By Erik Bean, Ed.D.
Associate University Research Chair
Center for Leadership Studies & Organizational Research
Securing an Academic Book Publisher
Securing an Academic Book Publisher
Finding the right academic book publisher for your scholarly manuscript can be a daunting task. Further complicating this arduous challenge is a propensity towards nepotism in some of the older and stalwart publishers. Most specialize in particular genres or disciplines and most do not accept unsolicited materials. Others, particularly more well-known publishers such as Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin, or Cengage are typically literary agent driven. A growing number, however, are more accessible since the Internet and digital book publishing options have removed a long-standing, strongly-enforced screening vail.
Ensure Best Chance Consideration
To amass the greatest chance of attracting a publisher more amenable to consideration, start the search process at institutions where you currently hold teaching, chair, or professorship duties. Many of these schools either have their own press or work with other associations who allow them to more freely access their label. They may offer some preferential considerations based on the topic of your manuscript and/or mutually beneficial memberships, or co-marketing and advertising agreements between the entities.
That said, never pay to secure such a rigorous publisher. Identify publishers who are more amenable to working with an academician with less publishing experience such as those types of imprints noted above that are institutionally-driven, smaller houses, or non-profit. Publishers like these should never ask for payment and will work proactively to contract an author fairly, including: maintaining chapter by chapter copy editing, input on creative jacket design, a strategic book description, marketing plan, and a revenue sharing plan that typically includes a comission of no more than 20 percent. The marketing plan will almost entirely be borne through the author via speaking and conference engagements, for example.
Deepen Your Search
Become familiar with presses that might be available through your school network. If you come up short, no worry. Try finding one via the Association of American University Presses (AAUP). The website currently features an annual list dubbed the, AAUP Subject Area Grid. This valuable list features almost every major academic discipline and the university press known for similar publications. You’ll still need to research the editorial contacts and prepare a simple manuscript submission letter.
Define Your Academic Premise, Need
Getting an academic book let alone any nonfiction book published starts from your academic best practices, research, or other rigorous perspective and allows you to communicate a premise that can benefit the academy and/or industry. While idiosyncratic manuscripts are typically more biased, publishers may take a risk if they enhance a teaching practice, align with well-known idioms such as Boyer’s Model of Scholarship, or a more homogenous approach with more references.
Protect Your Work
If you are nearing completion of your manuscript, consider registering it via the U.S. Copyright Office. This just offers peace of mind to protect your work while you continue to pitch it. If and when your work is accepted, that press will likely copyright your manuscript too with you as its rightful author and they— the copyright holder—typically under first rights allowing you to use the material in any other manner you see fit, except via a competing press.
Submitting Your Manuscript
When you are ready to pitch your idea, for the most security, sending the submission letter with the accompanying completed manuscript via snail mail is best. Some publishers prefer a query (proposal) letter, sample book chapter, competitive book analysis, marketing plan, and your curriculum vita. But most of these publishers are open to email. While email is not secure, it is unlikely your work will end up being corrupted, especially if you have formally protected it. Whatever format you feel comfortable using multiple submission is not advisable. Instead, pinpoint the best match from the onset and allow several weeks for a more targeted response. This method usually yields better acceptance results.
Think and Plan Ahead
If and when you do secure a book contract and publication, no matter how renowned your new book revelation is, books do not sell themselves. Competing book analyses, co-marketing, advertising, and websites dedicated to each title are a must among other required efforts. In my next blog, I’ll discuss ways to parlay your titles so that they can be marketed via more wholesalers and internationally.
Associate University Research Chair Erik Bean is the author of several academic books including Social Media Writing Lesson Plans and Rigorous Grading Using Microsoft Word AutoCorrect: Plus Google Docs published by Westphalia Press, Washington, D.C. and Using WordPress for Writing Projects via Brigantine Media, Compass Division, St. Johnsbury, VT.