step as the publisher (at least mine!) has a fleet of technical reviewers, content, reviewers, and copyright lawyers review the text. This may result in multiple back and forth movements of various content to meet the publisher’s criteria. Hopefully, sooner than the date the publisher established to go to press, the book is finished. I have never had a book fail to meet the publisher’s deadline…



Dr. Steve Jones is a Professor of Information and Communication Sciences at Ball State University. His industry experience is as a field engineer and owner of a telecommunications company providing voice and data solutions for business/commercial systems in the Midwest. In academe, he has published or edited numerous books and texts associated with simplifying complex communication technologies for non-engineering students to comprehend. He is actively engaged in supporting broadband technology deployments to underserved and unserved regions of the country and providing technical support for non-profit organizations with student participation. Some of the books Dr. Jones published using the alumni networking approach include:


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