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Dissertation to book proposal: Four rules of thumb

August 3, 2011

We had an informative discussion with Margy from MIT Press today who was kind enough to talk with us about scholarly publishing from the perspective of an academic press. She was generous with her time (and with her back – she lugged some heavy books into the meeting for show and tell) and one list she shared with us is probably of general interest to some of the people who read this blog.

Jessa asked her for the top three things someone should NOT do when submitting a book proposal based on their dissertation and Margy did her one better and had four recommendations.

From dissertation to book proposal: Four rules of thumb


  1. Do not use the word “dissertation” anywhere in your proposal.
  2. Honestly describe the audience for your book. Avoid saying that it will both advance a scholarly field and appeal to a general audience. Generally speaking, the book is either going to be a trade book with a wide appeal or it is going to be a professional book that will have a narrower appeal but make a rigorous scholarly contribution.
  3. Be clear about how your book fits into the existing scholarly literature about your topic. Give examples of books that your book will be like.
  4. Read the proposal guidelines carefully. Different presses have similar though not identical requirements. Follow the guidelines (e.g. MIT Press guidelines). They exist for a reason.
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