An Excuse to Buy More Books

Plus a chance to get one for free

Super quick announcement before the real newsletter content!

I’m opening up enrollment for the Book Proposal Shortcut for Busy Scholars for a few days. It doesn’t officially open again until January, but I thought some people might be planning to hit the ground running on drafting a proposal as soon as winter break starts and would like early access.

Signing up now gives you indefinite access at a discounted price. You’ll also get any new features that I end up adding for the official enrollment launch in January.

More info about the Shortcut here

Ok, on to what you came here for…


Hi Manuscript Workers,

Perhaps you are not a person who needs an excuse or rationale to buy new books. But if you’re looking for some, here are a few reasons you can feel good about purchasing the books on my recommended reading list for academic authors below:

  1. Reading these books counts as professional development, especially if you’ve been hungry for mentorship on writing and publishing. They are resources that can help you meet your career goals if your goals have anything to do with writing books. Ergo, they are a very worthy investment.

  2. Reading books about writing and publishing is less mentally taxing than reading regular academic monographs or articles. You might even find it fun?

  3. You’ll be supporting authors and (mostly) independent or non-profit publishers (especially if you buy directly from the publishers when possible).

  4. They make great gifts for friends, mentees, and students. If you’re not a holiday gift-giver, you can save them for graduation time.

Ready to do some guilt-free book-buying? Here are my recommendations:

First, the obvious: The Book Proposal Book: A Guide for Scholarly Authors is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook editions. If you’re reading carefully, this is the part of the email where you find out how to win a free book.

I have a signed paperback copy to give away — you just have to be able to receive it at a US mailing address. I can sign the book to you or to someone else if you’d like to gift it. Just reply to this email telling me who you’d like to receive the book and where to send it, and I’ll pick one of the replies at random and pop it in the mail next week.

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.

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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.

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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. FYI: the sixth edition of this one is coming soon, so it might be worth waiting a few months for the most current version.

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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 at what they’re looking for in new books and how they publish them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Princeton Guide to Historical Research (Princeton University Press, 2021) by Zachary Schrag

Highlights: Chapter 13 of this book has the best guidance on how to structure an academic book that I’ve ever encountered, plus the whole volume has lots of great insights about research design and writing. It’s geared toward historians (obviously) but useful far beyond the discipline, in my opinion. I actually have an extra copy of this one to give away too. If you have a US mailing address and would like it, just reply to this email. If I get more than one request for this one I’ll pick someone at random.

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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.


If you’ve got some funds for professional development and want to go deeper than reading books about writing and publishing, there’s also my Book Proposal Accelerator program, which will run again starting in January 2022.

The Accelerator is 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 in the spring. You can check out the info page here or reply to this newsletter email if you have any questions (your reply will come privately to my inbox).

Next week’s newsletter will have a more formal announcement about the upcoming Book Proposal Accelerator, so stay tuned!