It seems that I have had a bunch of requests lately for advice on finding a publisher for academic books in archaeology. In most cases these are young scholars, recent PhDs, and in many cases the book in question is or will be based on a dissertation.
My main advice is to buy and read Beth Luey’s book, Handbook for Academic Authors, Cambridge University Press. The 5th edition just came out this year (2009), although I still have the 3rd edition (oops, time to upgrade). This book is essential for academic authors, with all sorts of useful advice. Is your publisher offering a fair deal on royalties? Should I think about writing a textbook? How should I handle nasty reviews from a journal on my brilliant manuscript? What are the pitfalls of trying to publish my dissertation as a book?
My second piece of advice is to talk to your colleagues and mentors about your situation. They will know your work and have a good idea about publishing formats and venues.
Here are some suggestions, based on my own experiences and on Luey’s book.
(1) Think hard about whether your dissertation really needs to be published as a book. Maybe you are better off publishing several good journal articles (that’s what I did).
(2) Spend some time investigating publishers. Luey divides publishers into several groups. Of these, the most relevant for young scholars and rewritten dissertations are:
- University presses (generally the best bet for dissertations)
- Commercial scholarly publishers (there is wide variation here)
- Technical monograph series
- Vanity presses and other rip-off commercial presses. See Nova Publishers here, or perhaps VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller (thanks to Anastasia Tsaliki for this example). For a really, really bad rip-off publisher, see this post.
(3) It is often a good idea to talk to an editor from one of the relevant presses, perhaps at a professional meeting or by email. This can give you an idea of what they might be looking for.
(4) Prepare a good prospectus for submission. Each press has slightly different requirements for a prospectus, but most have these components:
- A description of the book, including a table of contents
- Information on the target audience
- A list or discussion of possible competing titles
- Information on the current status of the manuscript and a projected timetable.
- A copy of your CV
- A writing sample
If you want to see a less formal description of a book prospectus, see the “Series Description Document” on my web page for the book series, “