Announcing Book Proposal Development Grants

Hi Manuscript Workers,

This week’s post is a short one to share a new initiative at Princeton University Press that may be of interest to you. If you know others who might be interested as well, please help us spread the word widely!

Princeton University Press has noted a lack of diversity in its own lists and in scholarly publishing at large. As readers of this newsletter are likely well aware, entrenched academic networks and social capital disproportionately affect entry into the acquisitions pipeline as well as publication decisions, resulting in authors from historically excluded groups continuing to be excluded, even as publishers proclaim commitments to publishing “diverse voices.”

This initiative from PUP is an attempt to actually put financial resources and labor behind their stated commitments to equity and justice in publishing. It’s not the be-all-end-all solution to systemic exclusion and underrepresentation of marginalized writers in scholarly publishing, but it’s something.

The idea behind the initiative’s focus on book proposals is that the proposal is often the place where a lack of knowledge of the hidden curriculum of scholarly book publishing can show up. By judging proposals “objectively” on intrinsic merit, publishers fail to recruit authors with great ideas who simply haven’t been privy to the mentoring or connections that would help them develop their book ideas into marketable proposals consistent with the expectations of publishers and editorial boards. That’s where I and my fellow participating coaches come in.

PUP’s initiative will cover the cost of working with a developmental editor (or coach) who will take the time to guide prospective authors on how to develop and pitch a scholarly book. That’s what I do for clients every day, but not everyone can afford my services (and of course not everyone out there knows that I and other editors like me exist). Those who apply for and are selected to receive a Book Proposal Development Grant will be able to request one or two of the participating editor/coaches to work with on developing a proposal.

For me, working with an author on a proposal involves some foundational development of the book project itself as well as some essential demystification of academic book publishing, in addition to offering feedback on the proposal draft itself. There are three other participating coaches, who each have their own process. We want scholars to pick the person whose process and background feels like the right fit. I know I’m not the right fit for every author, which is why I’m so glad Michelle Boyd, Jane Jones, and Margy Thomas are also available to work with grant recipients.

In return for having the cost of working with a coach covered by PUP, applicants will agree to give PUP rights of first refusal on the proposals they develop. This means that you can’t take your proposal to other publishers until an acquisitions editor at PUP has had a look at it and decided whether they want to move forward with the project. But if PUP passes, you’ll be free to take your proposal to other presses, hopefully with a leg up on the process resulting from your work with the coach.

There will be multiple application cycles, each focused on different topic areas and targeting different historically excluded groups of scholars. The current cycle is for women, transgender, and gender expansive authors who want to write books in STEM fields. Applications will be accepted through April 1, 2021. Future cycles will be announced later this year.

Follow this link to learn more about the initiative, including the four participating coaches, and to apply for the current grant cycle. If you have questions, feel free to email PUP director Christie Henry (who is very warm and welcoming and I’m sure would love to hear from prospective applicants). And please share so this lands in front of the people who need to see it!