The Next Session of the Book Proposal Accelerator

Enrollment opens May 1st

Hi Manuscript Workers,

We’re approaching the opening of enrollment for the next session of the Manuscript Works Book Proposal Accelerator, so I thought I’d share a little more of what the Accelerator is all about in this week’s newsletter. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so starting at 9am PDT on May 1st at courses.manuscriptworks.com. (FYI: if you go to the page before May 1st, it will look like enrollment is closed, but it’s just that it hasn’t opened yet.)

The Accelerator is a 7-week online program that guides academic authors step-by-step through the process of crafting a scholarly book proposal. You show up with a book project or even just a book idea, and you leave with a pitch that will help you get it published with a scholarly press. 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 viable final product (with thanks to my fellow developmental editor Heath Sledge for the suggestion). But it’s also about accelerating your book proposal development process so that, in the space of a few weeks, you finish a presentable, professional draft that you feel confident talking to acquiring editors about.

The upcoming session will run from June 4th through July 22nd. Starting June 4th, 2021, you’ll get access to explanations, tips, templates, checklists, and sample documents to guide you through drafting and polishing all the components of your book proposal. I’ll email you every Friday to help keep you on track with the suggested schedule. Comment threads in the course platform will enable you to share your work with other participants and me for direct feedback (there’s no pressure to share your work with the group if you prefer not to).

I’ll also host live weekly Q&A sessions via video conference where you can ask any specific questions you may have about proposals or the academic book publishing process. The live sessions will be held on the following dates:

  • Friday, June 11th, 10–11am PDT

  • Friday, June 18th, 10–11am PDT

  • Friday, June 25th, 10–11am PDT with guest editor Raina Polivka of the University of California Press

  • Friday, July 9th, 10–11am PDT with guest editor Mary Al-Sayed of the University of Chicago Press

  • Friday, July 16th, 10–11am PDT

Attendance at the live sessions is optional, as participants come from varying time zones, have other work and personal obligations, etc. Transcripts of the sessions (with participant names redacted) will be provided for those who can't attend live. For the sake of participant privacy, the live sessions will not be recorded for asynchronous viewing, with the exception of the sessions with guest editors (video and audio recordings of these two sessions will be provided). I will always be accessible to answer direct questions in the online platform throughout the Accelerator if you can’t attend the live sessions.

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 step-by-step tasks. I will not be able to provide private evaluations of your materials 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 do provide prompt, personalized feedback for all work that participants choose to share within the group platform. Accelerator participants will go onto my priority client list if they choose to follow up the Accelerator with a private book proposal evaluation.

You’ll retain access to the course platform and materials after the live weeks of the Accelerator end on July 22nd, so you are free to work at your own pace for as long as you like. You will also be invited to periodic publishing Q&A sessions after the Accelerator ends which are free to Accelerator alums.


What the Accelerator Covers
We’ll cover everything you need to put together a complete book proposal package, including how to:

  • identify appropriate target presses

  • give publishers what they want to see in a scholarly book prospectus

  • articulate your target readerships

  • showcase your core argument and contribution

  • assemble a compelling project description

  • expose the structure of your narrative with effective chapter summaries

  • invite readers in with accessible book and chapter titles

  • select and discuss competing titles

  • present contextual information such as manuscript specs and status, author bio, and previous publications

  • calibrate style and voice to your audiences

  • make your pitch to acquisitions editors

  • navigate the acquisitions, review, and contract process in scholarly publishing

and more.


Who the Accelerator is For
The Accelerator is for authors who are hoping to publish a book with a scholarly press, with a focus on US-based university presses. You can be a first-time author or working on your second book or beyond. You don’t need to have your entire book manuscript completed, but you should be able to provide a rough overview of the project and its component chapters before we begin. You may even find the Accelerator useful as a way to conceptualize your next book before you write it.

Because the structure of the program is designed to guide you through the process of drafting the proposal (almost) from scratch, the Accelerator is good for people who want some organized help but aren’t ready for an individual evaluation of a completed proposal. The Accelerator is also ideal for authors who have been sitting on a proposal draft for months or years and need some structured motivation to get the damn thing done and off their desk.

Past sessions of the Accelerator have generated significant interest, with a number of scholars choosing to work with the materials independently at their own pace. If you are interested in a small-group experience with a lot of required personal interaction between all participants, this may not be the ideal workshop for you. If you’d like to become part of a diverse community of writers working toward publishing scholarly books and determining their own levels of interaction and involvement in the group, the Accelerator is for you. In the past, small groups of participants have formed their own writing groups to meet and support each other independently from the main Accelerator group, and I heartily encourage that.

This session of the Accelerator will cost $375 for participants with institutional funding or $325 for participants without institutional funding. I’m planning to hold a few unpaid spots open for scholars for whom the enrollment fee would be a hardship (with priority going to scholars of color and scholars from the Global South). I’ll share more information about how to apply for those spots in the coming weeks.

Because I do give personalized feedback to all participants who share their work within the Accelerator, I have to put a cap on enrollment. I expect this session to fill up, but I don’t know how fast it will happen. To be safe, I’d recommend planning to sign up on May 1st or shortly thereafter. I’ll send a reminder newsletter that morning, but you may want to mark your calendar as well.


Next week’s newsletter will be a Q&A, so feel free to reply to this one with any questions you have about the Book Proposal Accelerator or anything else related scholarly book publishing. You can see the previously asked questions here and here. Thank you for being a newsletter reader!