Writing a Book Proposal

I never imagined I would write and publish a “real” book (which old me would have considered a proper academic research book) especially when I chose not to even try to turn my dissertation into a monograph. But as I write this at the end of August 2019, I am have submitted my third book proposal, having previously written ones for Agile Faculty and a co-edited collection on innovation in undergraduate liberal education coming in Spring 2020. The proposals must have been solid because they earned me contracts with University of Chicago Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, respectively (Chicago was the 6th or 7th publisher I submitted AF, to be totally transparent).

The third book I am proposing is about burnout among faculty in higher education, an issue about which I unfortunately have first-hand knowledge. I got the idea for this book as a way of dealing with my own burnout experience. But once I found peace with it and was able to open up to others, I was shocked by how many people had their own stories or knew someone affected. Like any good academic, I did my secondary research and found mostly studies in the higher ed literature about burnout, but nothing that was an authentic, practical faculty development take on the topic. I could see a book about my experience as both a catharsis and hopefully something other faculty could connect to and not feel as alone as I did.

Having already written a single-authored text and co-written/co-edited a collection, I’m imagining this book to be a hybrid that combines my personal burnout narrative, stories from other academics, academic research, and short practical chapters by professionals who support faculty. It’s a genre-bender, so the proposal will have to be really good to make sense for the publisher to take a chance on it.

Since I’m knee-deep in the process right now, waiting patiently for feedback from the potential publisher, I thought I’d start a series of posts about the different aspects of writing a book proposal. Posting this series will also give me some time to get settled in my new role as a Faculty Teaching and Learning Specialist in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Georgia Tech.

Over the next few weeks, I cover deciding if your idea really is a book, finding possible publishers, using publisher guidelines to organize your proposal, inviting outside contributions, and revising and editing a proposal based on peer feedback. By then, I will have submitted the proposal and will hopefully have good news and reviewer feedback to share. When writing a proposal, you have to be flexible, willing to take feedback, and well-organized – some of the core characteristics of Agile Faculty members.

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