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“Though it’s the most urgent problem any academic faces, we don’t hold any faculty meetings to discuss the question of ‘How DO you write a book and get it published, anyway?’ We academics like to pretend instead that we know how do this stuff—how did we get to be academics if we don’t? But William Germano is privy to the dark secret that many graduate students, junior faculty members, and even . . . uh, full professors think they know how to do this stuff but actually don’t. In a terrific book that’s a joy to read, Germano provides direct and savvy advice that will help all of us not just to get it published but to make it as good as we can.”
“This endlessly useful and expansive guide is every academic’s pocket Wikipedia: a timely, relevant, and ready resource on scholarly publishing, from the traditional monograph to the digital e-book. I regularly share it, teach it, and consult it myself, whenever I have a question on titling a chapter, securing a permission, or negotiating a contract. Professional advice simply does not get any savvier than this pitch-perfect manual on how to think like a publisher.”
“Bill Germano has done it again—a masterful guide to the perils and possibilities of academic publishing, written with wit and understanding. The author has twice visited our campus to lead a workshop for junior faculty on the book publication process, and his seminars are always a great success. Like his book, Bill Germano is meticulous, fearless, funny, and directly to the point. I recommend Getting It Published as a cost-effective alternative to flying him out to see you and speaking with him for eight hours about your manuscript: the result, a sober and informed perspective on the ins-and-outs of getting your tenure book in the hands of a publisher, will be essentially the same. Editors of book series will also value this book: it’s as much a manual on what good editors should be looking for in the manuscripts that they receive as it is a guide for prospective authors. High marks on all counts!”
“For all of us who suffer the dark night of the publishing soul, Getting It Published comes as a most welcome beacon of light. Germano is ourVirgil for the not-always-divine comedy of academic publishing. He coaxes us as authors and writers to ask ‘the right questions’ of ourselves, of our publishers, and of our audiences. In this wonderful and insightful book Germano provides—with wisdom, whimsy, and wit—hard-nosed advice and good humored encouragement. From basic ‘how to’ and ‘must I really?’ questions to invaluable counsel about negotiating the uncharted territory of electronic publishing, this is THE field guide anyone needs who is making their way from the purgatorio of the manuscript on the desk to the paradiso of a book well-published.”
“If books are the slow food of our increasingly frenetic scholarly communications culture, in Bill Germano we have their Escoffier. Whether delineating the features of an effective book proposal, explaining the mysteries of the editorial selection process, or extolling the virtues of the book as a defining mode of academic discourse, Germano succeeds at joining practical advice with intellectual insight throughout. Budding and seasoned scholars alike, as well as their administrators, will find more than a writer’s reference in Getting It Published. They will find a guide to the academic life. Bon apetit!”
There are all kinds of publishers. Most deal in hard copy. Anything
printed and disseminated can be described as a publication-a mimeograph
handout, a 500,000-copy-a-month magazine, a scholarly journal, a book.
Anyone who engages in any of these activities might describe himself as a
publisher. You can self-publish. In the 1620s Johannes Kepler not only
printed his own work, he disguised himself as a peddler and traveled to
the Frankfurt Book Fair to sell it. Today you can disguise yourself
electronically if you like and publish on-line. Slate, Feed, [now defunct]
and Postmodern Culture are three on-line publications. The Chronicle of
Higher Education and the New York Times provide abbreviated versions of
their texts on-line, with more extensive resources deeper into the Web
site. But despite the expansion of the electronic universe,academic
publishing is still solidly connected to the world Gutenberg made: books
printed on paper and bound for repeated readings.
At the beginning of the new century, book publishing is dominated by a few
very large and powerful corporations. The best-known trade houses-Simon &
Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Holt, Houghton Mifflin,
Norton-represent one end of the spectrum: large print runs, substantial
advances, expensive advertising. Of the ones named here only the last two
might be described as independent firms. Below this threshold is a jumble
of publishers that would include such small independents as Beacon, South
End, or Aunt Lute; commercial academic houses like St. Martin's or
Blackwell or Routledge; and the giant Anglo-American university presses
Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the archipelago of university presses
that stretch across North America.
Publishing companies continue to imagine themselves as reasonably
independent entities, presenting each season a collection of works that
cohere in some way-either through their intellectual or entertainment
value, or through the sheer force by which they are marketed to the world.
Editors like to think of themselves, as they long have, as working at
houses, though the label "house" is a charming compensation for a suite of
offices either crowded and shabby or crowded and sterile. Yet "house" is
both functional and stylish, with more than a soupcon of couture about it.
Coco Chanel and John Galliano; Max Perkins and your editor of choice.
