Publishing with a purpose

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Case study: Getting By by Lisa Mckenzie

Despite calling myself a public sociologist and willingly speaking at public events from the Oxford Union, the European Union to community centres in the middle of council estates and everywhere in between all over the UK, Europe and the US about my work and my activism, I find publishing very difficult.

I would rather stand in a room of a friendly or a hostile audience where I can defend my words directly. Publishing is a totally different matter. Once your words are published you have no control over how they are interpreted, or received. This can be daunting, and a matter I worry quite deeply about.

When you write about difficult subjects, and vulnerable people the constant fear is that you harm those people with your words, or you misrepresent them, or you skate over that difficult subject because you anticipate the difficult debates that will come out of it. Academia can be the greatest space there is to critique the social world, it can bring together those who have exciting and daring ideas it can also be the worst, like every other part of society it is filled with prejudices, hierarchies, value judgments egos, and career trajectories that can stifle debate.


"...it has inspired other working class people to tell their stories, and more importantly they recognise that their own thoughts about their communities are relevant."


I chose Policy Press as my publisher because they fitted my methods of speaking to a wider audience that includes the academic audience, but more importantly for me that is accessible to students and those that are not involved in higher education. In truth it has been Policy Press that chose me, the team seemed to know what kind of writer I was before I did.

My book Getting By was shockingly, for me, a success in that it is being read by people from every part of society. Some of the comments I have had about my book, is that it has inspired other working class people to tell their stories, and more importantly they recognise that their own thoughts about their communities are relevant. Other working class people have told me that they recognise their own communities in the book, and have started to think about the problems but more importantly the positives differently.


"I want to challenge academia, publishing and the research community in how we use words, film, sound and image to inspire and accelerate debate."


My new book is about 'class cleansing' in London, the process of working class people being systematically removed from the capital city because they are not valued in terms of their economic resources but more importantly they are not culturally valued, instead viewed as problems to the city rather than the best part of a space that is exciting, interesting, open and creative. As an ethnographer I feel that Policy Press is a home for my work and I anticipate and hope my future projects will also be with Policy Press.

I want to challenge academia, publishing and the research community in how we use words, film, sound and image to inspire and accelerate debate."

Getting By was published by Policy Press in 2015, and you can buy it here

We don't just want people to read our content but to really engage with it – intellectually, emotionally and practically. We can advise you on maximising impact to the intended audience right from your initial inquiry or submission through the complete life of the publication.


Photograph by Peter Marshall (mylondondiary.co.uk)