Archive for September 17th, 2009

How to turn your PhD into a book: part 1, prepare a book proposal

17 September 2009

booksBy Juliana Adelman

I should start with some confessions.  First, my only qualification for writing this article is that I have turned my own PhD into a book.  I am not 100% happy with either the PhD or the resulting monograph.  I think probably many first time authors will tell you the same thing.  This is just some advice for people doing solid history research who want to convert several years of effort into an object that others might read.  I reserve the right to give advice which I should have followed, but failed to.  And finally, this is going to be kind of long and probably violate the word limits we’ve set for ourselves.  So if you’re looking for light entertainment, skip to something else.

Deciding your PhD topic

Uh oh, too late for that, eh?  In an ideal world, you would have chosen a PhD topic which was so exciting and interesting that your enthusiasm is undimmed after 3, 4, 5…however many years you’ve been at it.  If you are relatively normal you will be sick of your topic by the time you finish writing the dissertation.  However, you will need to refresh your enthusiasm when you start converting the PhD into a book.  When you defend your PhD you are basically answering the question ‘Why is this work important?’  To sell the book to publishers and readers you also need to answer ‘Why is this work interesting?’  You will need to think of why you thought your topic was interesting in the first place and how it might be made interesting to more than the three people who it was written for.  This sounds simple, but is really quite difficult. To convince a publisher to publish your book you need to offer them a compelling reason and ‘a valuable addition to scholarship’ really isn’t good enough.  You also need to think of your prospective readers and consider what is the most important aspect of your research, what you really want people to take away from reading your book.  Now you are ready to…

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