How to turn your PhD into a book, part 5: the end!

By Juliana Adelman

I apologise to those of you who have kindly been following this series: it has taken me far longer to get to the end than it should have.  After this post I plan to put all the remarks into a pdf and post that for download on Pue’s.  I hope that someone (or several someones) will then consider adding their two cents and creating a new and improved edition in future.

Perhaps before we consider the final things related to turning the PhD into a book it would be worth outlining the publishing process.  It goes something like this:

1 YOU submit book proposal

2 PUBLISHER expresses interest and asks to see a full/partial MS

3 YOU submit MS

4 PUBLISHER sends MS to referees to read

5 YOU receive readers’ reports, make changes and submit modified MS

6 PUBLISHER creates page proofs

7 YOU receive proofs, correct them and submit corrected proofs and index

[Possibly receive jacket for approval]

8 PUBLISHER adds the index, inputs corrections and turns the book into a file for printers

9 PRINTER prints the book

10 YOU receive advanced copies

11 DISTRIBUTOR/SALES REP offers the book to bookshops and may deal with Amazon

PUBLISHER may sell the book through their website

The time lag between Steps 1 and 2 might be anywhere from 6 weeks to several months.  How long it takes for you to prepare and submit the MS is obviously dependent on how much work you have left to do.  Step 4 often takes much longer than you would like.  It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that you can expect it take you about six to eight months to reach Step 5, where you hold in your hands the readers’ reports and the publisher’s decision on publishing your book.  If the editor feels the changes are effectively minor, you may get a contract at this stage or it may come only after they have received the final, and changed, MS.  The time lag between when you return the corrected MS (Step 7) and when you have a book (Step 10) is at the very least four months and probably more like six.  So from PhD to physical book object is going to take at minimum a year and probably closer to two.

Now let’s assume that you are at Step 5, that is you have just received your readers’ reports.  You may find that you have nothing left to do, but you might also find that the readers are looking for what appear to be substantial changes.  A few thoughts on reacting to the readers’ reports…Read them and then walk away for a while.  Your book has probably become a bit emotional, so if there are criticims they might seem really harsh at first.  When you read them again you may realise that there are valuable suggestions and there are other things you don’t want to do.  You don’t have to do everything the readers say.  If you have good reasons for not making particular changes then discuss this with your editor and you can reach a compromise.  In my case one reader seemed to want me to start all over again and write a different book and the other reader made almost no substantial suggestions.   I started off by becoming fixated on the criticisms and wasting a lot of time licking my wounds.  In the end I decided NOT to write a different book but I did take on board some of the harsher criticisms.  Many of them could actually be addressed by changes to the introduction. This brings me back to the first part of this series when I pointed out how important the introduction is.  It serves as a guide for you as well as for readers: once you have made changes to the introduction use them to help you decide how to change the chapters and conclusion.

Regardless of what changes your readers want you to make, this is the last chance you will have to make any changes that YOU want to make.  After you submit a final version of the MS to the publisher they will turn it into page proofs and it will become tricky (and slow) to change much aside from typos.  So be SURE you are done with it when you send it off.

Step 7 is your absolute last final chance to change anything.  In your proofs you should be focusing on eliminating typos rather than changing the wording of sentences.  Not only is fiddling inefficient, but you might do more harm than good.  Reviewers may dislike your writing style, but they will most certainly be put off by errors of fact.  Don’t focus on the former at the expense of the latter.  You should also be sure you haven’t forgotten to acknowledge your PhD supervisor and any other important people.  Really, this is your last chance. I forgot to thank my husband during wedding speeches, but you can bet I did NOT forget to thank him in my book!  Your other task at this stage is to prepare an index.  This is a pain.  If you’d rather someone else did it for you, you can hire a qualified professional.  This will cost you some hundreds of euro depending on the length of your book.  I did it myself, for better or for worse.  I suggest trying to do it in as short a time as possible because you need to stay in a particular mindset.  I actually sort of enjoyed it.  My only tips are the obvious things: focus on names and places and institutions.  When you’ve done this, move on to themes.

Congratulations!  You now have nothing left to do except wait for your advanced copies and plan a book launch. Oh and fret about all the typos you’re sure to have missed!

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