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Top 5 tips for getting your book proposal accepted by Beatrice Hale

Todays post is by Dr Beatrice Hale. Her most recent, and first academic book is a co-authored book entitled The Age of Supported Independence, published by Springer, Dordrecht, with Dr Patrick Barrett and Professor Robin Gauld.  They’re next book is currently in preparation. Here Beatrice provides her top 5 tips for getting your book proposal accepted by a publisher.

1. Conduct a thorough search of relevant publishers,

2. Send them a well written book proposal,

3. Be courteous and inform the publishers whom you contact that you will be contacting a number of publishers

4. Ensure that the proposal gives a brief outline of the related literature of theory and data (social science here). You must identify and stress where your book has its place/or can fill a gap,

5. Do a thorough reading of the publishers’ websites, and comply with their list.

Publishing your Thesis as a Book: a Question of Planning. Part One by Karen McAulay

In this post Karen McAulay shares her experiences of planning and publishing her first academic book. In the first of two posts, she reflects on planning to publish.

     ‘And when I get my PhD’, you muse, ‘then I’ll publish it as a book’.  Admit it!  Haven’t we all thought this, in an unguarded moment?


Several years ago, I stumbled across this advice:

  • Leave it a year or so after getting your PhD
  • Deliver a few papers and/or publish a couple of articles
  • Start thinking about publishing your thesis as a book.
  • You’re a more attractive proposition to a publisher if you have already published on your subject.

I graduated in December 2009.  I diligently wrote papers – and published a few things – and didn’t start thinking about ‘the book’ until Autumn 2010.  But where to publish it?  I really didn’t want to go down the self-publishing route.  I didn’t want the expense, or the bother of production and marketing.  I did want to be published by a reputable company that would (a) know where to get the book reviewed, and (b) be as keen as me to sell a reasonable number of copies.

I could see that my topic would probably fit into the scope of several academic publishers.  I also wondered about a couple of publishers who might have been interested in my topic for its regional connections.  However, I was fortunate enough to be approached by the series editor of one of my target publishers, before I’d even contacted their publishing house, and that was the one I decided to go with.

The Book Proposal

So, what can you expect when you have a publisher interested in your title?  Submitting a book proposal comes first.  You have to be able to describe your target audience, and demonstrate how your book fills an unfilled niche.  It’s crucial that you’re up-to-speed with what has recently been published in your field.  If A says this, and B covers that, but you can demonstrate that you’ve devoted a good part of your thesis to some other aspect – or taken a different approach – then that’s all good!

You may have to submit a demonstration chapter.  Only you will know if the tone of your thesis reads like a book, or would still need more work to make it more accessible.  I suspect this is partly a question of writing style, and partly of subject matter.  I was asked for the link to my e-thesis, and that was that.

If you’ve published scholarly articles, you already know about the peer-review.  This can take a long time.  (I wouldn’t venture to pronounce on how long is too long, because I don’t know what’s normal in the book-publishing world.)  Similarly, I imagine there must be a wide range of responses, between “No, thanks”, and “Yes, please”, but I can only speak for my own experience.

The Contract

At the end of the day, I wasn’t asked to re-write anything.  However, I was asked if I could add another chapter, so that the book would have added value over and above the online thesis.  I was only too pleased to do this, since I’d gone on researching post-graduation, and this offered the perfect opportunity to get it in print, in context.  (I’d spoken on my subsequent research, and had a paper that would serve as a draft, but more work was needed before it would be a chapter that I could feel proud of.)  I agreed to supply the manuscript in four months.

It was by now just before Christmas 2011.

Once we’d taken down the Christmas tree, I decided, I would get started….To be continued.

About Karen

Websites and Contact Details

  • Tweet me @Karenmca
  • Email: K.McAulay@rcs.ac.uk

My day-job is Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  After hours, I’m a musicologist specialising in historical Scottish song collections.

My first degree in Music at Durham, was followed by a research Masters in mediaeval English plainsong uses at Exeter, then doctoral studies into mediaeval English music.  A subsequent postgraduate librarianship diploma at Aberystwyth left me with insufficient time to finish the mediaeval music research.

Librarianship at the University of East Anglia, Metropolitan Borough of South Tyneside and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has filled in the decades before I resumed research again, this time into Scottish song collecting c.1760-1888. After 5 years’ part-time study concurrently with my full-time work, I graduated with a PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2009. I submitted my book MS at the end of April 2012: Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era.

