People love stories. They read books because books tell stories. Your dissertation may include many stories but likely will be read front to back only by yourself, your committee members and some very loyal family and faculty members. When it comes to publishing for a wider audience, it is an entirely new project.
Here are some golden rules to follow:
1. Choose the Press Who Leads Your Niche
Hopefully, you don’t expect to retire rich on the back of your dissertation book sales royalties. More often, recently minted PhDs seek to publish their dissertations to make an impression on the tenure track job market. Your job search will place you under the scrutiny of senior academics working very closely to your field of inquiry. Rather than opting for a marquee name commercial/academic publisher with a very broad focus, start by speaking to the niche publisher in your field that is well-respected by these researchers who share your interests.
2. Select One Story
After living in the thick of things with your research and final dissertation output, you would know how tough it was for you at times to separate the interesting from the important. Choices, choices, choices. And how, with every path-dependent line of discourse that you opted for or against, you had to go back and re-align all the prior pieces of your writing again. Dissertations follow a particular structure and become very dense, packed with many potential narratives.
Do not confuse your audience. Carefully select only the most important story that your research should be telling and place that front and centre in your publishing proposal.
3. Respect Reader Reports
Working with experienced editors could take a massive load off your shoulders. Start right by taking their cues on your initial book proposal very seriously. Once your proposal has been returned with reader reports, do not try to retrofit their comments into your preferred narrative. They know what the audience wants and are equally vested in your success.
If it requires a complete re-think of your approach, so be it. Unless you want to withdraw your submission and shop around for yet another press, however, one should assume that if you did your homework upfront, there is a good reason why you are knocking on this particular press’s door, even though the editors may seem quite demanding at first glance.
4. Agree Who Deals with the Small Details
Where do you see your book being sold? Imagine the top shelf of your favourite bookstore, with thousands of photos, fonts and witty call-outs on book covers competing for the potential buyers’ attention. Somebody must take care of that detail: the catchy title, the back-cover copy (that will also show up on review sites and other platforms); the text and font style, size and colour on the spine; and your biography.
Too often, overlooking these small but essential detail could have a real impact on the success of your title. Avoid making these mistakes by agreeing upfront with your editor who will be responsible and at what point in the production process decisions will take place.
Allow yourself enough time to tend to this with care. Be aware that at larger presses, the initial editor may hand off the project to the next set of people to complete production and publicity. It is a real bonus when you can work with a press where editors act as the project managers across the entire process.
5. Publicity matters
There was good reason you decided to start this next round of publishing, despite the fatigue and eventual relief of completing your dissertation. Regardless of your personal motivation, getting your book to as large an audience as possible would make sense. Here are some considerations:
- Research the marketing and publicity reach of the press you are pitching your book proposal. Do they have international partners in the key academic markets that matter? Are they present at the important conferences where your discipline networks, and will they be promoting your work in these forums? What social media strategy do they follow, and will there be active planning and coordination with your own initiatives?
- How restrictive is the press towards open access and using it to give your research, ideas and the actual book the additional exposure that may help grow your reputation? In essence, is the press sensitive to your own career goals and the role that this book will play in starting a longer-term collaboration?
- Take charge, personally. Even with the best intentions, you cannot insist on getting all the editor and press’s attention as just one of several authors. Be appreciative and also consider how you may contribute to their future success. An acid test is to see whether the press you are approaching has a history of follow-up titles from the same authors. Surely these authors would not have returned if they were not satisfied with the outcome of their prior books.
Now, take a deep breath, and start climbing this hill, dwarfed by the mountain that was your dissertation!
Verlag Barbara Budrich would love to partner with you on your journey towards publishing your dissertation. Click 👉 here to get in touch with us.
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