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04/17/2013

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David Morrow

I don't have any first-hand experience to offer, but I have read parts of William Germano's Getting It Published, which is what the University of Chicago Press recommends to guide prospective book authors through the process. It's moderately helpful, but not great, IMHO. The Kindle edition (http://amzn.com/B0028K2ZOE) is about $5, so it's not a huge investment.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks, David!

Lee Walters

I don't have Rawls or Nozick to hand, but my impression was that books had more citations on average (adjusting for length), although some books don't cite much at all.

OUP and CUP have guides on how to write proposals on their websites, and numerous philosophers have proposals made available on their websites - Weatherson and JJ Ichikawa are two I think. So you should consult those.

There has been discussion on Leiter about this before, and about the protocol of submitting proposals to multiple publishers simultaneously - I can't remember the consensus.

My take on books, which may well be idiosyncratic, is that they should be much more polished than articles, which may well be the first airing on an idea, and should not simply seek to repackage them. Also, books have the room for a more leisurely pace and so need not be quite as tight as papers - more room to set the scene etc.

Christopher Stephens

Marcus,

You might find this discussion on Leiter's blog useful, if you don't already know about it:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2011/08/deciding-to-write-a-book-and-getting-published-some-questions.html

Marcus Arvan

Thanks everyone, this is really helpful!

Lee: while I might have given the indication that the book I intend to write will "repackage" stuff I've already published, this really isn't the case. The book would be far more ambitious, and go way, way beyond the two (very) brief articles I've published on the topic. It's really the articles that got me to want to write a much more ambitious and wide-ranging book. But thanks for letting me know that, in any case!

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa

The biggest difference I have found between book publication and article publication is that you can, and probably should, do a lot more informal legwork early in the process in the case of books. Acquisitions editors at all the presses are happy to talk to potential authors about the books they're interested in considering writing. Depending on where you want to aim, I'd start by sending a brief email, describing your project, to feel out potential interest. Then they can give you lots of advice about how your project might or might not fit with their line of books.

When I went through the process the first time, I had informal encouragement from OUP, although my co-author and I were asked to produce a full manuscript before a contract was offered.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks so much, Jonathan -- that's very helpful!

Mark Alfano

What Jonathan said.

elisa freschi

I agree with J.J. Ichikawa's and Lee Walter's suggestions, which also reflect my experience (I am presently working at my third book). On a completely different level, please remember that ONE SUMMER will never be enough. A book is not just a screen-shot of something (like an article), it needs to be an organism, with all its parts well connected with each other. It will accompany you for a long time and you will learn a lot through the process (which is, by the way, the reason why I recommend —and did it also on this blog— writing a book as one's PhD).

Rachel

I don't know why someone suggested that a book ought to be more rigorous than an article. My experience has been that books are *less* not more rigorous than articles.

elisa freschi

Rachel, I would say that they are rigorous in different ways: an article has to be quite stringent (=rigorous1) on a certain topic and tends to have a very narrow focus. A book, by contrast, needs to take into account all possible scenarios and outputs of a given theory (rigorous2). Rigorous1 regards precision and in-depth analysis within a small topic, rigorous2 implies the ability to take into account the global impact of the theory you are proposing.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: thanks for your thoughts. However, I don't think everyone works the same way.

First, I tend to work *very* quickly. Why? In part because I've become more efficient, but more so (I think) because I've changed my entire philosophy of philosophy. My aim is to make things as simple and intuitive as possible, and so I really only sit down to write when I think I've got a really, really clear and intuitive understanding of what I want to say.

Second, I intend for the book in question to be quite short -- something on the order of Robert Paul Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism (a very short but successful text).

Anyway, I hope to share drafts of the book chapters as I write them in our Working Paper Group this summer, so who knows: maybe the drafts will be terrible and I'll learn you're right! ;)

elisa freschi

Well, Marcus, you'll let me know and you are right about the fact that everyone works differently.

Still, I am annoyed by books written as if they were newspaper articles, i.e., incomplete, not thoroughly thought, full of "I have not the time/space here to elaborate on this fundamental element of my argument" (implicit answer by the readers: no one forced you to publish now, why did not you take the time to write a few extra pages?), (sometimes not even proof-read).

Marcus Arvan

Elisa: well I certainly don't intend to publish a book like that! :)

Mark Alfano

By the way, Marcus, I'm not sure what you would consider a "short" book, but in my experience most academic publishers want a monograph to be 80k-110k words.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for informing me of that, Mark -- very good to know.

Rachel

I was explicitly told that mine should be at least 90k words. So I added two extra chapters, and expanded some others, and it's up to ~105k.

Jason

My sense is that there is a kind of catch 22 with book publishers: if you were the kind of person worthy of a book contract, you would already have a book contract. What I mean by that is that it can be spectacularly difficult to get your first book, but then once you have your first book, it's much easier to get a second, third, fourth, and so. You have to break into the "worthy of a contract" club.

How does one do that? A few strategies that work:

1. Publish lots of articles on a topic in top journals. Once you've established yourself as an expert on that topic, book publishers will take you seriously. (N.B., if you want to get a contract with a lesser press, like Penn State, you can publish in lesser journals.)

2. Be a top assistant prof at a top-5 university. They'll take a risk with you even if you haven't published as much.

3. Get an editor to solicit you. This is really crucial. If you don't meet conditions 1 or 2, then the acceptance rate for top presses for unsolicited manuscripts is only about 1%. On the other hand, if the editor solicits you, your acceptance rate jumps to over 50%. Of course, the problem here is: how do you get an editor to solicit you?

One tip is to have a semi-public presence--write things of interest in places where an editor might come across them. This worked for me. An editor at PUP happened to see a Bloggingheads thing I did and then called me.

Another is to get top people to vouch for you to an editor. If Tom Christiano tells his editor at Oxford that you're God's gift to poli phil, then his editor might approach you himself.

Another tip is to talk up editors attending conferences. I've never heard of people getting solicitations from CUP or OUP doing this, but I have heard of 2 people getting solicitations from Penn State doing this.

Marcus Arvan

Jason: thanks for the insight. I'm pretty sure I haven't broken into the "worthy" club yet, but then again I feel very strongly that I'm going to have a great book on my hands. Maybe once the book is done, I can get someone with some influence on my side. Or maybe I'll have to roll the dice with the 1% acceptance rate for the "people who aren't worthy" club. Or maybe I'll have to go with a lesser press, which I don't mind. I guess -- as is usually the case -- I'm just going to take my chances, write the darn thing, and go from there. Thanks for your insight on these things, though. It's good to know what the expectations are.

elisa freschi

A further comment on what Jason wrote: if you do not fulfil 1--3, you might consider having someone guaranteeing for you (e.g., a cover letter by someone who read it, fulfils conditions 1--3 and is positively impressed).

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