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Today there are more ways to publish than ever, and more challenges to traditional publishing. This ever-evolving landscape brings more confusion for authors trying to understand their options. The third edition of Getting It Published offers the clear, practicable guidance on choosing the best path to publication that has made it a trusted resource, now updated to include discussions of current best practices for submitting a proposal, of the advantages and drawbacks of digital publishing, and tips for authors publishing textbooks and in open-access environments.
Germano argues that it’s not enough for authors to write well—they also need to write with an audience in mind. He provides valuable guidance on developing a compelling book proposal, finding the right publisher, evaluating a contract, negotiating the production process, and, finally, emerging as a published author.
“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.”—Diana Fuss, Princeton University
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|Publisher:||University of Chicago Press|
|Series:||Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing|
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Getting It Published
A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books
By William Germano
The University of Chicago PressCopyright © 2016 William Germano
All rights reserved.
First Things First
You need to publish.
The first edition of Getting It Published began with that sentence. So let's start with that assumption. Is it still true that you need to publish? There's a lot of discussion on this point, and an endless supply of stories about authors who put their work online and find immediate feedback, or writers who blog and reach more people immediately than they might had they disseminated their work through a more traditional format.
So why is traditional publishing still around? The question has never been more urgent, but perhaps never quite so misunderstood. The enthusiasm for what sounds like bypassing traditional scholarly publication venues is grounded on two conditions within contemporary intellectual life.
First, the sheer potential of digital communication and the extraordinary acceleration in computing power (and simplified design and layout apps) make it appealing for any writer to try his or hand at writing, designing, and manufacturing his or her own book. Beautiful physical objects can be made without the intervention of a professional publishing house. The technology, in other words, has caught up with one facet of authorial desire.
Second, academia is as subject to the currents of economic and professional unrest as any other segment of contemporary society. From Occupy to the growing crisis in adjunct academic labor, this moment is marked by a frustration and resistance to prevailing systems of authority and organization. Some of that frustration has touched the world of scholarly publishing. Why don't I just post my beautifully designed book on my website and make it free to anyone who wants to see it?
For some projects, that's exactly the right decision. But there are two points to be made, one technical and the other political in the broadest sense. Designing something that looks wonderful isn't a cakewalk. Maybe you can teach yourself how to do it, but you may need to pay a designer ahefty sum to to help you achieve your vision. The more important point, however, is that everything you really need from a publisher — a tough reading, suggestions for cutting and strengthening, the approval that puts your work among the select titles on that publisher's list, the money to get your book to people who don't otherwise wander eagerly to your own website — is out of reach.
Self-publishing was once quirky or simply quaint. Now the term no longer seems quite right. Anyone can post anything — a blog, an essay, a booklength study — and, as is often the case, now repost something that has already had traditional, validated publication. Author A publishes an essay in a collection from a major university press and shortly thereafter posts the essay on the author's own website. The boundaries between self and professional, between unsupported and externally validated, are increasingly slippery. They will become only more so.
These confessions of ambiguity may not seem to help the beginning scholarly author, but they're included here to provide a quick but hardnosed look at the conditions within which an academic writer will ponder publication options. So here's the fundamental reality: publishing in traditional forms from traditional venues is, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, still the critical way in which academic achievement and contribution are determined.
In short, writers have never had more opportunities to send their words out into the world, or at least out into the world of the Internet. That's good news for many kinds of writing and for many kinds of writers. But scholarly writers aren't ordinary wordsmiths. They write with a particular purpose and under a particular set of rules. Write at home and post to your website, and you can make accessible to your readers your views on politics or literature or biotechnology. Some scholarly writers do just that.
What motivates scholarly writers isn't the opportunity to blog about Henry James or quarks or Coptic portraiture. Scholars write with more precision and with more precise intent: their work is rigorous and rigorously reviewed and then produced to the highest standards of scholarly publishing. Only then does the work of scholarship really enter the big academic conversation. That's not to say that independently posted writing can't be valuable, but there's no mechanism to help the serious reader separate online wheat from online chaff.
Scholars need publishers to do a lot of things — to help shape the structure that the ideas will take, and sometimes to help clarify the ideas themselves, to proclaim work loud and clear and to do it to the best and most interested audience possible, and to authenticate the scholars' writing within the academic world. Blogs and websites are increasingly important augments to a published book, but the book remains the central means of connecting scholarly ideas to academic minds and scholars to the academy. Some of those books are physical, some are both digital and physical. Even where the digital edition is the primary text, a publisher will supply POD — print on demand — for those readers and collections who want the physical thing itself. Perhaps unreasonably, the academy looks differently at physical books than at digital books. And so for most of the narrative-driven scholarly fields — from literature to sociology, from anthropology to art history, and on through the Dewey classifications — it's the physical book that still shines out as the proof of academic achievement.
