March Blogroll: Book Series Edition

Dear readers:

I’m lucky. I’ve never had too much trouble with “killing my darlings” when it comes to writing. I can’t stand my first drafts and am typically eager to get to revising stages.

I’m realizing that the book proposal genre is a bit of a different beast. I’ve followed what all the bloggers and books recommend: take time and get some distance. It’s been more than a year and a half since my dissertation defense and revisiting that object for a serious strip-down and re-vision. I’ve written so many query letters, fellowship and grant applications, and other documents where the narrative about this project is the cornerstone. It is language I have downright slaved-over and, what’s more, I still like it. I have a new title I like better, and I know exactly the pieces that need to be tossed, a sense of the remodeling that needs to happen—and I am excited about all of these. But it doesn’t mean I dislike what the project once was.

What I’d rather be reading than trying to repackage my own book at the moment.

Damn it.

This blogroll is organized as a catalog of how I am trouble-shooting this problem. I’ve always found themed conference calls particularly helpful for pushing me to repackage an argument in a new direction. For example, as a graduate student, a conference on the theme of “innovation” produced a major breakthrough in the shape of my argument for a key chapter. As a campus-sponsored writing retreat last week, I spent my day doing research not only on the book proposal genre, but also on what publishing houses were interested in my research areas, and if they had any series particularly suited.

The idea here is that, like conference papers, ideally I’ll find a series that will help me productively reconceive of my project in a popular voice, giving me an anchor on which to hang as I revise the project narrative to which I have become accustomed. With a specific press and series to write to (and yes, the bloggers agree, you can simultaneously submit to multiple presses at once, as long as each proposal is tailored), I’ll have a specific sense of audience and priority to give this revising a concrete reason d’etre.

For the following, I used the most recent annual AAUP Subject Area Grid and Directory to generate an initial list that was then supplemented with information recently gleaned from my Feedly RSS feed, friends, and other recommending venues. It is specifically targeted presses with an interest in Renaissance drama and literary criticism, and does not include some mass printers or presses affiliated with state-funded universities in states that as massively disinvesting in higher education. The main reason for both is that these are likeliest to request a subvention out of my pocket; I’m keeping them on the back-burner for now.

The following are publishers and series I regularly read in but are not on AAUP’s most recent lists:

I learned a couple basic things about how series work within the publishing industry just by virtue of compiling this list. First, series travel. Just in my sub-field (early English theatre history), two major series were recently acquired by different university presses. This is not to mention all the travel between houses that Arden has done in its time, including Methuen and Bloomsbury. Second, knowing your field helps very much. When looking at series, I recognize books I have and have valued, as well as scholars serving as editors whose work I have or haven’t used in my own. This has told me more about the individual series’ priorities rather than the description in most cases. (i.e., What doesn’t count as “culture”?)

Both these features helped me set some priorities. I then generated a personal long-list of eight presses and series, and then a short-list of four I’d like to shoot for in my first round of proposing. With conferencing season starting up in earnest at the end of March, four also seemed like a reasonable number of tailored proposals I could craft in a three month period. [Note: this post was initially composed back in late December 2017.] What was your process like? Did you consider series? Did they make the process more challenging or more focused?


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