What Does Book Success Look Like?
Hi Manuscript Workers,
I have a few quick things to share with you today, plus a question.
The first item I want to share is this review of The Book Proposal Book, written by Dr. Hanni Jalil. This review is very meaningful to me, because Dr. Jalil really zeroed in on one of the key goals I had for the book:
For this first-generation scholar, woman of color faculty member, future author, and former Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow, the book's goal to decode the "hidden curriculum" is refreshing. Portwood-Stacer is committed to promoting equity in scholarly publishing by eliminating "a good deal of uncertainty" from the process of writing and submitting a book proposal. This book is a welcome resource for scholars, especially those who are often presumed incompetent and made to feel like they do not belong in the academy. As Portwood-Stacer so eloquently writes, "structural forces (and some individuals) within academia have worked to marginalize and oppress Black scholars, Indigenous scholars, other scholars of color, women scholars, queer scholars, trans scholars, disabled scholars, scholars from poor and working-class backgrounds, and scholars at the intersection of these categories" (p. 2-3). These forces extend to the publishing world, where "social capital and entrenched systems of power still count a lot in decisions of who and what gets published and promoted" (p.3). In this instance, like in many others, knowledge is power. For scholars from historically underrepresented groups, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the world of scholarly book publishing can be empowering.
I was so grateful to learn that the book landed with this reviewer in the way I’d hoped it would. I know that the book is not perfect (because no book is) and that there may be things I missed or ways I present the information that doesn’t land with everyone. But in reading this review I felt like I succeeded at at least one of the things I set out to do.
Which leads me to the question I want to ask you if you’re reading this newsletter:
What future event would make you feel like you’d succeeded with your book?
Would it be reading a review by someone in your target audience and having them say they felt seen? Would it be landing a contract with the press that publishes all your scholarly heroes? Would it be selling a certain number of copies or having your book cited a certain number of times? Would it be getting invited (maybe even paid) to give talks about your expertise? Would it be just finishing the damn thing so you have something to show your loved ones for all the years of work you’ve put into your research?
I seriously want to know what your goals are for your book. There are no wrong answers. Please shoot me an email or leave a comment here to share your thoughts, if you have a sec! It can be super short and informal; no salutation or pleasantries necessary. Bullet points are fine. I’m going to read through all the answers I receive and write a future, longer newsletter about this topic.
Even if you don’t feel like emailing me about it, I hope you’ll think about this question on your own. Maybe even write down your answers somewhere. In a profession where the goalposts always seem to be moving, I think it’s a good idea to put your intentions into words so you can reflect back and actually celebrate your successes when you achieve them.
I also want to share that applications are now being accepted for the next round of Diverse Voices Book Proposal Development Grants at Princeton University Press. This cycle is open to applicants who are writers of color working on a humanities book in one of the areas that Princeton UP publishes in. Applications are due by February 28th and recipients will be notified the week of April 18th.
If your project is selected, you’ll be assigned to an in-house editor at Princeton UP, and you’ll also be paired with a partnering coach who will help you develop your book proposal for submission to Princeton UP within one year.
There are five coaches you can be paired with — you get to list your top two choices in your application — including me (though I think of myself as more of an editor/consultant than a coach, but we don’t have to quibble about semantics). If you end up paired with me, you’ll be able to enroll in the next session of my Book Proposal Accelerator at no cost to you.
Speaking of the next session of the Accelerator, I will be announcing that officially in this newsletter on March 2nd, so stay tuned!
Lastly, thanks to some generous donations, I have a few more free enrollments to give away for my upcoming webinar, How to Pitch Your Book to Scholarly Publishers, happening on March 25th. If you are a scholar of color who would like to attend the webinar, please simply reply to this email. I will do a random drawing from the responses and give away as many enrollments as I have sponsorships for as of Friday.
If you’d like to add to the sponsorship fund, let me know!
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! I’ll be back next week to celebrate a milestone for this newsletter. See you then!