Fabric and designs may be different, but these craftsmen all wield the
same tool: a pair of scissors. An editor's job is, in part, to cut your
manuscript and make you look good.
Who They Are
Publishers might be grouped into five categories.
1. Trade. Trade publishers, the big commercial houses based largely in New
York and owned largely elsewhere, are what most people think of when they
think of publishers at all. The houses are the source of more than half of
the books published in the English language, and most conspicuously those
on the bestseller list. When people talk about books, it's likely they're
talking about trade books. Trade books are the ones most people-including
you-read for pleasure and information. While no trade publisher is
reluctant to have a backlist of titles that continue to sell year after
year, the industry's trends are toward signing up only books that will be
very profitable, and very profitable right away. Trade publishing thrives
on precisely what scholarly publishing does not: the one depends upon
reaching the greatest number of people quickly, while the other depends
upon reaching enough of the right people over time. Trade houses do
publish some scholarly books, but scholarship isn't the reason these
publishers are in business. In the era of conglomerates, there are fewer
independent trade publishers and more divisions, imprints, lines, and
series within larger trade houses. Trade publishing isn't the focus of
Getting It Published, simply because few scholarly writers will begin
their publishing careers with trade.
2. Textbook. The book you're writing may wind up being used in a college
course, even as required reading, but that doesn't necessarily make it a
book that a textbook publisher would want. Textbook publishing is often
called college publishing. College publishers produce genuine
textbooks-the introductions to macroeconomics and panoramas of American
history that are the staples of large college lecture classes.
Textbook publishing can be the most profitable part of the publishing
industry-and is when the books work. The publisher who produced the
Psychology 101 text you've assigned in your lecture class won't be selling
it to anyone other than students, but they will buy it because it is a
requirement of the course-and usually a requirement of that course
semester after semester. Textbook publishers don't get their books into
Barnes & Noble or your local independent, but they happily supply the
textbook counter at your campus store once an order for your course has
Textbook publishers expend considerable effort in providing teachers
exactly what they need for specific courses-and then in revising the
material on short cycles. Textbook publishing addresses real curricular
needs, and attacks those needs with all the powers at its
disposal-high-quality production, prestigious authors and advisors, sales
reps who knock on professors' doors urging them to adopt a particular
title, and a painstaking review process. A well-reviewed work of serious
trade nonfiction may earn you a bit of money, as well as professional
kudos. But will a textbook? Universities rarely grant tenure to someone on
the basis of having authored a textbook, and few scholars devote their
early careers to this type of project alone. Why devote one's efforts-as
publisher or writer-to college publishing? Many textbook authors are
genuinely motivated by a desire to shape a field and to excite beginning
students. But beyond that, as Willie Sutton said of bank robbing, that's
where the money is.
3. Scholarly or academic. The heart of any academic's publishing life will
be the scholarly publishing community. Most scholarly publishers are
university presses, particularly in the United States and Canada. Beacon
and the New Press are unusual not-for-profit publishers with a strong
trade presence. There are also important not-for-profit scholarly
publishers, those connected, for example, with museums-the Smithsonian,
the Metropolitan, the Getty, and so on. But there are other scholarly and
scholarly-trade publishers in America, and these are for-profit.
Routledge, Basil Blackwell, and Rowman & Littlefield, for example, are
scholarly houses whose readerships and author pool overlap with those of
For most of the past century, scholarly publishing has been devoted to
exactly what the term describes, scholarly publishing. The term monograph
persists as a description of the kind of book published by a scholarly
press. Not that many years ago, a scholarly house might refer with pride
to the monographs it was about to publish. "Monograph" isn't a term heard
quite so often these days, but that doesn't mean that this kind of book is
no longer crucial to learning and research.
A monograph, thirty years ago as now, is a specialized work of
scholarship. All university presses continue to offer some monographs, and
some commercial houses have found creative ways to publish them, too.
Monograph publishing is about hardback books at high prices, marketed to a
few hundred key purchasers, most of which are libraries. Generations of
scholars were trained to produce their first monograph, and encouraged to
seek its publication. The most traditional academic publishers continue to
support the monograph as part of their publishing programs. For two
decades the death of the monograph has been repeatedly proclaimed, but the
monograph may have merely been napping. Digital technologies have made it
possible to consider small hardback runs of work too specialized to
sustain traditional printing methods. A book on the performance history of
Timon of Athens, for example, isn't an impossibility, though it would
probably be sold without a jacket and at a very high price.
4. Reference. Like "textbook," "reference" is a term that can be used too
loosely. Your book on Brecht might be so detailed that it could act as a
frequent reference for theater historians. That is, people will consult
your long and thorough index. You might think your project would make "a
handy reference," but that doesn't make it a reference book. Let's
distinguish hard reference from trade, or soft, reference.
