In the comments section of our most recent "How can we help you?" post, a reader writes:
I am joining a philosophy and religious studies department this Fall as a new TT faculty member. I have been told that the norm for tenure in this department is to write a book. I happen to have a book project in mind, based on my dissertation, so this works out great. However, I am not sure exactly what my work flow ought to be as I am putting the book proposal together. Up to this point, I have been fairly successful in my work flow for publishing articles: write papers --> conference those papers --> get feedback from colleagues --> submit to journals --> revise and resubmit --> publication. I am not quite sure, however, what my work flow is supposed to be like with the book proposal. Should I still be conferencing while working on the proposal? If so, what should I be conferencing? Chapters? Ideas for chapters? Should I still be sending articles that could/will be chapters to journals for publication? Should I just start working on the book proposal directly? Focusing lots of my time/energy there? Or should I be working on the book proposal and these conference/journal-sized papers simultaneously? Do I need to be building my CV up in certain ways to be appealing to publishers? etc.
I've seen some very helpful advice (here and elsewhere) on how to move forward *once you have the book proposal more or less done.* My question here is about how to get to the book proposal. For the past two years, I've followed a routine/work plan designed to put out journal articles. Now I'm wondering how that routine/work plan needs to change to put out the book proposal.
Really good questions! I will be curious to hear what others think, but here are some thoughts based on my experience writing a book:
Before I turn to the reader's main questions about "workflow", here are a few quick thoughts on proposals themselves. I do know a few people who published books based on their dissertation (so it's certainly possible!). However, I have also heard that publishers generally don't like to publish revised dissertations. Why? I'm not exactly sure--but when I was approaching publishers (and even after getting a contract), it was made clear to me that publishers wanted the book to be as original as possible, not using material that had already been published. Since dissertations are already "published", and most people publish material from their dissertations in journal articles, book publishers may worry that too much of the book being proposed is already out there and available (indeed, I was even forbidden by one publisher from sending out material from the book for review as a standalone article!). Consequently, in putting together the actual proposal, I would advise this reader to try to distance the proposal as much as possible from the dissertation. But perhaps I am wrong about this? What do other people who have published books think?
Let me now turn to the reader's workflow questions: