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How to write a book proposal - guidelines


How to change a thesis into a book

  • A strong introduction that lays foundation for the arguments
  • Highlight the author’s contribution (author’s voice) rather than the scholarly apparatus – reduce the footnote referencing
  • Strong arguments in accessible language.
  • Avoid using too many quotes (editors/readers want to ‘see’ author’s voice)
  • Avoid heavy academic jargon
  • Theoretical framework must be present throughout the book/chapters
  • No literature review (but strong historiographical analysis may be required in some disciplines/fields)
  • Streamline the number of case studies/examples
  • Thesis covers one small area in lots of detail, whereas a book might have a wider scope with a lower density of examples/case studies)
  • Supervisors and viva examiners a good source of advice
  • Avoid epigraphs! (or you will need to secure permissions)
  • Make sure to obtain permission for images: apply for funding early on.
  • Have the courage to submit the manuscript-there is no perfect book!

Contents of a book proposal

  • Introduction
  • Identify what makes your book unique, what is your original contribution to knowledge and why it would be a good fit for the publisher/series
  • Scope/aim of the project
  • Methodology/theoretical context
  • Breakdown of chapters and possibly a chapter outline
  • Sample of one chapter (if required)
  • Estimated length of the monograph, and word-count for each chapter
  • Identify the readership (primary and secondary readership)
  • Identify the geographical regions where the monograph may be more relevant (if applicable)
  • Keywords (5 to 10)
  • Consider adding a cover letter outlining relevant experience and core idea
  • A sense of other books published on similar areas/themes
  • Proposed timetable for completion

NB monograph can be standard length (c.80,000-100,000 words) or a short monograph (eg 25,000-50,000) [see Palgrave Pivot]

Edited Volume

Contents of a book proposal

The proposal should be detailed and informative while avoiding specialized language and disciplinary jargon. All proposals should contain the following information:

  • Approximately 1500 words describing the volume’s main aims and points of interest, what makes it distinctive, what it adds to the field of study
  • A detailed chapter plan, including descriptions of chapter content of approximately 300 words each. Recommend having both an introductory chapter and a conclusion. Note that a book might be accepted on the basis of these chapter summaries alone, so these need to be representative of the final product.
  • Be clear about the key themes to be considered by contributors
  • Number of illustrations
  • Comparable books already published
  • Potential market/readership (what disciplines might it speak to?)
  • List of authors + affiliations + job titles
  • Timetable for completion
  • Projected length
  • Curriculum vitae of editor(s)
  • Possible that a workshop structure will add cohesion and so chapters speak to each other. Consider pairing up chapters in draft form to facilitate dialogue.
  • Suggestions of peer-reviewers (some publishers)

What makes a good proposal?

  • Cohesion of the book - are the chapters in dialogue with one another? Are there clear thematic groupings or argumentative threads running across subsections?
  • Identifying a clear gap in current scholarship that this collection will fill
  • Rationale for the choice of essays
  • Enough detail in the chapter summaries to be convincing: you might get a contract just on this basis
  • An identification of a target and possible additional audience
  • Have a range of contributors (career stage, gender, geographical spread, discipline)
  • Clear sense of how this edited collection contributes to the series you’re pitching it to
  • Also, a sense of how the proposed volume relates to your own field of research especially if you are a doctoral/post-doc candidate
  • A realistic timeline

Key things to think about

  • How will this monograph/edited collection situate you as a scholar in your field? How will people who read this book remember you?
  • Who is your audience, and which publisher(s) and series best suit that audience?
  • What makes your idea/intervention memorable and important? (Communicate this in the proposal!)
  • Where do you want to see yourself in the next 5-10 years? What does it imply in terms of publishing your work and, therefore, your choice of a publisher?
  • Have a contingency plan in place in case of contributors in an edited volume drop out.
  • If you are considering submitting the proposal as part of a series, consider how it fits in with the other titles.
  • Whether you practically have the time to carry out the project such that it does not overtake your other research work (esp for an edited vol.)
  • Which referencing style works best for this collection/your field generally? How are you going to ensure that contributors follow the stylistic guidelines?
  • If working with others, set clear deadlines + guidelines. Send out regular updates to all on progress with the volume (both before and after acceptance). This will help contributors plan their time.