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Black Friday Special + Pitching a Digital Project to Scholarly Publishers
Hi Manuscript Workers,
First, a thank you to everyone who registered for my programs this past week, especially the Book Proposal Shortcut. As I mentioned last week, I pledged to donate 20% of the enrollment fees to the strike fund for University of California academic workers who are fighting for fair wages across the state. Thanks to your sign-ups, I was able to donate a total of $1,153.50 to the strike fund.
I also wanted to announce that I am running a little special from now through Monday, November 28th. If you register for the Book Proposal Shortcut program and you have previously purchased The Book Proposal Book at anytime or attended my Write an Outstanding Book Proposal workshop in August of this year, I will refund a portion of your Shortcut registration fee equal to what you spent on the book or workshop.
So, if you bought my book in paperback for $20, you’d get $20 back on your Shortcut registration. If you attended my Write an Outstanding Book Proposal Workshop in August and paid $50, you’d get $50 back. You can double up the refunds if you bought both the book and the workshop!
This special will also apply to new sign-ups for the Write an Outstanding Book Proposal Workshop recording which I’ve made available on my site again through Cyber Monday (11/28/22). That means that if you register for both the workshop and the Book Proposal Shortcut program by Monday, I’ll refund the entire workshop cost.
I hope this isn’t too complicated. All you have to do to get your refund is sign up for the Shortcut and then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know the amount of your refund. I don’t need to see receipts or anything — if you’ve registered for another one of my paid programs I’ll already have a record of that and if you bought the book we’ll just use the honor system. I have a sick kiddo at home right now so it may take me a few days to issue the refunds but rest assured they will happen.
If you have any questions before signing up, you can always reply to this email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible and if for some reason I don’t respond to you by Monday, I will still honor the special for you once I’ve been able to respond.
And don’t forget that anyone who is registered for the Book Proposal Shortcut program as of January 9th will be eligible to join the Book Proposal Sprint that I’m hosting January 9–13. More info about that is here!
Pitching a digital project to scholarly publishers
The rest of my newsletter today was prompted by a conversation I had with Allison Levy, Digital Scholarship Editor at Brown University. Allison told me about a series of presentations that she convened for an NEH Institute on Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing earlier this year. I was particular eager to hear that she hosted a conversation between several university press editors on pitches and proposals for digital publishing projects, because I get frequent questions about this topic from scholars who are looking for the right venue for their digital research.
All the presentations from the Institute, including the one on Pitches and Proposals, are available for you to watch here. In the rest of this newsletter, I’ll share the highlights I took away from viewing the presentation this week.
First, to summarize some of the opportunities for digital publication shared by the panelists:
Walter Biggins of University of Pennsylvania Press shared a newly launched series called Black Print and Organizing in the Long Nineteenth Century, in collaboration with Penn State University’s Center for Black Digital Research. This series will welcome monographs and edited volumes with digital components as well as born-digital projects that may or may not have a traditional monograph attached to them.
Hannah Brooks-Motl shared that Amherst College Press publishes all open access, digital-first books in a wide variety of fields (print copies are available to purchase at cost). ACP is a new press and very active in seeking acquisitions so if your book looks like a match for their subject area priorities you can probably expect a very hands-on experience with this publisher.
Like ACP, University of Michigan Press is also strongly committed to open access publishing regardless of the author’s ability to provide a subvention, and also like ACP publishes digital books on the Fulcrum platform. Sara Jo Cohen is one of the acquiring editors for digital projects at Michigan.
Friederike Sunderam of Stanford University Press has been publishing digital projects since 2015 using a variety of platforms. All projects are published open access and are fully funded so author subventions are not required. These are standalone digital projects, though if I understood Friederike’s comments correctly, some authors do both a digital project and a traditional book with SUP simultaneously.
Dawn Durante of University of Texas Press and Caitlyn Tyler-Richards of Michigan State University Press also support digital publishing in various topic areas.
Many other scholarly publishers accept digital projects, so don’t worry that you have to limit yourself to these presses that were specifically represented on the panel.
Now to summarize some of the advice offered by the panelists for authors who are hoping to bring their digital research projects to scholarly publishers:
When to reach out
A number of editors said they would like to hear from authors with digital projects as early as possible. Reaching out at an early stage allows authors and editors to established a collaborative relationship, and the earlier an editor can understand what a project’s needs are the better they’ll know whether it might be a fit for their press’s capacities. An editor may also need to do some additional research and resource-gathering, so speaking with them early on can help smooth the process later on.
Even if you aren’t yet entirely sure what your digital project will look like, you can still reach out for a dialogue with a publisher, or multiple publishers if you’re trying to identify the best fit for your work. That said, if you would rather wait until your project is more fully formed or you are already at that stage with your own project, Dawn Durante of University of Texas Press added that it’s fine to reach out at whatever point works for you. Hannah Brooks-Motl of Amherst College Press added that editors who acquire digital projects often have a broad understanding of the various digital publishers and platforms out there, so they may be able to point you toward a different press or platform that would be a better fit than their own.
How to describe the digital components you’re envisioning
Caitlin Tyler-Richards of Michigan State University Press made the point that proposals for digital projects need to be legible not just to the editor who acquires digital projects but to other staff at the press, including other editors and those who work on book production. Sarah Jo Cohen of University of Michigan Press also stressed the importance of proposals being descriptive enough that marketing staff and peer reviewers can actually imagine what the digital publication will look like. This means that you’ll want to explain the digital aspects of your project in a way that people who aren’t experts specifically in digital publishing can understand why the digital components you’re proposing are necessary and what value they will offer to scholars and perhaps other readers outside the academy.
Multiple editors expressed that prototypes and technical specs can be helpful for a press to see at the time of proposal submission but that these aren’t always a prerequisite for acceptance of the project. Presses offer varying level of technical support for digital projects, so it may be helpful to indicate what your own technical capacities are. This helps the editor to imagine what your collaboration might look like and see what level of support you’re likely to need.
How would your proposal differ from a proposal for a traditional book?
Most publishers that do digital publication will have specific instructions on their websites for what should be in your proposal, above and beyond their regular book proposal requirements. You can find the submission guidelines for the University of Minnesota Press’s Manifold initiative here, for example. But as with regular book proposals, if there’s some part of the proposal you’re not yet sure how to complete, that shouldn’t deter you from reaching out to an editor anyway. Most are eager to collaborate with authors to develop their ideas, so you don’t have to be scared to say if there’s something you don’t know yet or would like the editor’s guidance on.
I hope this information is helpful. I’m grateful to the participating editors for sharing their tips and to Allison Levy for connecting with me and sharing the videos.
Quick reminder that if you are a newsletter reader or client who published a book in 2022, I’d love to feature it here in my end-of-2022 round-up. Send me a link to the publisher’s website and i will add it to my list!
See you next week!