Finding the Right Publisher
Once you’ve got a solid idea for a manuscript and decided that the topic really does deserve book-length treatment, you’ll want to investigate presses that might be interested in your book idea. You’ll notice this step comes before writing the official book proposal and for good reason: it’s easier to persuade an editor that you project a good fit for the publisher’s list if you know what they offer. Then you don’t waste your time pursuing presses that would not be remotely interested in the project. That might sound harsh, but really it’s just good research strategy.
So for the burnout book, I followed this process:
- Contact presses/editor I’ve already worked with. Since the University of Chicago Press published Agile Faculty, my contract stipulated that they had the first right to refuse of my next single-authored book. I contacted my editor at Chicago with a brief summary of the burnout book idea, but they have undergone staffing and list shake-ups, so they politely declined my idea for this book, freeing me to talk to other presses. Next, I contacted an editor I’ve corresponded with before to see if his press might like the idea. He gave me some good feedback on the idea, especially because it would be a hybrid of multiple genres. He was able to say that his press may be interested in seeing a proposal if the book had a few other certain attributes.
- Research other possible presses. Though I had one press initially interested in the book idea, I did my due diligence to explore other possible presses. I researched their lists to see if they had already published something similar and if my book might fill a gap in their list. This also helped me to pull other proposal guidelines for future reference.
- Decide to target one press at a time. After my research, I chose to move forward with drafting the proposal for the editor at the academic press I had already communicated with. Why didn’t I target multiple presses at one time? Like journal articles, it an ethically sketchy practice to do that. Presses don’t want to waste their time and that of their reviewers if you are seeking other offers at the same time. Most academic presses are spread very thin as it is, so proposing to one press at a time, though time-consuming on your end, is just plain respectful.
Karen Kelsky’s blog, The Professor Is In, has lots of good advice as well.
Next up, I’ll talk about the different elements of a book proposal.