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WRITING AND GETTING A MONOGRAPH PUBLISHED. Presentation at University of Kent, Canterbury, November 27th, 2013. What are publishers looking for (in a monograph)?. One problem for all authors is that fewer and fewer publishers are willing to publish scholarly monographs

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writing and getting a monograph published


Presentation at University of Kent, Canterbury, November 27th, 2013

what are publishers looking for in a monograph

What are publishers looking for (in a monograph)?

One problem for all authors is that fewer and fewer publishers are willing to publish scholarly monographs

Publishers are looking for textbooks, professional reference and scholarly reference works, for sale to a global audience

Subject specific monograph publishing is not in fashion – because of declining sales, the threat of Open Access, preference for online journals, e-book collections,

Publishers who will publish monographs are usually looking for something extra – which could be potential sales in paperback to Masters students, potential sales to a general audience, or “special sales” to a group, society, corporate etc.

why monographs are hard to sell to publishers

Why monographs are hard to sell (to Publishers)

The demands of REF are perceived , by publishers, to favour journal publications

Global market for monographs is still shrinking in many disciplines. From print runs of 2000 in the early 1980s, to 1000 in the 1990s, to 250-300 today.

Distribution is global, but purchasing is confined to a shrinking number of elite universities

The Open Access movement has taken the publishing industry by surprise, and there are worries that it will eventually lead to monographs being published OA

why write a book

Your justification for writing a monograph must be a good one, as the effort involved is massive:

  • Good Reasons
  • For pleasure/scholarly enjoyment
  • Because your research may be important
  • To provide materials for your students and colleagues
  • 4. For professional advancement/ academic profile
  • 5. To satisfy demands of funding body
  • Poor Reasons
  • To make money
  • To turn into a publication something you have written anyway

Why Write a Book?

before you start

Before you start

Have you time to write a book, and how will you live while you do it?

Will you need to find and apply for funding?

Will you need to apply for a job – tenured or non-tenured i.e. post-doctoral positions?

Have you material to develop into a book? How much research do you still need to undertake and how long will this take?

Perhaps you already have, or expect to have a manuscript e.g. a PhD thesis.

Would journal articles be a better or faster output? Will you reach a wider audience by publishing online?

Consider other outputs. Conference papers, chapters in books, journalism, reports or policy papers.

creating your own brand

Creating your own ‘brand’

Will you speak about your book at conferences?

Will you use the book for teaching?

Will you spin off other research?

Will you even be working in this field again?

the golden rule

The Golden Rule

You should write for yourself.

Show your work to people whose views you trust and who will be brutally honest with you.

And remember, you are no longer speaking to one, two or three people, but to an audience of hundreds, possibly even thousands…

hart publishing oxford

Hart Publishing, Oxford

good books for lawyers

the most common question with the most difficult answer

The most common question, with the most difficult answer

What should I write about to improve my chances of getting a publishing contract?

if you are revising a thesis

If you are revising a thesis

Is there a secret to converting a good thesis into a good book? There are things you will almost certainly have to do:

Change the word ‘thesis’ to ‘book’

Think very carefully about your methodology section

How much of the thesis is speaking to the examiners and how much is original.

Strengthen introduction and conclusions

Cut out repetitious linkages

If the thesis presents an unorthodox argument, decide on your message and emphasise it throughout the book. De-emphasise secondary points

Update and add new chapters if asked



Authors regularly have problems deciding on titles.

Which is better?

Title: Regulation, Recidivism and Reform

Sub-title: The Privatisation of Prisons in the UK


Title: The Privatisation of Prisons in the UK

Sub-title: Regulation, Recidivism, Reform

Be brief

Be explicit

Be Googleable

Assume readers will not discover your book online, not in libraries.

what you should look for

What you should look for?

Who publishes the books that you read and use regularly?

Who are the publishers currently publishing in your area? Look at their websites.

What is the quality of their books? Are they well edited and produced?

What are the publishers’ pricing policies? Compare

Who do your colleagues recommend?

Which publisher best meets your future needs in terms of prestige/distribution/impact?

Do a little bit of research

what do publishers look for

What do publishers look for?

Commercial Viability

Commercial Viability

Commercial Viability

what makes a book commercially viable

What makes a book commercially viable?

This will vary from publisher to publisher

Is the book likely to be:




Likely to be influential?

Likely to enjoy longevity?

What is the readership?How large is the market?

writing the proposal

Writing the Proposal

Explain your methodology – e.g. is your approach theoretical, empirical, historical, philosophical?

What writing style are you aiming for? Try to demonstrate it.

Describe the book in 300-400 words

Provide detailed table of contents

Provide a brief cv

Provide a brief critical literature review

If a thesis, include examiners’ reports

If a thesis, explain how you plan to revise it

Remember to include the thesis, revised or unrevised

How long will the book be, and when will you finish it

what will happen to your proposal

What will happen to your proposal?

The publisher will make an initial evaluation

There may then be a peer review process

Receive and respond to criticisms

Be willing to rewrite

Take the opportunity to hone your style

common problems

Common Problems

The publisher is taking too long. What do I do?

My examiners’ reports were not positive

Can I make simultaneous submissions to publishers?

How do I deal with rejection?

I want to publish articles from the thesis

what are the chances of getting a contract

What are the chances of getting a contract?

British publishers now deal with academic books from all over the world – English is increasingly the chosen language for publication

Not every worthwhile book manuscript will be of sufficiently wide interest to merit commercial publication

Some publishers are very wary of doctorates

Many doctorates now available electronically via university repositories

We receive 1500+ proposals annually

We accept 1 in 10 proposals

common questions

Common Questions

Q: A publisher has offered me a contract, but has told me that I must either subsidise publication with my own cash, or produce an index and pay for editing. Is this normal?

Q: What terms should I expect for publication of my first book?

Q: How long does publication take?

Q: Does it help to be in a series?

Q: How many copies will my thesis/book sell?

finally 5 golden rules

Finally, 5 Golden Rules

Choose the right publisher

2. Prepare a proposal specifically for that publisher

3. Don’t worry about rejection

4. Be prepared to write and rewrite, and be willing to take the advice of those whose views you trust

5. Be realistic about deadlines…

and remember

And remember…

Throughout your career, only ever publish what you want to write about, not what you think will help you get the next job. Write with a passion for your subject, and don’t ever worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. Leave that for the publisher to lose sleep over. It is what makes our jobs interesting…