#acwri Live chat Open Topic: 16.08.12

Our latest #acwri live chat on Twitter was open topic so we didn’t have any pre-set topic choices. Both me and Jeremy chaired this chat. With our now well established community this resulted in a heady mix of discussion focusing on a variety of academic writing related topics. These have been summarised as always on Storify by Jeremy and you can read it below. The aim is too provide some really helpful tips, to encourage thinking about academic writing and kick start thinking about the one of the key foundations of academic life/work; writing.

Publishing journal articles post PhD: Top tips by Dr Kate Woodthorpe

Kate is a Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at  the University of Bath. She completed her PhD in 2007 and details about her publishing, research and teaching can be found here. In this post she shares her top tips for getting journal articles published post PhD.

1. Try to get a paper published on methods. This is good for contributing to your discipline in terms of how you ‘do’ the empirical part, and is also good for developing your teaching profile. I’ve found it useful to teach methods courses as you are involved in the ‘core’ teaching and having a few papers on methods is evidence of your interest in it.

2. Publish in a journal that you know your contemporaries will read (even if not high impact). They will be the ones that come to you for inclusion in research bids, book chapters, general advice etc,

3. Publish in a journal that is important to your discipline so it is clear that you are making a contribution to wider disciplinary debates
(easier said than done!),

4. Edit a book if you can – it is so interesting to see different styles of writing,

5. Get into the habit of reviewing journal papers – so you can see some of the stuff that gets sent in (and therefore breaking the illusion of
perfection). It is, as my supervisor once said, also a free education!

Weekly Wisdom #100 by Paul Gray and Simon E. Drew
WTDTYIGS Cover image

GRAY’S THEOREM OF N + 2. The number of papers required for tenure is N + 2, where N is the number you published. (Corollary: Gray’s Theorem is independent of N.)

A Primer on Open Access Publishing: Copyrights and the “Gold Rule”. Part Two by Jason Colditz

This post is the second of a blog series focusing on Open Access publishing, written by Jason Colditz. For an introduction to Open Access publishing and what it is, you can read Part One of the series here. 

This post will briefly discuss author copyright agreements and provide resources to help you to make your published research publicly available (“Open Access Gold” model). This is the most straightforward way to bring your research to the public who benefit from it – sharing your final publication with the largest possible audience. This model allows for public access and allows researchers/authors/media to freely cite and report on the final version of your work. If you want to build your public presence in your field and broader scientific/professional networks, the public availability of your research should not be taken for granted.

Every time you create a manuscript for publication, you have to shop around for the “best” journal in which to publish your work. Maybe you’ve done this before or maybe you’re planning to publish for the first time. Either way, it is exciting – another notch on your CV and an opportunity to share your work with your peers in the research community and beyond. It can also be anxiety provoking as you consider the venues that are the best fit for the content of your manuscript, and those that demonstrate enough impact for your work to be appreciated. When you think about impact, it is important to consider the “prestige” of the journal as well as the availability of the final publication. The publisher may ask you to sign-away certain rights of your intellectual property that will limit the availability/usability of your work, and you need to consider what you are giving up in order to get your paper to press (i.e., is it still legally “your” paper after it is published? – often times not).

Copyright Transfer Agreements

Publishers require you to sign a legal agreement that determines how your article can be used and shared. Some publishers (e.g., Elsevier) have complex restrictions on how your article is licensed and shared, while others (e.g., Public Library of Science) pride themselves on broad accessibility of research articles, with authors retaining copyright. To understand the complexities of copyright transfer agreements, you don’t need to be a lawyer – the basic principle is that you (authors) may do whatever you wish with a manuscript until you agree to trade certain freedoms for the privilege of publication. Simply put, some publishers require you to give-up more freedom than others…

“Not all publication agreements lead to problems, but many do. Some publishers, including scholarly journal publishers, ask for only a limited right of publication and generously leave other rights with you. Other publishers, however, insist on an assignment of the copyright and leave you with little or nothing. If that is your agreement, you may have lost all rights to use even your own work.”

Columbia University

“When you assign copyright to publishers, you lose control over your scholarly output. Assignment of copyright ownership may limit your ability to incorporate elements into future articles and books or to use your own work in teaching at the University.”

Cornell University

If you want a broad reach for your research, there are several things to pay attention to when choosing a journal/publisher:

  • Who owns the copyright to your published work (you or the publisher)?
  • How soon (if ever) will the article be made freely available to the public?
  • Are you permitted to post the publication on personal- or institutional websites?
  • Can the publication be freely reproduced for educational purposes?

