Browsing the archives for the Market tag

Writing a book proposal part II – the market section & avoiding dissertation style by Astrid Bracke
Posted by Linda Levitt

Astrid BrackeIn this series of posts, Astrid Bracke writes about the process of moving from disseration to book. She has a PhD in ecocriticism and contemporary British fiction and teaches English literature at the University of Amsterdam and HAN University of Applied Sciences.

In the previous two posts I wrote about making the decision to turn your dissertation into a book, and what to include in the book proposal. In this post, I’ll continue by discussing the market section of the proposal and the importance of making your book look – and sound – less like a rewritten dissertation.

While the market section may seem a particularly difficult section to write, you’ve established yourself as an expert in the field through your dissertation, so you most probably already know what’s out there in terms of other works. For the publisher, this is a vital aspect: they need to know that the book will sell, otherwise they’re unlikely to take it on. This section is not just about proving how unique your book is: just writing “no one has ever done this before” is not enough. In fact, you’ll have to explicitly refer to other books that are somehow similar to yours, or that present an argument that you’ll continue, in order to show that their readers will also be likely to read your book.

Rachel Toor’s very useful article on the market section really helped me to think this through more: she recommends starting to think about the author questionnaire, which asks specific questions related to marketing your book, early. While writing the market section of your proposal, it is also useful to think about the conferences that where your book might be put on display, and the professional organizations that you belong to of which others members might be interested as well.

In the previous post I wrote that the piece of advice I got most frequently when I asked people about their experiences of turning their dissertation into a book, is that you should only do it if you can find the time, but especially the motivation and energy to do so. Another piece of advice that I heard again and again is the importance of making your monograph – even if it’s based on your dissertation – look less than a dissertation. Although it may seem that this is a matter that can wait until you start writing the book, it is actually an issue that you need to think about when you’re writing your book proposal. Some publishers explicitly ask whether the monograph is based on your dissertation, but even if they don’t explicitly do so, you’ll have to demonstrate in your proposal that the monograph is an actual book, not a dissertation.

So what is the difference between a dissertation and a book? One of the biggest differences is its purpose: the purpose of your dissertation is to prove that you are worthy of belonging to the academic community. The – published! – monograph, on the other hand, implies your membership of the academic community, so you don’t need to explicitly show it. Instead, the monograph will have to be both intellectually thorough, and broad enough to appeal to an audience large enough to merit the publisher taking it on.

William Germano, in From Dissertation to Book, also provides an interesting discussion of the dissertation versus the book. He suggests that in addition to differences in purpose and audience, a dissertation “rehearses scholarship in the field,” while the book “has absorbed scholarship in the field, and builds on it” (157). For instance, many dissertations include lengthy literature reviews or initial chapters that set out precisely what kind of work has gone before. While these demonstrate your so-called “cabinet making skills” as a PhD student, they are less relevant to readers of monographs, and often need to go. The audience for your book is interested in your argument, and far less in seeing that you know everything that has gone before in your field.

Other signs of “dissertation style” that Germano warns against are an overdependence on citation and reference, and repetitious statements of intent (“In this section I will demonstrate that…”, “Following the preceding discussion of X, I will now move on to analyze Y…”). These are all things to avoid when writing your book, and require you to take considerable critical distance from your dissertation before turning it into a monograph. Rewriting the dissertation, then, may very well turn out to be more about extensive cutting and revising, than about giving it a mere polish.

While you’re determining the focus of your book you’ll also have to decide on a publisher to submit your proposal to, which I’ll discuss in my next post.

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Part 1: A Primer on Open Access Publishing by Jason Colditz
Posted by atarrant

This post is the first in a series by Jason Colditz, who spends his days at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a full-time Research Coordinator (Department of Psychiatry), Teaching Assistant for the Dissertation Research Seminar (Department of Administrative and Policy Studies), and has consulted on several university-sponsored and individual research projects. In the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education graduate program, his comprehensive project focuses on policies and economics of Open Access publishing. In this set of blog posts, Jason extends a conversation started earlier on PhD2Published, introducing us to the world of Open Access publishing and exploring its implications for future academic publishing and careers.

Open Access (OA) publishing is a game-changer for researchers and academics who produce scholarly works.  While mathematics and physics have a rich history of making articles publicly available and medicine is moving in that direction thanks to funding mandates, OA is a relatively new development in social sciences and humanities fields. Over a series of posts, we will help you to understand the basics of OA, provide resources to help you make informed decisions about OA options, and consider the long term impact of OA publishing for emerging researchers and professionals in academia.

