25 July 2012
I’ve spent some time during the last two weeks reviewing book proposals for Manchester University Press and Routledge. These were variously by experienced writers and by young researchers who were now trying to get their Ph D thesis published as a book. By and large, as you might expect, the proposals by experienced writers were far stronger, but in many ways that seems a shame. I am not altogether sure how much guidance young scholars get, but I suspect sometimes it is not a lot, and they would benefit from more guidance from their former supervisors. It is harder to find a publisher when they have no track record, so they need to prepare well.
What they don’t seem to realise, sometimes, that a book is a very different beast to a Ph. D thesis, and proposals need to have a clear sense of audience. They may have loved doing their research but publishers want a book that will sell. So stuff like an extended literature review, for example can be dumped. And there needs to be a clear sense of why the topic is important to a range of different readers. Essentially the proposal has to SELL the book to the publisher. So putting it across in a positive, enthusiastic way is good, and any marketing skills are useful. So is clear writing, a good style. If the sample chapter is pretty unreadable, or over-full or jargon that does not help either. Readers often turn proposals down, so the proposal has to stand out.
25 July 2012