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Dissertation to Book: Choosing a Publisher and Editor

This guide explains how a scholar can approach revising their dissertation into a book in order to publish it with a scholarly press.

Finding a Press

There are a variety of ways to choose a scholarly press. We recommend starting your search in the following ways:

  • Recommendations from colleagues
    • Ask colleagues in your discipline where they have published and what their experience was like.
    • Follow up by looking at what the press has published recently.
  • Favorite books in the field
    • Where are your favorite books in your field being published right now?
    • What presses are winning awards in your field?
  • Association of University Presses Subject Area Grid
    • This grid indicates subject matters on the left side of the document and presses at the top, so you can see which presses publish in your field.
    • Some of the areas are fairly broad, so you might have to do some digging on websites and catalogs (see below) to see which presses are most appropriate.
  • Publishers’ websites or recent catalogs
    • What is this press publishing right now?
    • Have their books won awards?
    • What publications have reviewed their books?
  • Favorite books in the field
    • Where are your favorite books in the field being published right now?
    • Do you know any of the authors? Can you ask about their experiences?

Finding an Editor

Once you have narrowed down a list of presses that you are interested in, consult their websites to find out which editor is acquiring in your field. Most presses have a staff page that indicates the acquiring editor for each of their fields. For example, the University of Illinois Press has a Staff Directory that lists each editor’s fields and series. Once you have a list of editors, there are several ways that you might approach them.

  • Email: The most likely way that you might approach an editor is via email. Editors are used to being approached by potential authors, so it is appropriate to email an editor even if you don’t know them. I recommend introducing them to your project with a brief description to see if your project fits into their current interests. You might also attach a proposal if you have one available, or any other documents that their website might ask for.
  • Introduction: If you know someone who has worked with an editor who looks like a good fit for your project, it can be helpful to seek out an introduction, either in person at a conference or virtually via email.
  • Conference: If you attend the same conference as an editor you are interested in working with, stop by and introduce yourself. Editors often have meetings scheduled throughout the day, so it is best to stop by either early, when the booth first opens, or before it closes in the evening. You might also stop by during a book signing or reception. Better yet, if you want to have a longer conversation, reach out a month or two before the conference to book an appointment. You can book an appointment even if you have not yet begun to revise your dissertation.
  • Series editor: In some cases, you might be interested in a series and know the outside editor, called a series editor. It can be useful to approach the press through the series editor, as projects often need to have support from these editors in order to make it into the series. However, even if the series editor isn’t interested, the acquiring editor might be interested in publishing your book outside the series.

Tips for Choosing a Press and Approaching an Editor

  • Keep in mind that just because a press or an editor published your mentor, colleague, or friend does not mean they will be the right press or editor for you and your book.
  • Consider what is most important to you during the process of publishing this book. Is it important that you have a reasonably priced paperback book? Are you committed to open access options? Are you seeking robust marketing? Do you want an editor who has a lot of time to develop your book with you?
  • You can typically send your proposal to multiple presses at one time, but most presses will ask for exclusivity when a proposal or manuscript goes to peer review.
  • The commitments of presses and the interests of editors change over time, so pay attention to what a press has published in its most recent seasons. If they published an iconic book in your field, but haven’t published much since then, they may no longer be active in that field.

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