Five Years of Manuscript Works

Hello newsletter subscribers, and long time no see!

It’s been a taxing summer (to say the least), but childcare is back in New York and I’m finally able to check back in with you all and start posting again more regularly. This post is a celebratory one, because I’m observing the five-year anniversary of going live with the Manuscript Works website and launching this whole editing and consulting experiment.

While at first my goal was just to see if freelance developmental editing was a venture I would enjoy and could make financially sustainable (turns out, yes and yes, so far), I’ve had some time now to refine the core mission of Manuscript Works. It’s this: I want academic authors to not only get published but also to feel good about their output when they do. That means I want you to find the right press to collaborate with, I want you to be thoroughly proud of the book you’ve written when it comes out, and I want you to feel certain that the readers you care about reaching will understand and appreciate what you’re trying to do with your work.

It’s incredibly deflating to spend years of your life on something and then feel meh about it at the end of the day. Unfortunately a lot of published authors feel that way about their books, including me about the book I published from my dissertation back in 2013. If I’m fulfilling my core mission, my clients and readers are having the opposite experience. They’re gaining insight into their own scholarship and better understanding how to connect with editors and readers over it.

A secondary mission, which supports the core mission, is to demystify the unwritten rules of scholarly book publishing. Maybe “rules” is too strong a word; let’s say uncodified norms and conventions then. The publication process is simply easier for prospective authors who possess the cultural and social capital that makes it possible to for them to access professional connections and be confident that they’ll be taken seriously when they do. There are few guarantees in the publishing industry—editorial tastes, topical trends, and economic constraints mean that not every project is going to get a green light at the author’s top choice of press. But my goal is for no client or reader of mine to lose out on an opportunity because they just didn’t have clarity on how to navigate the common expectations.

These missions really converge in the book I’ve just finished writing (more celebration!), a how-to guide on crafting and pitching a scholarly book proposal. It still doesn’t have a killer title yet, but I’ve turned in the final-final draft and today it will begin its journey through the production pipeline at Princeton University Press. I’ll be doing a post soon about what happened between accepting my publisher’s offer and submitting the manuscript for production, and then someday I’ll do another post on everything that goes on between final submission and publication. In the meantime, thank you for sticking with me and thank you for all the support these past five years. I absolutely couldn’t have done it without the good word of mouth, so I’m sincerely grateful to everyone who’s told a friend about my editing work or this newsletter or my Twitter feed. I hope you’ll stick around for the next five years too.


Before I go, there are just a few more things to celebrate:

Manuscript Works client Elizabeth Cherry won the American Sociological Association Section on Animals & Society Distinguished Book Award for her book For the Birds: Protecting Wildlife through the Naturalist Gaze. I’m especially excited about this one because Liz gave me permission to include her book proposal for For the Birds in my handbook, so everyone will get to see how well-conceived this project was from the get-go.

Lilly Irani’s book Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India won the International Communication Association’s Outstanding Book Award. (Chasing Innovation had previously won the Diana Forsythe Prize for feminist anthropological research on work, science, and/or technology from the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association.)

Several additional clients have had books come out or come up for pre-order over the past few months: Taylor G. Petrey’s Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism is now out from the University of North Carolina Press and is getting great reviews. Lana Swartz’s New Money: How Payment Became Social Media is now available from Yale University Press in ebook and audiobook (!) editions, with the print edition shipping soon. And you can also order Silvia Lindtner’s Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation from Princeton University Press right now.

It’s been a bad few months for most things, but I’m so pleased for my clients and the books they’ve worked so hard on. I hope you’ll give them a look and enjoy what these scholars’ efforts have produced.