The Internet provides many forms of dissemination and access, and they can all look like forms of publishing. Do you blog? Is your blog simply your own site or do you blog for an organization or a publication that also has a print version? Many blogs are gorgeous things — sometimes more handsomely designed than many printed books. Blogs have the further advantage of offering images and links to video and audio and all the wonders the digital world can offer. For some writers (and anyone who blogs is a writer), a blog can feel like a digital homestead, a place to set up camp and declare it to be a space where your word rules.
There are a lot of blogs. A lot. Somewhere in the nine figures, but no one is sure and the number is growing daily. How many academics blog? There aren't reliable figures on this question either, but you can trawl the Internet and come across blogs on almost any conceivable subject, including topics that you might have thought appeal only to a handful of specialists. That's the beauty of the Internet and of blogging. For some scholars, the blog is a short form — how short is up to the blogger — on issues broad or targeted. The focus of the blog is up to blogger, too.
What gives the blog its panache — the immediacy of its arrival, its elasticity, the unpredictable nature of its content — points to the many ways in which a book is crucially different from a blog.
First, a blog is designed to be as urgent as the day's news or, with a longer period, a monthly magazine. Second, a blog needs followers. There's a certain satisfaction in blogging — you get to see your ideas attractively laid out on screen and you can take pride in making your ideas available to anyone with access to a computer. Without a following, a blog doesn't have readers. As a blogger myself for the Chronicle of Higher Education, I've certainly had the strange experience of wondering whether anyone has read me other than the handful of people who post comments. So I do what a writer has to do: I promote — softly — my blog on Twitter and Facebook. There at least I know I have followers who will see me calling attention to the blog's existence. Do they read it? Some do. But the blog is a mayfly, or at least mine is. There's another blog by someone else tomorrow, not to mention the millions of other blogs one might be reading.
Blogging is short-form digital self-publishing. There are other forms of digital self-publishing, too. You might post online your scholarly essay on a newly discovered letter by Charles Dickens. With the speed of light your thoughts are up online to read — a year or more sooner than if you had published the essay in a scholarly journal, and about that long if the essay had been part of your forthcoming book on Dickens and his correspondents.
But the millions of blogs in the online universe don't offer the assurances and comparable permanence of book publication. What blogs are good at, books aren't, and vice versa. You don't need to choose between the two, and many writers don't. For the scholar the opportunity to speak quickly and often less formally to an online following is an augment to the carefully considered, fully researched work destined for book publication. No one expects a full-dress bibliography and notes in a blog. Everyone expects it in a scholarly book. Blogs are short, fast, accessible. Scholarly books take the time necessary to consider difficult material and arguments of appropriate complexity. The academic world may send quick messages to intellectual partners throughout the blogosphere, but the real work of fine-tuning scholarly ideas is mainly done in journals and scholarly books.
You can blog, and you can tweet, but you still need to publish. And there are editors — at university presses and other not-for-profit houses, at commercial scholarly publishers, even within large trade houses — who want to publish what you have to say. Chances are you're already teaching at a college or university. Or you might be a graduate student looking ahead with more than a little anxiety. You might also be an independent scholar with a full-time job outside the academy and a wonderful project brewing on your dining room table. You all have one thing in common: You want to finish the book, get it accepted, and see it out in the world.
How much of this is in your control? There's no guarantee that what you're writing is going to make it into book form, at least as you've first planned it. It may turn out that what you've got isn't a book at all, but bits of several projects. Fortunately, getting it published doesn't depend entirely on the whim of the gods.
Start with these questions:
Why did I write this book?
Whom did I write it for?
What part of my academic training explained how to get my book published?
If you're like most academic authors, you've never needed to ask the first question. "What do you mean, 'Why did I write this book?' Isn't it obvious?" In one sense, it is. Your dissertation is your first book-length writing assignment. After that, you're on your own. You know the drill: you need a book to get tenure, perhaps even to get a job, and in some cases even to get the interview. Book 2 should be in the works if you're planning on sticking around. Writing books, after all, is what academics are expected to do.
"Whom did I write it for?" It's not a trick question. If you wrote it in the first place as a dissertation, you wrote it because it was a requirement. You wrote it for a committee. And you wrote it for yourself. It's sometimes hard to keep in mind that any book you write is a book you're writing for yourself. But it's surely true that if you don't believe in your book, nobody else will. Plenty of manuscripts are good enough to squeak by as dissertations, demonstrate research and analytical skills, and earn the student a PhD. But if a book's going to work as a book, you need something that will be of value to others and yourself, something you're proud of and want to share.