For some publishers, the answers to these questions are: “Not you – never – absolutely not – no.” If you should get your research well-read and cited, those aren’t the answers that you want to hear. Open Access (OA) Gold publishers, on the other hand, will tell you: “You own it – your publication is publicly available – share it freely!” If you want to know more about the copyright agreements for particular journals or publishers, the University of Nottingham hosts the “SHERPA/RoMEO” website to help you decode and compare copyright agreements for most popular publishers. When looking at OA publishers, you will want to keep in mind what I call the “Gold Rule” of OA publishing (buyer beware)…

The OA Gold Rule: You might pay for what you get, but you don’t always get what you pay for.

Several mainstream journals provide an option to publish the electronic version of your article, free to the public, at a price to the author(s). Some Elsevier journals, for example, charge a one-time US$3,000 (or more) fee to release the article publicly. While there is a definite advantage to opening up access to your research article published in a highly-ranked journal, is it worth the fee? Maybe not – Elsevier and similar publishers may still retain the copyright to authors’ works. This isn’t exactly OA Gold in a practical sense (if the publisher owns the copyright, they may still restrict how the article is used). If your research was funded through certain agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health in the US, Wellcome Trust in the UK), it has a mandated public release date within 6 months or a year anyway. Is an earlier public release worth $3,000 from your research budget? If you’re not funded by one of the big players in research, can you afford to pay out of pocket or from institutional funds? (Wouldn’t it be nice?)

While there is movement towards reimbursing some of these fees at an institutional level (e.g., U.C. Berkeley), that is more the exception than the rule, and it contributes to further racketeering by some publishers who will retain the copyright to your article and charge your institution for unlocking your article (which the publisher may still own). This presents another set of ethical as well as financial difficulties.

On the other side of the spectrum of “predatory publishers” are those who don’t offer much in the way of prestige (or not even peer-review) but will still charge you for publication. They may tout prestige and OA but function more as publication mills. These are often called “vanity journals”, and they will publish just about anything if you are willing to pay the price. Watch out for these, or else you might pay out of pocket for a publication that you wouldn’t want to list on your CV (or that you wish your tenure review board hadn’t discovered).

Then there is the Public Library of Science (PLoS), an exemplar of OA Gold practices. Its interdisciplinary publication, PLoS ONE, boasts a respectable impact factor, peer review, and fully open publication terms. It charges less than half of the bottom-dollar Elsevier rate and will waive publication fees for authors who can not afford to pay for publication. This is one example of many journals (some with no fees at all) that adhere to best practices of the OA Gold model. If you want to shop around for reputable OA journals, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is the place to start.

If OA Gold sounds a bit convoluted to you, you’re not alone! The publishing process is heavily politicized by powerful special interest groups that are more concerned with profit margins than continuity of scientific rigor and dissemination of knowledge (in practice if not in political activism). The process of OA publishing oftentimes runs counter to the traditional publication profit model and requires some ingenuity to navigate. OA Gold can be co-opted by publishers who don’t have the best interests of the research community in mind, and so you need to be an informed consumer when deciding to pursue the “Gold standard” in publishing your works.

Gold OA versus Green OA

Open Access is color coded to distinguish the two ways that you can get your research directly to the public. If you equate gold to money, you’re on the right track (though that needn’t be the case for many free electronic journals). Whereas OA Gold puts the finished (published) product in the public domain, OA Green can give you a work-around to get your research out there in other ways. Think of OA Green as the grassroots alternative to OA Gold. In the next post, we will cover the OA Green model that allows you (depending on the copyright transfer agreement) to archive a version of your article in the public domain.

Stay tuned, and stay open!



Author’s Note: Mike Taylor, who provides an online oracle of Open Access activism (and sauropod vertebra pictures for paleontologists), was kind enough to comment on my original post’s use of “public domain”, which is a specific term denoting public ownership of works (i.e., a Creative Commons license instead of a copyright).  This is an important distinction to make when considering publisher copyright agreements.  The post has been edited accordingly and I hope to address this topic more fully in a future post.

Find out more about the OA Green model in the next in the series….Part Three of A Primer on Open Access Publishing.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

Weekly Wisdom #99 by Paul Gray and Simon E. Drew
WTDTYIGS Cover image

SPECIALIZE. GET KNOWN FOR SOMETHING. It helps visibility. Sadly, brilliant, restless people who work on several topics simultaneously usually do not achieve as much visibility as those who plod along in the same area for many years.