Background: Open Access as a Geopolitical Grassroots Movement

Recently, Open Access (OA) has received increased public attention on a global scale. The UK, Argentina, and others are moving towards federal mandates to make publicly funded research results available to the public, the US is under increased pressure to enact similar OA legislation, and advocacy groups are springing up around the globe. A driving force of this movement stems from universities and academic library associations that are unable to keep up with the hyperinflation of journal prices (i.e., “serials crisis”). The recent public mobilization arises from a growing awareness and discontent towards the unsustainability of journal publishers’ current business paradigms. In brief, for-profit journal publishers continually increase profit margins by charging the public to access the research that they have funded and by charging academic institutions to access the research results that they have produced. Researchers, librarians, and the public are uniting at a grassroots level, demanding a new model for sharing research results. Globally, researchers are boycotting publishing in Elsevier journals because of questionable business practices, and the public is petitioning the US government to mandate openness in publicly funded research results. As our global culture increasingly demands research findings to fuel innovation and social progress, and with technology making web-based electronic publications the norm, we are on the brink of shifting paradigms for sharing scientific knowledge…

Welcome to Open Access!

Simply put, OA is the free release of knowledge to the public who sponsor and benefit from it. This paradigm allows patients and providers to access medical research that informs treatment, allows educators to draw from relevant findings in teaching and learning theory, allows public policy makers and advocates to make scientifically grounded arguments, and allows scientists and the general public to stay abreast of current knowledge across all research disciplines. From an epistemological perspective, OA allows researchers to more readily access and build upon previous knowledge. From an academic career perspective, OA creates broader dissemination and citability of published articles. The only downside (if you can call it that) in moving towards a more open model of knowledge sharing is that publishers will need to adapt their profit models and academia will need to adapt to new technologies and develop new standards for evaluating the prestige of published works. This is similar to the process of adaptation that the record labels and musicians undertook when technology caught up to the recording industry. If we can learn a lesson from this recent history: don’t spend time and energy clinging to dated market conventions and do spend some time gaining an understanding of the emerging system. If you should adapt to emerging norms and remain competitive in open knowledge markets, the upcoming posts will help you to become confident in choosing appropriate venues for publishing your articles and will show you how to share your results beyond conventional publication channels.

Moving Along…

Now that you have some background, it is time to move into applications and provide you with some tools to make the publishing process easier. The next post will talk a little bit about author copyright agreements and provide resources to help you publish your research directly into the public domain (the “OA Gold” model). That will bridge us into discussing the “OA Green” model where authors publicly archive their published works. Finally, we will wrap-up with some practical considerations of OA, assessing article prestige (i.e., impact metrics), and how OA is contributing to new ways of measuring article impact and how that might affect your future academic career.

In the meantime, if you want to do your homework on OA, I recommend starting at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). If you do the Twitter thing, there are always interesting live updates on the #OpenAccess tag, or you can tweet @ColditzJB with questions.

Stay Open,


Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

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Josie Dixon – From Planet PhD to Destination Publication: A Traveller’s Guide. Part 1. Ivory Tower vs Shopping Mall
Posted by Charlotte Frost

This post is the first in a series by Josie Dixon, a consultant with 15 years’ experience in academic publishing, as Senior Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press and Publishing Director for the Academic Division at Palgrave Macmillan.  She now runs her own business, Lucian Consulting, and gives training workshops on publishing and other forms of research communication for postgraduates, postdocs and staff in over 50 universities internationally, alongside her training and consultancy work in the publishing industry. In this new set of blog posts for PhD2Published, Josie examines some of the polarities between Planet PhD and the world of publishing, and offers strategies for how to bridge the gap. 

In this series:

  1. Ivory Tower vs Shopping Mall
  2. Micro vs Macro
  3. Passenger vs Driver
  4. Process vs Afterlife
  5. Features vs Benefits

There’s a great article by Peter Barry which appeared in the Times Higher Education under the headline ‘Footnotes and Fancy Free’.  Among many useful insights, Barry caricatures very effectively two opposing worldviews or value systems in academic research.  For residents of the Ivory Tower, it’s all about pure intellectual excellence, never mind who (or what) it’s for.  For those who inhabit the Shopping Mall, there needs to be a clear benefit to an identifiable audience, and ultimately some form of commercial value for a paying market.  Barry diagnoses a fundamental problem in the fact that all too often PhDs (particularly in the arts and humanities) are supervised and examined by Ivory Tower standards, yet at the postdoctoral stage, researchers are suddenly pitched headlong into the Shopping Mall.  This is of necessity where publishers live, since their business is dependent on realising a commercial return on the investment that is made in every new publication.