Traditional, printed dictionaries and encyclopedias are the heart of hard
reference publishing, and librarians are their key purchasers. Trade
reference describes works that might show up in a bookstore, like Yale's
Encyclopedia of New York City or Basic Civitas's Africana: The
Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Houses that
publish reference works are usually well known for just that. Gale
Research, for example, produces books and related material that are keyed
to libraries at various levels, from the university collection to the
community library. The very largest reference projects are often cooked up
by the publishers themselves or by packagers, basically independent
companies that think up big or complicated book projects and take them as
far as a publisher would like, even all the way to printing them.
Of course, reference publishing isn't just about books anymore. Reference
works continue to appear in traditional printed form, but they are
accessible electronically-on CD, on restricted-access Web sites, and in
formats and combinations bound to expand our understanding of what
"information" and "book" will mean in the twenty-first century.
Discussions of electronic publishing today recall some of the excitement
of the first manned space launches in the 1960s.
5. Self-publishing. The prefix "self" speaks volumes. At odds with his
publisher, Nietzsche took the text of Beyond Good and Evil into his own
hands and published an edition of six hundred copies. In recent years,
corporations have self-published manuals and other projects for their own
use. Some business bestsellers, like The One Minute Manager, began as
self-published projects. Sophisticated packagers are available to help the
ambitious writer move an idea to market without knocking on the doors of
For writers of academic nonfiction, however, the siren call of
self-publishing drifts forth not from the offices of book packagers but
out of the Web. In the Age of the Internet self-publishing is easier than
ever. Create your text, build a Web site, slap up your document, and
voila. You're an author with a work only a few keystrokes away from
millions of readers. Putting one's work on the 'Net is always an option,
and while it has been pooh-poohed by serious scholars, trends in the
culture of publishing are bringing about a rethink of these attitudes
toward electronic dissemination. There will be more in this book on the
subject of electronic publishing, but for now let's say that print
publication remains the dominant form of scholarly communication and the
basis for almost all professional advancement.
Self-publishing aside, here are four broad categories-trade, textbook,
scholarly, and reference. For most scholars, the principal choice is, of
course, "scholarly." But the neatness of the categories conceals the
messiness of most publishing houses. Some houses, like Norton, have trade
and textbook divisions. Others, like St. Martin's, have trade and academic
divisions, including Bedford Books, an imprint that specializes in
anthologies and other materials for course adoption. Random House has a
small reference division, but it's primarily a trade house. And many trade
paperback houses see their books go into classrooms in large adoption
quantities-think of all the Penguin paperbacks you've assigned or used in
If publishing houses are sometimes messy organizations, some books really
do fall into more than one category. The Encyclopedia of New York City is
genuinely a reference work suitable for public collections, and a trade
book that can be sold to individuals for home libraries. Yale University
Press arranged for stacks of the encyclopedia to be sold at Barnes &
Noble. Books can also change category over time. Take, for instance, Toni
Morrison's Beloved. Like every work of literature taught in a classroom,
this novel began as a trade book, but now is earning money for its author
and publisher in part because it has become a widely adopted text.
University presses may be the most versatile, and resourceful, of all
publishers. A press like Columbia, for example, produces a reference
program alongside a more familiar list of academic titles, and a selection
of trade offerings. A small university press may highlight one or two
general interest titles as its trade offerings in a given season. Oxford
University Press publishes a vast list of specialized scholarship, as well
as a distinguished list of reference and trade titles. (Oxford's scope is
so broad that it even has a vice president for Bibles. As a professor once
said to me, Oxford signed up God as an author in the seventeenth century.)
In a single season, a university press might offer a trade book on
gardening, the memoir of a Holocaust survivor, a study of women in African
literature, a workbook in Mandarin Chinese, an illustrated atlas of dams
and irrigation, and the twelfth volume in the collected papers of
Rutherford B. Hayes.
A word of caution: authors sometimes make the mistake of presenting their
work as a combination of trade, scholarly, and reference, with a dash of
text thrown in. You can understand the motivation-the all-singing,
all-dancing academic book that might appeal to every segment of the
market. But publishers are wary of authors who claim too much for their
progeny, and marketing departments will be skeptical of the proposal that
envisions a book for student use that will also be of interest as a trade
hardback. No editor wants to take on a manuscript with multiple
This brief map of the publishing world is meant to demonstrate the range
of publishers that exist, and the kinds of works they produce.
