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What is the Book Proposal Accelerator?
Hi Manuscript Workers,
Quick reminder that my How to Write an Outstanding Book Proposal workshop is happening today at 10am Pacific time. You can still register, and you don’t have to attend live. Everyone who registers will get access to the slides, recording, transcript, and handouts. If you’ve already signed up, check your email for the Zoom link. Hope to see you later on!
The main thing I want to talk about in today’s newsletter is my Book Proposal Accelerator program. This is my interactive program for scholars who want to complete a book proposal draft and make sure it’s ready to send to publishers. I’ve mentioned it several times over the past few months because I’m opening enrollment for a new cohort next week, on Wednesday, May 31st, at 9am Pacific.
I haven’t given a thorough description of the program here in the newsletter, though, so I’m going to do that today. If you aren’t interested in the Book Proposal Accelerator at all, you can stop reading here and I’ll see you in a couple weeks.
I’m guessing if you’re still reading, you want to publish a scholarly book. Or you’ve been told that you have to publish a book in order to advance your academic career. Yet the academy provides virtually no formal training on how to get a book published.
I developed the Book Proposal Accelerator in 2019 to give scholars a place to learn exactly how the process of getting a book published works and exactly what's expected of authors in that process. I wanted to provide a space to reduce scholars' uncertainty about what editors are looking for and reduce the stress that comes from trying to navigate opaque communication norms. And I wanted to serve as a reliable resource for honest answers and empathetic feedback because I know how hard it can be to ask for help from friends, colleagues, and mentors who are as overburdened as you are.
The Accelerator is an online program that guides academic authors step by step through the process of crafting a scholarly book proposal and pitching it to publishers. You show up with a book project or even just a book idea, and you leave with a pitch that will help you get it published with a scholarly press.
The name of the program is a loose reference to the concept of a tech accelerator that provides mentorship and a cohort of peers in order to help individuals develop a viable launch-ready product. It's also about breaking the trial-and-error cycle and "accelerating" your book proposal development process so that, in the space of a few weeks, you can finish a presentable, professional draft that you feel confident talking to acquiring editors about.
This year’s program is designed to support you in completing a proposal between July 1st and August 11th. Life happens, though, so there is no pressure to finish by August 11th. You will have the opportunity to continue receiving feedback and support at your own pace through the end of November 2023.
Over 500 scholars have completed the Accelerator to date. They've landed contracts with competitive university presses such as Duke, California, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, Stanford, Michigan, Illinois, Rutgers, NYU, Oxford, Cambridge, and more.
How it works
When you enroll you will receive a code to download a complementary ebook copy of The Book Proposal Book. (You can begin reading it right away to acquaint yourself with the scholarly publishing process, save it for later, or gift it to a friend.)
On July 1, 2023, you'll get access to a library of worksheets and sample proposals, along with a series of modules to guide you through drafting and polishing all the elements of your book proposal.
Comment threads in the course platform will enable you to ask questions in real time and share your work for direct feedback from me (Laura Portwood-Stacer). There's no pressure to share your work for feedback if you'd prefer not to, though you will get the most value out of the program if you do. Private feedback is not part of the Accelerator program.
There is no group-work involved and no obligation to respond to others within the cohort. However, you will be welcome to connect with others if you'd like to exchange drafts privately, form writing groups, or discuss your submission strategies among yourselves. You will also get to see how I respond to everyone’s posts, which can be a great way to see different approaches and what works particularly well for various fields and topics.
We will have live Q&A sessions via Zoom where you can ask any questions you may have about proposals or the scholarly book publishing process. The live sessions will be held every Friday between July 7 and August 11. One of the sessions will have a guest editor from a university press, while another will feature a literary agent who works with scholarly authors on trade nonfiction. We’ll have bonus live sessions to reconnect in September, October, and November, too.
Live attendance is always optional, since participants come from varying time zones, have other work and personal obligations, etc. I will always be accessible to answer direct questions asynchronously in the online platform throughout the program if you can’t attend the live sessions. Transcripts and recordings of the Q&A sessions will be provided to all.
The program is structured to enable those who wish to finish a proposal draft within the first six weeks of the program to do so. However, all participants are encouraged to work at the pace that suits them best, and you will be able to post your work and receive feedback at any time through November 2023.
