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Turning Your Ideas into a Published Book

Jacqueline Wehmueller

Executive Editor

The Johns Hopkins University Press

Baltimore, Maryland


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Nine Steps in the Publishing Process

  • Idea

  • Friends, colleagues, family

  • Proposal

  • Agent or publisher

  • Editor

  • Contract

  • Manuscript preparation

  • Copy editing to bound book

  • Marketing and publicity


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1. Idea

Know what you want to say and why you want to say it.

  • Write what you know.

  • Write what you are passionate about.

  • Ask yourself “Why am I writing this book?”

    • To entertain.

    • To educate.

    • To inspire.

    • To send my children to college.


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2. Friends, colleagues, family

  • Try it out different ways

  • Avoid tiring it out

  • Any blank looks?


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3. Proposal

  • Author Information

  • Description of the Project

  • Competing Books

  • Characteristics of the Proposed Manuscript

  • Publishing History


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Author Information: Who are you and what are your qualifications to write this book?

  • Name, position, institutional affiliation and address, office phone, department phone, fax number, and e-mail address

  • Attach a copy of your CV

  • Describe your experience and research in the field as they relate to the current project.


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Description of the Project: What is it about and who is it for?

  • Title and alternative titles

  • Content:

    • thesis

    • methodology

    • contribution to the field

    • conclusions

  • Intended audience or audiences

    • scholarly

    • professional

    • trade


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Competing Books: What else is out there and how good is it? for?

  • Author, title, publisher, date of publication, price, format

  • How is yours different?


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Characteristics of the Proposed Manuscript for?

  • Length (number of double-spaced, single-sided pages, including notes and bibliography)

  • Tables, art, appendixes

  • Date of completion


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Publishing History for?

  • Is the manuscript being considered for publication elsewhere?

  • Have portions of the proposed manuscript been previously published? (When and where?)

  • Have you signed any publication contracts, consent‑to‑publish forms, or work‑for­-hire agree­ments? If so, please give details.


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4. Agent or publisher for?

  • What are you looking for in an agent or publisher?

  • Pros and cons of agents

  • Do your homework

    • Ask your friends and colleagues about agents and publishers.

    • Who publishes the books in your field, or books similar to your book?


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Making Contact for?

  • A preliminary phone call or email message. (Not.)

  • Write a compelling cover letter

    • Generally no longer than three or four paragraphs long

    • Say who you are and why they should consider your proposal

    • The first sentence is important

  • Address the letter to the agent or the editor by name.

  • If you know someone who has previously worked with that agent or editor, say so. Better yet, ask that person to alert the agent or editor before you make contact.


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Pros and Cons of Multiple Submissions for?

  • For the author

  • For the interested agent or editor

  • For the marginally interested agent or editor

  • For the uninterested agent or editor


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5. Editor for?

  • Your editor will be your representative and advocate

    • During the review process

    • In making the case for publication to the managers and marketing staff

    • Through copy editing, design, and production

    • After publication, in marketing and publicity


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6. Contract for?

  • Advance contract

  • Contract advance

  • Contract for completed manuscript

  • Negotiating the contract

    • Entirely appropriate: “Negotiation is O.K.”

    • What is important to you? Royalties, design, paperback edition, marketing, …

    • Legal advice: intellectual property and publishing law


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7. Manuscript Preparation for?

  • Double space everything.

  • Do not embed art in Word files.

  • Obtain permissions for art.

  • Include a table of contents.

  • Preliminaries:

    • Foreword

    • Preface

    • Acknowledgments

    • Introduction


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8. Copy Editing to Bound Book for?

  • Freelance vs. in-house copy editors and designers

  • Proofreading

  • Author vs. professional indexing

  • Type size and style

  • Cover art


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9. Marketing and Publicity for?

  • Freelance publicists vs. in-house publicists

  • Promotional opportunities

  • The author’s role

  • The internet


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How to Write Compellingly for?

  • Know what you want to say and why you want to say it.

  • Be aware of your tone and style, and employ them consistently.

  • Keep the reader always in mind.

  • So what? Ask and answer the so what? question


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A word or two about style for?

Style is:

  • Vocabulary (tone, level)

  • Structure

  • Style that draws attention to itself must be very, very good.

  • The occasional stylistic flourish is fun for the author and for the reader.

  • Sometimes the most effective “style” is invisible.


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    Keep the reader always in mind for?

    • When explaining something to an audience that is unfamiliar with the topic,

      • play out the information at a comfortable pace

      • use analogies

      • say it again in different language

      • insert a figure or a table

      • use an example such as a patient vignette.


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    “The reader is smart.”* for?

    Precision is a sign of clear thinking.

    Don’t use “many” when you mean “often”; for example, “Patients are often told that nothing is wrong with them.” vs. “Many patients are told that nothing is wrong with them.”

    Don’t use words in writing that you wouldn’t use in speaking.

    *Elise Hancock, Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 12.


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    “Everything is interesting”* for?

    “If a subject bores you, it’s because you don’t know enough or you’ve adopted the wrong vantage point.”*

    That said, avoid using the word “Interestingly.” Make it interesting, write it interesting, but don’t tell the reader that it is interesting (to you).

    *Elise Hancock, Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 11.


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    Turning Your Ideas into a Published Book for?

    Jacqueline Wehmueller

    Executive Editor

    The Johns Hopkins University Press

    Baltimore, Maryland


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