Finish Your Academic Book Proposal This Summer

You can do it, really.

I previewed my Book Proposal Accelerator in the previous edition of this newsletter, but I wanted to share a little more about it here this week. The idea to do it came to me for a few reasons. First, I’ve seen a lot of people struggling to finish book proposals lately, whether it’s because they just haven’t found the time to work on them, or weren’t sure where to start, or didn’t feel confident enough in their drafts to actually send them off to presses. I’m hoping the Accelerator will provide a solution to all of those problems. Second, I recently went back through all the book proposal evaluations I’ve done in the past 3 years and found that certain pieces of feedback came up over and over again. I’ve compiled all that and want to share it in a format that will be helpful as people are working on their drafts. Yes, lots of book proposal advice exists in books and all over the internet (which is awesome if you know where to look), but the Accelerator will be a paced experience where I’ll put the information in front of participants at the exact moment that they need it. And third, I wanted to find a way to work with more authors this year. My one-on-one client schedule tends to be pretty tightly booked, so this will be a new way to advance my mission to help more people get clarity on their academic book projects and feel more confident in those projects when they pitch them for publication.

You can find all the information below on the Accelerator page of my website, but I’ve pasted it here so it can also sit conveniently in your inbox. :)


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 pitchable final product (with thanks to my colleague Heath Sledge for the suggestion). But it’s also about accelerating your book proposal development process so that, in the space of one summer break, you finish a presentable-if-not-perfect draft that you feel confident talking to acquiring editors about.


During the live weeks of the accelerator (June 10–August 30, 2019), I will provide you with tips and templates to guide you through drafting and polishing all the components of your book proposal. Every Monday beginning on June 10, 2019, I’ll post a short overview of the topic and a (very manageable) task to complete for the week. Throughout the week I’ll share more advice for leveling up your proposal draft, including the most common pitfalls I’ve encountered in proposals I’ve worked on with clients. Four times throughout the accelerator I’ll host “office hours” via video conference where you can ask any specific questions you may have about your proposal or the academic book publishing process. The days and times of the office hours will vary to allow maximum participation. I will also be accessible to answer direct questions through the accelerator Facebook group.

Any work you do on your proposal draft will be self-paced, though the structure of the accelerator is designed to get you to a complete draft as painlessly as possible if you keep up with the weekly tasks. Some tasks will take more time than others but if you are able to devote a few hours each week to completing the tasks, you will have a complete proposal draft by the end of the accelerator. I will not be able to provide individual book proposal evaluations as part of the accelerator, but my goal is to provide the tools you need to draft and revise your own proposal with confidence.

I will also set up dedicated “accountability threads” in the Facebook group for you to share your weekly progress with other participants, if you find that motivating. Sharing your progress will always be optional. You don’t have to disclose anything about your project with other participants if you don’t want to, though I do think the networking aspect of the group can provide value if you choose to take advantage of it.

At the end of the course you will receive a compiled document with all the weekly lessons and tips, plus a checklist to assist you in making sure you’ve covered all the bases with your proposal.


We’ll cover everything you need to put together a complete book proposal document, including how to:

• identify appropriate target presses
• articulate your target and secondary audiences
• structure your project description
• showcase your argument and contribution
• make your project description accessible to non-expert readers
• craft meaningful chapter summaries
• select and discuss comparable works
• generate compelling book and chapter titles
• present contextual information such as manuscript specs and status, author bio, and previous publications
• choose the right sample chapter(s) to submit with the proposal
• connect with acquiring editors
• navigate the acquisitions process in scholarly publishing


The accelerator is intended for authors who are preparing to publish a book with an academic press in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. You do not need to have your entire book manuscript completed, but you should be able to provide an overview of the project and its component chapters before we begin. You do not need to be a first-time author. You may even find the accelerator useful as a way to conceptualize your next book before you write it!

The accelerator is a more affordable alternative to an individual book proposal evaluation with me, plus its structure is designed to guide you through the process of drafting the document (almost) from scratch. This makes it good for people who want some structured help but aren’t ready to splash out on an individual evaluation. The accelerator is also ideal for authors who have been sitting on a proposal draft for months or years and need some motivation to get the damn thing done and off their desk.


You should prepare for the course by drafting a 500–1000-word overview description of your book project and brief (~1-paragraph) descriptions of each chapter you plan to include in your book. When you enroll in the course I will provide you with some guidance and a list of resources that you can consult as you prepare these materials. Some of these resources will be books that you may wish to purchase for yourself.


The Summer 2019 session is a pilot session, so I’m offering it at an introductory price of $225. The cost will go up in future sessions, though it will always cost less than an individual book proposal evaluation with me.

For the $225, you get:

• a structured environment that will guide you to a complete proposal draft in 12 weeks
• templates and sample language for scholarly book proposals in the humanistic social sciences
• insider tips for leveling up your book proposal draft so it will connect with acquiring editors, peer reviewers, and editorial boards
• live Q&A with me and other participants to get interactive feedback and ask the questions you don’t want to put in writing
• the support of peers who are in the same boat as you
• a reference document with a checklist and all the lessons and tips from the course
• a general sense of confidence in your project and your pitch
• the accountability that comes from knowing you spent a decent amount of money and had better produce something to show for it ☺


No, of course not. Many factors go into a successful book proposal, not least of which are the fit between your project and your target press and the current marketability of your topic and approach. Some factors are simply beyond anyone’s control. Furthermore, general advice will only take you so far, because there are exceptions to every “rule.” What the accelerator will do is give you straight talk about norms in academic publishing and enough perspective to know that you’re not completely botching the process before you even begin. It will also provide the structure to help you finish a draft of your book proposal by the end of the summer.


Complete the questionnaire here. Once I have the minimum number of participants needed to run the accelerator, I’ll send you an invoice to be paid via your preferred payment method. After I receive your payment, I will send you a brief packet to assist you in preparing your materials for the start of the accelerator on June 10, 2019. I will also invite you to the secret Facebook group where I will post each week’s lesson and tips and where you can meet the other participants.

Any other questions? Reply to this newsletter or ask me on Twitter @lportwoodstacer. And please spread the word if you know anyone else who might benefit from participating!