If you are an early career scholar who is thinking of writing academic books to advance your career, this article will help you navigate book publishing with more confidence and less stress.
Some scholars attempt to write their dissertation as a book to make the transition easier, but cultivating good writing habits will serve you well throughout your academic career. These include setting up a regular writing routine and submitting drafts on schedule, perhaps asking a supervisor or a more established academic for advice or mentorship before approaching a publisher. It’s important you set yourself deadlines to keep motivated. You can join a writing group if you are not self-disciplined enough to keep going.
The first hurdle is to overcome perfectionist tendencies – ‘difficult’ sections can be fleshed out and rewritten later. It’s important to follow your schedule or there will be no progress. Writing a book is more like a marathon, experienced authors suggest a mini-mum of two years and to work on the book for a while before submitting your proposal to a scholarly book publisher.
It’s important to talk to scholars in your field at conferences and to write articles for journals to start establishing your reputation. Writing for reputable journals might be useful to apply for certain grants where research impact is one of the requisites.
Preparing for book authorship
All experienced authors agree that you need to read widely and be informed of the latest scholarly advances in your field. Many recommend reading William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book, published in 2005 by the University of Chicago Press.
You can also look for videos or interviews where they explain the book publishing process. Many academic publishers offer helpful advice and brochures for academic authors. It’s also recommended to work on your CV, listing peer-reviewed articles and boosting your publication record before you send your book proposal out. Publications make you visible as an author – just be careful not to give away your book’s key concept in a journal article.
From book proposal to contract
Research academic publishing services carefully – not all academic publishers are the same and your proposal must be a good fit. It is recommended not to send proposals to many publishers at the same time. Start with one publisher, tailor your proposal to its requirements – usually expressed on its website.
Patience is required; while you wait for the scholarly book publisher to reply, continue working on the book and ensure you have permissions for any images and other copyrighted materials that appear in your book. It might take weeks if not months to receive a reply and if the publisher turns it down, take note of any feedback and send your revised proposal to the next publisher on your list. Please ensure you review your book carefully before submitting to a publisher. The editor will then present your book to the editorial board and if they vote favourably, you will receive a contract. Once you have your contract, you can start revising your book and eventually submit the final manuscript.
From contract to publication
You might find out you need more time and must ask the publisher for an extension, this is a common recurrence. Once you submit your final manuscript to a scholarly publisher, patience is key again, while you wait for the manuscript to be formatted and copyedited. You might also be responding to queries and checking proofs.
You might have to provide a cover image for your book – bear in mind that academic publishers do not normally pay for copyright permissions. Your input might also be requested for publicity and marketing. For instance, you might have to contact academics to write a blurb for the back cover of your book.
Checking proofs is a lengthy process. As your book is nearing publication, it’s helpful to research prizes and awards your book could be eligible for and think of journals that might review it.
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