You're writing to share your ideas among a community. And there is a community of scholars. In the world of scholarly publishing, you're writing for a definable readership. In fact, one of the things that make it possible for scholarly publishing to work is that your publisher can reach a very particular body of readers. I'll talk more about this later in the book. But for now, the question "Whom did I write it for?" should conjure up a set of concentric circles, like ripples forming around the pebble you cast into a pool of water.
The pebble is yourself and your book. The smallest circle is your most devoted readership. It's a very small circle. It's probably Mom, Uncle Al (who always thought you'd make a great teacher), and the twenty people you know will buy anything you write. (You're wrong about this: Mom,Uncle Al, and those twenty people will probably expect free, inscribed copies of the book within hours of publication.) I call this your freebie readership. It's not a reason for a publisher to give you a contract.
The next, bigger circle is the core professional readership in your field. Writing on Wittgenstein? This circle is other people writing on Wittgenstein. Some are unpublished graduate students who need to keep up on the latest work just as they're finishing their own. Here you'll also find people who study Wittgenstein, or teach him, or have published on him. I don't mean, though, that everybody who teaches or studies or writes on the subject will be lining up to buy your book. Still, they're your core buying readership.
There's a bigger circle outside this one. It's full of people who don't work on Wittgenstein, but who are interested in related subjects. Twentieth-century German culture. Intellectuals and their bodies. Theories of language. They're less tightly bound to your book than are professional philosophers, but you'd love to reach these people, too. Think of this circle as a looser, cross-disciplinary readership. We might call it your supplementary readership. Of course not all books by academic authors make this big a splash. You might be writing a book that doesn't cross any boundaries and will work well in only one field. But you might just have a project for readers in literature, philosophy, and history. That can be a real challenge for your publisher. And it can also be a wonderful opportunity for your publisher to sell more books, and for you to speak to people in other fields.
Back to the pool. As the ripples die away there's a faint trace of an enormous circle. Here — maybe — are those people you may think of as the "general educated reader." Be tough on yourself: this is your wishful-thinking readership. Today it's harder than ever before to depend on the general educated reader, though the phrase turns up every day in an editor's submission pile. It always makes me think of Gloria Swanson at the end of Sunset Boulevard when she turns to the camera and thanks all those wonderful people out there in the dark. Gloria was going mad, you know.
The general educated reader doesn't have much free time. Think instead about your project's core readership, or core readerships. A scholarly book for "anybody" is probably a scholarly book for nobody.
Feeling puzzled? If no one's explained this to you, you're not alone. If you've just completed your graduate work, chances are you're tens of thousands of dollars in debt, degree in hand, and you've had the strong recommendation that you publish your book — fast. But how much time was spent on showing you how to make that happen? You may finish this book asking some tough questions about graduate training.
Publishers have systems of evaluation, just as universities do when they make job offers. There are ways to approach a publisher, just as there are ways to apply for a job. In the following chapters you will learn how to
make the best case for your project,
choose and contact a publisher,
keep the conversation moving forward,
consider your options,
understand a contract,
work with an editor,
survive the publication process,
develop a scholar's approach to electronic possibilities,
work with your publisher to promote this book, and
think about the next book.
For those who work as editors and publishers, nothing could be better than for authors to have this information at their fingertips.
A book needn't be a physical object between hard covers. But that doesn't mean you no longer have an obligation to shape, voice, trajectory, audience. It may even be true that the new flexibility in delivery formats creates new obligations for the writer. I'll talk about that later in chapter 13.
For an editor, a book is a text before it is imagined in an appropriate delivery form. An electronic book is a textual object consigned to a specific delivery system — but it's still a book, at least for our purposes here. Editors seek out books that they themselves can get excited about; books that bring together imagination, enthusiasm, and ideas; books that help us all to understand the world or rethink what we thought we already understood; books that give the pleasure of discovery and that connect us to our own time and culture as well as to others; books that aren't afraid of hard questions and difficult materials but that are brave enough to explain them clearly.
Scholarly publishing is a big, noisy conversation about the ideas that shape our world. Here's how to make your book part of that conversation.
Above all, remember what you already know: people like books.
Excerpted from Getting It Published by William Germano. Copyright © 2016 William Germano. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
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.
Table of ContentsPreface to the Third Edition
2 What Do Publishers Do?
3 Writing the Manuscript
4 Selecting a Publisher
5 Your Proposal
6 What Editors Look For
7 Surviving the Review Process
8 What a Contract Means
9 Collections and Anthologies
10 Quotations, Pictures, and Other Headaches
11 How to Deliver a Manuscript
12 And Then What Happens to It
13 The Via Electronica
14 This Book—And the Next
Afterword: Promoting Your Work
For Further Reading