Profitability – at whatever level – is key to a sustainable publishing business, and even university presses (whose non-profit model is the least commercially driven in the industry) can’t avoid this fundamental pillar of the Shopping Mall.  The sources of subsidy which have long shored up large sectors of university press publishing (particularly in the US) are running dry, and editors are looking ever harder at the commercial factors which position a prospective publication on the right or wrong side of the margins of viability.  At the other end of the scale, many major players in the academic publishing industry are fully commercial businesses accountable to shareholders with steep demands when it comes to the return on their investment.  It’s a fine balancing act to reconcile editorial values based on intellectual quality (those ivory tower sympathies which bring graduates into publishing in the first place) with tough financial imperatives, but that’s the daily challenge for commissioning editors at commercial academic presses like Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, Blackwell, Ashgate or Continuum, to name only a few.

So the first stage in your journey from PhD to publication has to involve stepping out of the Ivory Tower and into the Shopping Mall, in order to see your project from the publisher’s point of view.  Here are five key questions to ask yourself, to help you to take this more commercial perspective on your research:

  1. What’s your USP (unique selling point)?  Can you sum up the original contribution of your research in a few accessible sentences, and make it into a selling point?  Imagine a blurb in a publisher’s catalogue – your sales pitch needs to be aimed at non-specialists in the book trade and the library supply business, not your end-user academic readers.
  2. Who are you writing for?  Publishers respond best to projects pitched at a well-defined readership.  Beware losing focus by trying to be all things to all people, either in terms of level (a research monograph is not a textbook or a trade book) or subject (interdisciplinary projects run the risk of being peripheral to several markets and central to none).
  3. Why do they need it (and will they pay)?  In tough market conditions like the present, there is very little room for discretionary, nice-to-have purchases.  Even libraries are having to prioritise very carefully after severe budget cuts, so there must be a clear demand for your research before they will consider buying it.  This is closely related to the next question:
  4. What benefit does your research provide?  (not to you, but to the reader!) Think about the applications of your research – how will it be used, and where will it make a difference?  Is there a problem (intellectual or otherwise) to which your research offers a solution?  Are there methodological tools or reference features which your readers will find helpful?  Publishers are looking for something more tangible than ‘another new interpretation’ of the subject, or research that ‘fills a gap’.
  5. How international is its focus and appeal?  The UK is a small market, and these days even the US is insufficient to carry the commercial viability of an academic publication.  Publishers will be thinking about the appeal to international markets, so you need to, too.

For more detailed guidance on these and other factors essential to maximising your chances of success in a competitive publishing climate, come to one of Josie’s publishing workshops or contact her direct. 

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We Ask Ken Wissoker: Do We Need to Rethink Academic Publishing?
Posted by Charlotte Frost

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Continuing to gather responses to the Guardian article by George Monbiot on the broken model of academic publishing, we asked Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director at Duke University Press, to wade into the debate. Here’s what he had to say:

I thought Monbiot’s article was very valuable for getting the word out about how the big publishers – especially Elsevier – but also Taylor and Francis and Wiley-Blackwell have extracted as much money as possible from university libraries. Elsevier pioneered this, coming up with big packages of journals that universities needed and pricing them as high as possible.  Universities with researchers in those areas (mostly science and medicine) had to pay or they weren’t supporting their professors. Since every journal was unique intellectual property, there was no competition and no market. If a library wanted to cancel a journal, Elsevier didn’t lower the price of the collection. This really was wealth extraction in a frightening and damaging form. So the article’s account of all that was a good wake-up call for those, including many academics, who were not aware of these changes over the last ten or fifteen years.  He is totally right about the infuriating way these arrangements cut out anyone without access to a university library. Continue Reading »

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We Ask Martin Paul Eve: Do We Need to Rethink Academic Publishing?
Posted by Charlotte Frost

In his Guardian article, George Monbiot makes an excellent case against the existing academic publishing industry. Knowing that Martin Paul Eve would have much to say, we asked if he’d like to address Monbiot’s points in advance of his talk at the UKSG next year.

George Monbiot builds a good case against the corporate publishing machine that dominates the academic world and his article has had portions of the Twittersphere buzzing. I am due to speak in the opening plenary of the UK Scholarly Group conference next year – the biggest gathering of librarians and academic publishers – to make a similar argument: we don’t need academic publishers. While I won’t reiterate every aspect of Monbiot’s piece, there are several aspects, here, that are worth unpicking, especially where I diverge from Monbiot’s stance.

Firstly, Monbiot approaches, but never directly engages with, the driver of prestige in academia. He mentions the necessity of publishing with high impact factor journals and states that we can “start reading” new OA journals, but can’t “stop reading the closed ones”. Actually, we can, but only if people stop publishing therein. This will not happen in the UK because of the Research Excellence Framework and its insistence that the higher “impact” band a journal, the more weight a piece will have. This is a delegation of the critical task of the researcher into the arms of a commercial entity. While peer review serves as a useful filter, merely trusting this, based on journals which achieve their prestige based on rejection rates, is a foolish move, driven by the equally foolish baseline of a research assessment dependent on corporations. The REF, alongside competition for academic jobs, drives this system.

