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my experience

Let me share my experience. 10 years into my career I decided to write a book. I was relatively well published, especially for someone teaching at a 4 year college. I was tenured. So I was aiming to publish because I had a larger extended project that I wanted to complete (though it was based in part on my previous publications on the topic).
Though the publisher welcomed my proposal, I was not able to secure a contract without the complete manuscript. I was told by a very senior person that a contract counts for nothing anyway.
My book is published with Cambridge University Press. They were very professional, and the staff worked with great care to produce a beautiful book. I was extremely happy with it.
There were two rounds of revisions required. And Cambridge has a system where the publication must be approved by the Syndicate (an arm of the University).
I have subsequently been invited to a number of places to speak on topics related to the book, including a number of well respected research universities.

Justin Caouette

Marcus, I can't thank you enough for what you (and others) are doing here at the cocoon! The information and discussion taking place about all of these facets of the profession is EXTREMELY helpful for folks like me who are at small unranked programs and whom do not have a deep network of real-life friends or family in the academy to ask these sorts of questions.

Sam Duncan

Marcus, thanks once again! I'll second what Justin said. This is already helpful, and I gather it's only your first post on the book publishing process. Everyone here is really providing a service to the profession, and more importantly the people in it.

Marcus Arvan

Sam & Justin: Thanks for your kind words. I'm happy to hear that you're finding these posts helpful!

Jennifer Hawthorne

Marcus, thanks for this great article. Can you tell me whether it's necessary to include chapter summaries in your book proposal if you've got your whole manuscript written and ready to be included in the proposal?

Many thanks!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for the question! Yes, book proposals should always include chapter by chapter summaries. It's universally expected, and editors will typically read and/or send out the proposal for review before requesting the rest of the manuscript.


I have looked all over the internet to try to find an answer to my question. I hope that you can help me. Six years ago I published my book. The contract that I signed gives the publisher the right of first refusal. They must response with 30 days after I submit a new work to them.

I have just completed a manuscript for a new book. I plan to send a copy of the manuscript to my old publisher. However, I also plan to send book proposals to other publishers but negotiate with my old publisher first. Would this violate my contract? Thank you.

Righteous author

I would think you are violating the contract if you send something to other publishers before the 30 days. All you are required to do is wait 30 days. That is not asking for much. I think you should honor the contract you signed.


Righteous author, Have you ever published a book? I would not be tied up for 30 days, I would be tied up for 3 months +. If my publisher wanted to publish my next book, then I would have to negotiate for 60 days. Then I would have to negotiate a deal with another publisher and can only do so if I am able to get a better deal with another publisher. All of this would take much longer than 3 months.

Marcus Arvan

Hi D.: When I was looking around the internet and asking around about this kind of stuff prior to publishing my book, I kept coming across conflicting information. Different people seem to have different views on what is right/not right. But, out of the disagreement, one general line of agreement emerged--and I think it was the single best piece of advice I received: "Always communicate clearly and openly with publishers--and, if at all in doubt about something, ask!" At the very least, this seemed to serve me well. When I asked my publisher how they understood the right of first refusal, they were very clear--and, when I asked other publishers whether they were open to reviewing a manuscript already under a right of first refusal, they were clear as well. Indeed, my sense is that editors really appreciate open communication. It helps them see that you respect them, and want to foster an open, positive relationship with them. Anyway, that's my experience.

Righteous author

Dear D.:
Marcus' advice is sensible.
I have published a book, and am currently dealing another manuscript myself.
Given what you said in your first message, READ LITERALLY, the publisher has 30 days to either commit to publishing or to relinquish the hold they have on your manuscript.
Send it to the publisher, with a nicely worded note that if you do not hear from them in 30 days you will begin to send the manuscript for consideration to other publishers.

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