A Gift Guide for Scholarly Authors

It's mostly books!

Hello Manuscript Workers,

In my professional development as an academic editor, I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of the books out there meant to guide to authors (and people who hope to be authors someday) through the writing, revising, and publishing process. For this edition of the newsletter, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite resources with you, in case you want to check some of them out yourself. There’s a book or two in here for academic writers at every stage, whether you’re in the middle of your dissertation, preparing to revise your dissertation into a book, working toward pitching your first book or subsequent ones for publication, navigating the publishing and book promotion process, or even trying to make a career of book authorship.

I’m calling this post a “gift guide,” but let’s be honest, you’ll probably just buy these books for yourself (or check them out from the library). That’s fine, because you definitely deserve to treat yourself. But you could also try forwarding this to someone who needs a gift idea for you and see what happens!

FYI: The links in this post will take you to my curated list on Bookshop.org, where a percentage of your purchase will go to indie bookstores (I’ll also get a small cut if you use these links to buy through Bookshop). You may also want to purchase the books directly from the publishers, especially the university press and indie publishers. Buying direct makes sure the most money goes back to the nonprofit and indie publishers and authors who make these kinds of books possible.


First, let’s get the self-plug out of the way: The Book Proposal Book: A Guide for Scholarly Authors (my forthcoming book) is available for preorder in paperback, hardcover, and ebook editions. If you’re a regular newsletter reader, you don’t really need to be told anything more about this one. If you’re not a regular newsletter reader yet, subscribe now and you’ll hear plenty about this book between now and its release date. ;-)

Now that that’s dispensed with, here are several other books that will help you navigate the scholarly book publishing process:

Writing and Publishing Your Book: A Guide for Experts in Every Field (Greenwood, 2017), by Melody Herr
Highlights: lots of practical examples plus tips on contract negotiation and marketing.

Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books (University of Chicago Press, Third Edition, 2016) by William Germano
Highlights: thoughtful insights on scholarly publishing from a veteran editor.

Handbook for Academic Authors (Cambridge University Press, Fifth Edition, 2010), by Beth Luey
Highlights: covers journal articles, multi-author anthologies, textbooks, and digital works, in addition to traditional monographs.

What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (University of Chicago Press, 2017) edited by Peter Ginna
Highlights: several chapters by academic acquisitions editors provide a glimpse of what they’re looking for in new books and how they publish them.

Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction–and Get It Published (Norton, 2002) by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato
Highlights: also provides insight into what acquiring editors are looking for, especially for authors who are thinking of publishing crossover or trade books./

Additional books for academics who want to cross over to non-academic publishing and audiences

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book (Catapult, 2020) by Courtney Maum
Highlights: practical advice on book promotion, much of which will work for academic authors too.

So You Want to Publish a Book? (Belt Publishing, 2020) by Anne Trubek
Highlights: focuses on independent trade publishing, which may be the right route for the book you’re working on.

The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press, 2017) by Jane Friedman Highlights: chapters on nonfiction book proposals and trade publishing are must-reads if you want to get a literary agent and pitch big publishers.

Books about the craft of writing, specifically aimed at academic authors

The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities (Columbia University Press, 2014) by Eric Hayot
Highlights: tips on how to get writing done plus strategies for effective structure at the paragraph level and beyond.

Stylish Academic Writing (Harvard University Press, 2012) by Helen Sword
Highlights: helpful advice on refining voice and presentation in your writing, plus titles and other stuff like that.

Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (University of Chicago Press, 2009) by Scott Norton
Highlights: a couple chapters specifically focus on scholarly texts and offer techniques for sorting out matters of argument and narrative.

Books about revising your dissertation into a viable book

The Thesis and the Book: A Guide for First-Time Academic Authors (University of Toronto Press, second edition, 2003), edited by Eleanor Hartman, Ian Montagnes, Siobhan McMenemy, and Chris Bucci

Revising Your Dissertation: Advice From Leading Editors, edited by Beth Luey (University of California Press, updated edition, 2008)

From Dissertation to Book (University of Chicago Press, second edition, 2013), by William Germano

These are all useful in their own ways, and they’re all pretty quick to get through, so I’d recommend getting all three if you can. Focus on the chapters that feel most relevant to your project and your field.

Other writing resources you could get yourself “as a treat”

I also want to shout out a couple other “gifts” you could get yourself if you want to invest in your writing. Jo Van Every facilitates regular writing groups to help you stay in touch with your ongoing projects (she also has a number of “short guides” on academic writing and publishing that are worth checking out). And my fellow developmental editor Jane Jones will soon be doing another launch of her Jumpstart program, which helps writers make realistic, executable plans for their book projects (subscribe to her newsletter to get updates on signing up). There are lots of other academic coaches and editors who run courses and programs as well—ask around in your networks to find out which ones your colleagues have found useful.

Finally, of course, there’s my Book Proposal Accelerator, which will run again starting in January. It’s meant for scholars who have a book project underway (or percolating in their heads) and want some structured guidance to develop a compelling pitch they can take to acquisitions editors. You can check out the info page here, and reply to this newsletter email if you have any questions (your reply will come privately to my inbox). Hope to see some of you in January!