Secondly, publishers are able to use institutional libraries as a shield to hide a researcher’s autosubversive behaviour. Consider that, by publishing in a closed, proprietary journal, a researcher actually limits his or her own access to material by constricting his or her own institution’s library budget. This is not how it appears to the researcher, though, because the spend is at one remove. Researchers publish for prestige and it is the library’s fault if material is not forthcoming. Open Access supported by commercial entities does make a researcher aware of the problems, because in this case they will be asked to pay up front. However, most reactions from researchers to this tend to be: “I don’t want to pay, let us revert to the model where I didn’t pay”. In this way, publishers have built a “command and control” system for an entity that functions, in its obfuscation, distribution and resilience, in a mode most akin to a piece of computer malware. Libraries must educate researchers of their own complicity in this web. Continue Reading »

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A Couple of Rules for Getting a Book Deal
Posted by Charlotte Frost

stumbled across this great post: The Five Rules of Getting a Book Deal by writer Jean Hannah Edelstein and really liked it. It’s not primarily for academic writers, but rules two and three really got me thinking…

Rule two, according to Edelstein, is ‘Research the Business of Publishing’. She notes: “Yes, you should research your book, but you also need to research the business of publishing.” This is something that PhD2Published was specifically set up to help with. It’s all very well being told by your supervisor or other academic chums that you need to publish a book, but unless you wrote your thesis on academic publishing for the early-career academic (which now I think about it might have been a better idea), what on earth do you know about publishing? Edelstein goes on:

“What books have been published that are similar to yours, with which your book will compete? Who published them? How were they published? What market are they aimed at? Some aspiring writers think that they should just submit their work to everyone under the sun, until someone bites, but that’s a waste of your time (and theirs) – you want to identify the people who may be genuinely interested in your project and target them carefully.” Continue Reading »

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The BubbleCow Guide to Academic Book Pitching: Part IV
Posted by Charlotte Frost

Well, there are just a few instalments left of BubbleCow’s nifty guide to pitching your academic book, but there’s still work to be done. We have already looked at your query letter and synopsis, so now we turn our attention to your book’s intended market.

I hope you did your homework again?!

The section of your proposal that explains the market for your book is arguably the most important. This is because it will show the publishing house straight away whether your book is viable and the degree to which you, as prospective author, recognise that publishing is about selling books.   Continue Reading »

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The BubbleCow Guide to Academic Book Pitching: Part I
Posted by Charlotte Frost

This is the first in a guest series by Gary Smailes of BubbleCow.

At BubbleCow we work with writers on a daily basis to help prepare their books for submission to publishers and agents. As part of this process we have taken the time to talk and listen to publishers and agents to discover exactly what they are looking for in a successful book proposal. In this series of 6 blog posts guest written by myself, Gary Smailes (with Charlotte Frost), I will share what we at BubbleCow have learned and give you, the writer, all the skills and tips needed to write a great query letter and book proposal.  Continue Reading »

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Publishing Markets Part II
Posted by Charlotte Frost

or the last post we looked very generally at the main areas of publishing. So now we can move onto analysing the specific focus of different academic publishers and the easiest way to do that is by looking more closely at who they are selling to.

For the academic publisher, there are three main ways of breaking down their target markets.

Firstly this can be very easily done by country or language. The big presses will have offices in different parts of the world and, in theory, can target a range of global markets. Smaller presses will likely target buyers in their country of origin and may extend to overseas buyers, but perhaps only those that speak the same language.

Secondly this is done by selling primarily to libraries or libraries and individuals. Some publishers, like Ashgate, for example, focus very much on the library market. A publisher like this might be working with a print run of as little as 250 books. Others consider their market to be the university educated public more widely, like Cambridge University Press. A publisher like this might well produce a print run in excess of 3000 book. Continue Reading »

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Publishing Markets Part I
Posted by Charlotte Frost

ight, it’s going to be beneficial, before you go too far down the line of pitching to publishers, to learn a bit more of the basics about types of publishers, their imprints or departments, markets and lists or series. This is an area which you’d be forgiven for thinking you know all about; you read books all the time! Right? But don’t be fooled into thinking this gives you a knowledge of the publishing industry, it doesn’t! There are lots of publishing territories you won’t yet have mentally charted, and you need to have at least looked at a map before you set out.

So, over the next two blog posts, we’re going to take general look across the realm of publishing, eventually focusing in on the territory you need to claim: the beautiful land of academic publishing!

There are roughly five main types of publisher, these are:

Continue Reading »

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