You will also be able to ask questions and receive personalized advice from me on the ensuing stages of the publishing process, including navigating peer review, fielding offers and negotiating contracts, and working with your publisher.
What past participants have said
There are lots of testimonials over on the Accelerator registration page, but here are a select few:
"The Book Proposal Accelerator is the most valuable professional development experience I've done in my academic career. The Accelerator's clear structure and Laura's consistent guidance demystified the publishing process, sharpened my ability to articulate the ideas and goals of my project, and helped me receive an advance contract far sooner than I would have working on my own." (Assistant Professor, Illinois)
"The Book Proposal Accelerator provided the structure and Laura's feedback provided the guidance (and confidence) to turn a good idea into a winning proposal. I was able to repurpose the book proposal description into a successful fellowship application. Now I have the time to work on my book for an entire year! I cannot recommend the Accelerator enough to anyone looking to jumpstart a book project." (Associate Professor, Texas)
"I tried to write a proposal last year, but quickly felt overwhelmed by the task, simply because I did not know how the process worked. The Accelerator broke the proposal down in smaller, manageable units so I was able to follow through without getting stressed out. Now I not only have a first draft of the proposal, but also a much better idea of where I would like to go with my book. And, most importantly, I found back my enthusiasm for the topic!" (Postdoctoral Researcher, Germany)
"The Book Proposal Accelerator is a fantastic platform and experience, and well worth every dollar. I’ve begun sending out the book proposal, and after going through the process I'm much more confident in my ability to articulate what makes my manuscript different and, hopefully, publishable. Just as importantly, my manuscript’s introduction is already a bit stronger, and I’m more confident talking about it. I’ll certainly be spreading the word to colleagues." (Associate Professor, Canada)
"I was hesitant at first to sign up for the Accelerator because I had flashbacks to creative writing workshops gone awry, but Laura truly created a safe online learning space where folks from all different levels of experience could learn from one another. And I've learned so much in a short period of time. I appreciate the opportunity to read the interdisciplinary in-process writing of other participants and to engage in exercises that helped me to plan the skeleton of my manuscript. I will be recommending the Accelerator to my colleagues and peers." (Assistant Professor, New York)
Who is the Book Proposal Accelerator for?
The Accelerator is for scholarly authors who are ready to do the work of writing a book proposal—and want to be sure they're doing the right work. First-time authors and authors with multiple books on their CVs will find the Accelerator's structure useful in expediting the proposal writing process. The nuts-and-bolts advice and step-by-step format will appeal to practical-minded writers who don't want to spend time overthinking.
The ongoing support from July through November is designed for writers seeking partnership, encouragement, and strategic perspective during the publishing process, which can often feel confusing and isolating.
Participants do not need to have a full manuscript written in order to write a proposal using the Accelerator. You can even start with just a book idea and use the program to map out the manuscript for yourself and get feedback at an early stage.
The Accelerator was specifically created to support authors with advanced academic training (i.e. a PhD) who are writing for an audience of other scholars and hope to publish with a scholarly press. (Other great resources exist to support those who are writing for nonscholarly audiences and publishers, so if that’s you, the Accelerator is probably not the best fit.)
The Accelerator is not intended for scholars who are still completing a dissertation. The information may be illuminating for dissertation writers but you will see better results if you let your diss rest for a while before trying to pitch it as a book.
The Accelerator is designed for scholars who are working on a single book project. You are welcome to apply the lessons to multiple proposals on your own, but I only have capacity to provide direct feedback on one project per person.
If you have any questions about whether the Accelerator is a good fit for you and your book project, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also post in the comments below.
No refunds or postponements will be offered, so I want to ensure that the Accelerator is right for you before you enroll. I am always open to questions and will answer honestly if I don't think the program is a good fit for you. I want all participants to get as much value out of this program as possible because I know it is a significant investment.
The cost is $1800 for participants enrolling with institutional funding and $1200 for those enrolling without funding. If your institution needs me to register as a vendor, please get in touch right away — you can enroll early but we need to get the paperwork started asap. The fee for enrollment via vendor registration is $2000.
If you’d like to sign up for this year’s Accelerator, bookmark the page linked below. Enrollment will open at 9am Pacific on Wednesday, May 31st. I don’t know how quickly it will fill, but there is an enrollment cap. If you want to ensure a spot, try to sign up as early as you can.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope to work with you in July or at some point in the future!