Excerpted from Getting It Published
by William Germano
Copyright © 2003
by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
"Serious" is a stuffy word, especially in the subtitle of a book, but I'll use it as a catch-all for books with ideas: not cat calendars or pop star biographies, just the books on which scholars depend every day of their lives.
Visit your campus bookstore or any of the better independents. Or browse the "Writing and Publishing" section at Barnes & Noble or Borders. The shelves are crammed with guides for writers. All fall into a predictable pattern. How to write your book (general, fiction, screenplay, murder mystery). How to write well (Strunk and White, as well as longer, college-style handbooks). How to publish what it is you've written well (books on finding publishers and editors and agents, mainly for trade books). What's missing is a book to help graduate students, professors, and independent scholars, in other words, serious writers for whom publishing and a special kind of publishing is essential.
Since the early '80s I've helped writers get it published, first at not-for-profit Columbia University Press, and then at Routledge, a commercial scholarly house. Most of them have been scholars, but not all. I've known and worked with many talented people in publishing, but from the authors themselves I've learned what no one else could teach. Each book is a puzzle an editor has to solve. If you can spend hours with pleasure over the Sunday crossword you'll have an idea what it's like.
Most of my work has been in the humanities (particularly in cultural studies, feminist criticism, and literary theory), but I've also published writers in film studies, philosophy, sociology, theater, Asian studies, anthropology, religious studies, classics, and art. Twenty years is a long time.
Getting It Published has three goals
Getting It Published is for any writer of academic work or serious nonfiction who may be thinking about publishing a book for the first time, or the second, of the third. An eager graduate student or recent Ph.D. will, I hope find it useful, but it might just as easily be for anyone who has stumbled through book publication once already, disappointed and even mystified by the course of events. What went wrong? How can I keep that from happening a second time? Even the author whose publishing arrangements have been serene may find that this guide will explain just what's making that happy experience work. I hope, too, that it will be useful for the writer working on the fringe of the academy, that territory occupied by the country's swelling army of part-time faculty. And, finally, it's for the independent writer who isn't part of the academic community at all but wants to be published by a university press or other house best known for scholarly work.
How to use this book
You might consult Getting It Published piecemeal, thumbing through pages until you hit upon a familiar problem. Authors are impatient for information. Find what you need in the index and check out what this book can tell you about the reader's report you've just received or what a first serial clause means. But if you can take the time to read the book from start to finish you'll get a much bigger picture - of what you will likely encounter, where the bear traps lie, how the pieces fit together. You'll also learn something about the business you are not in, but upon which an academic's career in part depends. Getting It Published explains what makes scholarly publishing a business, because - as I will say repeatedly in what follows whether the house in question is commercial or not-for-profit, it's still a business. And as a business, book publishing isn't for the faint of heart. Knowing more about what your publisher does isn't simply a matter of making you a more cooperative author. It puts you in a better position to ask your publisher the right questions, and to know what you're talking about when you do.
Above all, this is a book to save you time. As any scholar knows, the clock ticks loud and fast. No writer wants to eat up months, even years, searching for a publisher. It's my hope that Getting It Published will bring you to borrow James Joyce's expression swift and secure flight.
As a graduate student in English, I never heard a peep about publishing, except the admonition that if I expected to get along in the profession I'd have to publish. Everyone knows that little secret now. These days, graduate schools are keener on survival skills, but the crucial information -- how to go about it -- still seems hard to locate. It shouldn't be. I was amazed that people who could write brilliant books couldn't put a proposal together; that scholars who could master the archive in six languages would still contact a publisher with a letter beginning, "Good morning, editor!" (Note to self: Never do this. The book explains why.)
I wrote Getting It Published partly out of my frustration at what was available for the curious reader. I liked some of what I found in other volumes, but none of those books seemed to tell what an impatient scholar would want to know -- or needed to. No editor can take the time to explain to every inquirer why a proposal hasn't been accepted. Some rejected projects are simply bad. Most, however, are so badly prepared that an editor grows bored or confused, or distracted by something tastier a little farther down the in-tray. Would it have made an outstanding book?
I don't think Getting It Published will help a bad book become a good one. (If you're writing a bad book, stop.) I do think, though, that it will make a good proposal much better, and that it will explain what scholarly publishers can and cannot do for you. In short, it's a book that tries to compress into 200 pages everything an academic author really needs to know about the business. It's a book for people writing about ideas -- the lifeblood of scholarly publishing. Serious nonfiction comes in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Some is for a trade readership. Most is for the academy. I hope my book will help a writer see clearly for whom he or she is writing and how to get the message to the recipient. Those are the kinds of projects every editor I know wants to find in the morning's mail. (William P. Germano)
Posted March 12, 2011
No text was provided for this review.