#Acwri Twitter chat, 2nd August 2012: editing and revising

The latest Twitter chat was chaired by Jeremy and was all about editing and revising academic writing. This followed the first #acwri live chat held in Australia/South Pacific time as well, chaired by Studious Jenn. You can find out about the live chats as well the  new one at our About page. Editing and revising was voted as the preferred topic by the #acwri community on Twitter. The summary and key points form the UK time chat are documented below:

Publish or Perish. Impassioned reflections of an Early Career Researcher
(c) Moyan Brenn Berkut83@hotmail.it(c) Moyan Brenn Berkut83@hotmail.it
(c) Moyan Brenn Berkut83@hotmail.it

Todays post by Tom Brock, an Early Career researcher at Durham University, is an impassioned reflection on the difficult journey ahead faced by many of his career stage with the desire to progress; that of getting journal articles published.

 Across the academic spectrum, the phrase ‘publish or perish’ has been heard by many. Today, it might be thought of as the condicio sine qua non of academic and researcher development. The idea behind it is simple: we must publish our research material or we will be cast out as failures of the system. We perish: we suffer complete ruin in a sudden or untimely way. It is a provocative phrase. It is meant to spur on progress. However, it resonates deeply with the early career researcher. It echoes throughout our day-to-day lives as we fear that in order to qualify our academic prowess (beyond the mere possession of a doctorate) we must face peer-review. If we do not publish, then we perish, and the alternative that we face translates into something quite unsettling.

Like the protagonist of 1995 hit-film, ‘Judge Dredd’, the unpublished academic is met with one choice: to face the ‘long walk’ alone. It is an uncomfortable truth but there are few options remaining and often each ends with the same inevitable call for peer-reviewed material. Unsatisfied by this, the unsuccessful scholarly graduate must leave the refines of the ivory tower to be greeted by the ‘Cursed Earth’: a space in the employment line where the skills of a doctoral researcher rarely translate into ‘business acumen’. In my case, this means a Ph.D. in Sociology, which does not directly translate into what the market requires: quick judgments, fast/competitive calls and rapid solution-based decisions. On the contrary, my forté is built around taking the necessary time to think, or explore and analyse. It often involves processes of rinsing, repeating and repeating again. If this is the case for other researchers, then, is it any wonder why the phrase resonates so deeply? Given what is at stake, there will be those for whom the publication process is both an emotional and physical challenge.

It is within this context that I jumped at the chance when Durham University’s Centre for Academic and Researcher Development (CARD) recommended that I attend a course entitled ‘Publish or Perish: an introduction to publishing and reviewing journal articles’. The course was straightforward enough. Participants submit a short article (1000 words), which is then peer reviewed by other participants. The article must be accessible to a general audience. Participants are asked to review two such articles, in accordance with set quality criteria, and are asked to supply referees reports for these items. Participants are then asked to revise their original submissions and resubmit it for acceptance. The whole process takes approximately 4 months (June-September) and finishes with a publication launch. I am currently waiting to receive feedback on my original submission but I have completed my referees’ reports.

The experience has been overwhelmingly positive and has served to contextualise the sobering depiction of ruin and catastrophe outlined above. Writing an argument in 1000 words, for a general audience, was no easy task. It took time and reflexive-critique. Through the process, I learnt the importance of writing shorter, snappier sentences. I learnt to omit concepts that I had no space to define and I would try to limit myself to a single idea or point per paragraph. These common-sense principles were impacting my writing style and it enabled me to keep the central argument of the article at the forefront of discussion. The course taught me something of paramount value: effective writing is what makes our ideas not only accessible but real. It gives our imaginarium a break and allows us to take hold of our ideas, communicating them in a style which has impact.

This moment of clarity had a lasting effect. It became the viewpoint from which I refereed the other articles. Many of the corrections I suggested were balanced on the issue of a clear and concise writing style. Unclear phrases or terminology were redressed and where conceptual rigour was an issue, I recommend omitting entire sections of the paper for straightforward, descriptive, prose. Each comment I made served an important function: it prompted a reflexive-critique of my own writing style. I was left with a new perspective on why we write as well as how we do it.

Taking this new stance, I still face the wider environment and it remains unchanged: there is a sense of urgency to publications and without them there is little chance of securing a place on the academic-tenure track. However, though the sobering nature and pressures of the environment echo in the distance, the process of publication has been demystified. The importance of effective writing has been crystallized in my working consciousness. Publishing content appears to be more straightforward when you know why you must turn your ideas into clear and concise prose. I only hope that this welcome development is enough to stave off the ‘long walk’ alone.

Dr Tom Brock is currently a Research Associate in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University. His research interests lie in realist social theory, histories of radical thought and movements of political action. You can follow him on Twitter and see his website here.