The journey of a medical book – from concept to completion….

Book Binding

Weekend Book Binding. Photo: Nate Steiner. Used under CreativeCommons.

Since our book has been published, colleagues, friends and family have been intrigued as to our journey to publication. For us, it is immensely satisfying to see, and feel, the final product. It is also a good time for us to reflect on how we got here…


As with many of these things, the book’s concept was spawned during a chance conversation between operating theatre lists. We were colleagues at a busy DGH and in the midst of our FRCA exams – Ned lining up for the primary written, and Marc for the final written. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ Ned mused, ‘if there was one book where all the equations for the exams were collated, explained and made sense of’. A quick Google search revealed no such texts, and thus we returned to our revision relying on the time-honoured tradition of thumbing through dog-eared text books and trusting our sage superiors’ tuition. This initial conversation had however planted somewhat of a seed for an idea and following a quick straw poll of our colleagues, we surmised that equations were one of the aspects that really exorcised FRCA candidates.


The next stage was to articulate our thoughts, and we decided that the best way to do this was to use a publisher’s guidelines. Having both used, and been thoroughly impressed with Cross & Plunketts’ Physics, Pharmacology and Physiology for Anaesthetists, we approached Cambridge University Press (CUP) with the opinion that our text could be a natural bed-fellow to said text.

Having browsed the FRCA curriculum, and documented every equation we came across in our revision texts, we collated the list of all the equations encountered, wrote a number of example chapters, and submitted our book proposal to CUP. A swift and very positive peer review ensued, and we were delighted, though somewhat surprised to have our idea accepted.

One important caveat had been proposed, the suggestion that we used a well-established senior colleague to both edit the text, and mentor us through the writing stages. One such colleague independently sprung to both our minds, Dr Wynne Davies. Having both worked under Wynne’s clinical guidance, his immense knowledge and ever enthusiastic willingness to teach made him the ideal candidate. This was bolstered further as Wynne had also previously been an examiner for the Royal College of Anaesthetists, such that he was ideally placed to provide ideas and opinions from ‘the other side of the table’. Thankfully he accepted, and we are both extremely grateful for all the hard work, mentorship and friendship that he has provided us with over the months of writing.


With the proposal accepted and contracts signed, the hard work started. The submission deadline clock had started ticking, with completion some 18 months away. Our approach to writing was to do quasi peer-review. Together we formatted a page template, decided on the format of each chapter, and subsequently divided the topics and started writing. Dropbox (other internet clouds are available) was used to store the drafted pages, thus enabling the other author (Marc for Ned, Ned for Marc) to review and edit each person’s initial endeavours. Following the undertaking of these preliminary corrections, Wynne edited each page in turn, before once again returning each to us for universal approval.

Ensuring accuracy was a top priority, as was making the book readable, relevant and clear. Arguably the most time consuming part of writing was providing the applications of each equation to clinical practice. However, this, apart from having all the equations necessary for the examinations in one place, is what we feel that the USP of our book is. Knowing the equations is one thing; understanding them and being able to derive them another. Being able to apply the equations to medical and anaesthetic practice is vital in order to negotiate the examinations, particular the oral ones, and also arguably to stay sane whilst revising and questioning the need to learn and memorise some rather obtuse concepts.

Once the text was prepared and bounced between us until we were happy with it, we sent it to Cambridge University Press for proof-reading and type-setting. It was fascinating to be involved in these processes and again, an eye for detail was mandatory. We also had our non-anaesthetist partners look over it which was invaluable.

At last the text was ready and we waited in anticipation for the final product: it was a great feeling of satisfaction when it fell through the letterbox and made all the hard work worthwhile.


Whilst neither of us were deluded enough to think that writing a book would be easy, one should certainly not underestimate the amount of time, effort and sacrifice required. Writing, reading, editing and re-revising comments was somewhat time consuming, especially alongside a PhD (Ned), and HEMS & NHS England Fellowship (Marc).

Moving forwards, we eagerly await peoples’ feedback. Undoubtedly as medicine and anaesthetics progresses, there will be corrections and clarifications required in future editions. We very much hope that readers will enjoy it and find it useful and we would welcome any comments and feedback.

In the book, we have tried hard, and hopefully succeeded in the majority of cases to tick all the boxes which will give readers a head start, whether they are preparing for the examinations themselves, helping others to do so, or even, dare we say it, examining!

Top tips amassed from 18 months of toil…

  1. Know your audience and write for them, not you.
  2. Choose a mentor that you trust and can reply on.
  3. Know your market and spot the gaps. They may be very obvious such that one assumes someone else has already filled them.
  4. Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved, and ensure that your nearest and dearest are supportive of your project!
  5. Detail, detail, detail…edit, edit, edit.

Dr Marc Wittenberg and Dr Edward Gilbert-Kawai are co-authors of Essential Equations for Anaesthesia (out now).

Essential Equations for Anaesthesia



Designing a cover for your book

Our marketing and editorial teams explain how Cambridge Medicine covers are designed, how and when authors and editors should contribute to this process, and what we think makes a particularly good front cover.

What makes a good cover

A good cover design should be relevant to the content of the book, and should be striking and eye-catching, to attract the interest of potential readers. It needs to stand out and be recognisable as a thumbnail on our website and others such as Amazon, so a single, clear image is best with large typography. Covers with pale backgrounds often get lost on websites, so unless there’s a specific reason to have one, it’s worth bearing this in mind.

For many of our books, we prefer to use just one, large, eye-catching image. However, some of our books cover a number of different topics and for these it can be better to use a range of images, to convey the breadth of the book’s content. For example, for some of our radiology books we try to select a few images to convey the range of imaging modalities covered in the book. Sometimes a book is part of a series, in which case the cover may have to conform to a series design which provides a common style or layout for all the covers in that series. Read more of this post

Cambridge University Press takes a leap into the digital age

Blog Post by Nisha Doshi, Editorial, Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press, the oldest Press in the world, has recently launched a new platform for its eBooks that gives researchers and academics all over the world access to over 7,000 academic and professional books electronically.

The new eBook platform, Cambridge Books Online, has been established in response to a growing demand for digital content. Over 7,000 individual academic books are now available, with more being added every day and over 10,000 titles expected by Summer 2010. Read more of this post

The politics of science: Peer review

Blog Post by Dr. S Nassir Ghaemi, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts

“In my journal, anyone can make a fool of himself.”  (Rudolph Virchow)

Perhaps the most important thing to know about scientific publication is that the “best” scientific journals do not publish the most important articles.  This will be surprising to some readers, and probably annoying to others (often editorial members of prestigious journals).  I could be wrong; this statement reflects my personal experience and my reading of the history of medicine, but if I am correct, the implication for the average clinician is important:  it will not be enough to read the largest and most famous journals.  For new ideas, one must look elsewhere. Read more of this post

Manuscript Submission – 10 Top Tips to getting it right

Blog Post by Nisha Doshi, Editorial, Cambridge University Press

Ready to submit your manuscript to Cambridge Medicine? Thought you’d finally got the book off your desk but opened your inbox to find a flood of queries from your editor? Here are my ten top tips for keeping your editor happy when you submit your files:

Read more of this post

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