As I look forward to all the new projects and possibilities that 2018 holds, one of the big things that I plan to commit myself to this year is the book proposal. I’ve given it more than a year to incubate. After conferencing more pieces of it, sharing the idea with colleague-friends, and finding success and positive feedback in those venues and publication, I’m going to reconceive the thesis into a monograph.
In the few weeks of calm between the end of term and the break for actual merry-making with family in Idaho, I’ve repeated what I did for the job market process: read and researched. If I am good at anything, it is finding, collating, analyzing, and synthesizing data about words and writing processes. While there are indeed whole books on the subject, there seems to be a great deal of good advice, samples, templates, and personal narratives from the trenches on the Internet broadly.
Therefore, this month I give you a synthesized list of the blogs and websites I found instructive in this process, as well as other resources to support any research you may be doing on how this whole book proposing process works. The one thing nearly all of them fail to mention is the annual AAUP Subject Area Grid and Directory, indicating the subject ares in which each member press has a strong interest.
I found that the sustained blog series were the most helpful in illuminated the steps of the process, as well as the pay-offs of doing particular elements early in the process.
Patter: Research Education, Academic Writing, Public Engagement, Funding, Other Eccentricities (Pat Thomson)
I have always found Thomson’s writing advice to be very reliable, and recommend her Twitter presence: @ThomsonPat.
- “Picking the Right Publisher for Your Book,” 15 Oct. 2011.
- “Can I Get a Book from My PhD?” 22 Oct. 2011.
- “Never Write a Book without a Publishing Contract,” 6 Nov. 2011.
- “Where to Start on Writing a Book Proposal,” 2 Dec. 2011.
- “Be Conference Savvy and Land a Book Contract,” 7 May 2012.
- “Turning Your Thesis into a Book,” 23 Nov. 2013.
Cambridge Core (John Haslam)
Haslam’s inside view from a press that specializes in my field was particularly useful in understanding how a prestige academic press operates. This venue is affiliated with Cambridge University Press.
- “How to Get Your Book Published by CUP, Part 1,” 14 Mar. 2013.
- “How to Get Your Book Published by CUP, Part 2,” 21 Mar. 2013.
- “How to Get Your Book Published by CUP, Part 3.” 28 Mar. 2013.
Additional thoughts from academic presses and their editors
Getting a sense of editors concerns intellectually and economically was very humanizing, helping me to understand the kind of personality I would be a team player with on the book project.
>> Blain, Keisha N. “On Writing the Book Proposal: An Interview with Dawn Durante.” Black Perspectives: Blog of the African American Intellectual History Society, 20 Mar. 2017.
>> Weidemann, Jason. “What Do University Presses Do?” University of Minnesota Press Blog, 13 Mar. 2013.
>> Miller, Allison. “Townhouse Notes: Writing, Copyediting, and Your First Book.” Perspectives on History: The newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, Dec. 2017.
>> McGill-Queen’s University Press. “Manuscripts Based on Dissertations.”
>>Palgrave Macmillan. “Book Proposal Guidelines.” Early Career Researcher Hub.
MethodSpace (Janet Salmons)
While Janet provides advice and resources on book proposing, they are targeted toward the sub-genre of the edited collection of essays. This venue is also affiliated with SAGE Publishing.
>> “Propose a Book,” 29 Nov. 2017.
>> “Envisioning an Edited Book,” 31 July 2017.
>> “Proposing an Edited Book,” 23 Aug. 2017.
>> “Plan and Publish an Edited Book,” 29 Nov. 2017.
The Professor Is In (Karen Kelsky)
Quickly becoming the patron saint for those of us who do/did not have the institutional support and/or financial resources to receive substantive coaching in employment documents, Kelsky is pragmatic in her advice.
- “How To Write A Book Proposal,” 2 July 2015.
- “My Top Five Tips for Turning Your Dissertation Into a Book–A Special Request Post,” 26 Feb. 2016.
- “Should I Send Out a Book Proposal Before the Manuscript Is Completely Finished?” 21 June 2012.
PhD2Published (Astrid Bracke)
A rare glimpse into the 2+ years process of developing a book from the field of literary studies.
- “Should You Turn Your Dissertation into a Book?” 3 Sept. 2014.
- “Writing a Book Proposal Part I – Structure & Significance,” 10 Sept. 2014.
- “Writing a Book Proposal Part II – the Market Section & Avoiding Dissertation,” 18 Sept. 2014.
- “Deciding on a Publisher for Your Book,” 2 Oct. 2014.
- “Writing a Book – When Life Gets in the Way,” 24 Nov. 2016.
- “Writing a Book, from Start to Finish Part I,” 10 Nov. 2016.
- “Writing a Book, from Start to Finish Part II,” 17 Nov. 2016.
Additional thoughts from authors about their process and experience:
Again, nothing really beats these first-person perspectives, whether they are in or out of your field. These vary.
>> Golash-Boza, Tanya. “How to Write a Book Proposal for an Academic Press.” Get a Life, PhD: Succeed in Academia and Have a Life Too, 22 Mar. 2011.
>> Portwood-Stacer, Laura. “7 Mistakes I Made When I Published My Academic Book.” Medium, 25 Feb. 2016.
>> Mathieson, Charlotte. “How to Get Published as an #ECR.” Stylish Academic, 3 Mar. 2016.
>> Tolley, Erin. “I Wrote a Book: Here Are 600 Words About That.” Praxis : The CPSA Career Blog, 29 Aug. 2017.
>> van der Heijden, Jeroen. “The Journey of My CUP Book.” Urbana Sustainability & Resilience: A Blog about Governance, 12 Aug. 2016.
>> Varnam, Laura. “The Monograph: Thoughts and Reflections.” Professional website, 20 Sept. 2017.
>> Lehmann, Shaun, Katherine Firth, and Inger Mewburn. 2018. “How to Make an Index for Your Book or Dissertation.” The Thesis Whisperer. April 10, 2018.
General Academic Journalism
The “academic genre think-piece” is now a thing in journalism, so I expect we will see a great many more of these. Note that before 2016 there were only a handful of posts on the book proposal; in 2016 there were 7 new; in 2017 there were 8.
- Jackson, Gerald. “What Do Publishers Want?” Getting Published: Comments and Advice for Academic Authors, 25 Sept. 2009.
- Toor, Rachel. “The Reality of Writing a Good Book Proposal.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 2013.
- Flores, Lori. “Writing a Book Proposal.” Chronicle Vitae, 24 Jan. 2017.
- Whitaker, Manya. “Crafting a Convincing Book Proposal.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 March 2018.
- Salter, Anastasia. “5 Tips for Would-Be Academic Book Authors.” ProfHacker: Teaching, Tech, and Productivity (blog), April 12, 2018.
No doubt there are a great many more of these out there, especially with the rise of professional academic coaching firms.
- January 25, 2018 (free): “Publishing Your Dissertation Research” (ACW: Academic Coaching & Writing).
- February 27, 2018 (free): “Crafting an Academic Book Proposal” (IOF: Ideas on Fire).
- Recorded (free): “How to Get Your Book Published” (Elsevier Publishing Campus).
Anything particularly illustrative for the academic book market I’m missing here? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Best of luck in your book proposal composing!
Updated April 13, 2018.