Writing a Book Proposal for a Publisher

When writing a book, you inevitably feel at some point as though you’re grappling with a large mass of material that’s rapidly getting out of control. I’ve been trying to take a few steps back with my own work, recently, by writing a post outlining my research, how I came to start it and the key points that interest me in comparing the urban development of Warrington and York.

It’s proving a very useful exercise: cutting down my initial 11 pages to just two is helping me focus only on the core elements of my argument; and thinking of what I’m writing in terms of a blog post, rather than an academic essay, is also making me focus on my potential readership.

It was while I was thinking along those lines that I started to wonder what publishers looked for in book proposals and a little internet research threw up these rather comprehensive guidelines from Palgrave Macmillan.

What’s interesting, particularly in the light of my own professional background in research funding, is the extent to which the work on which the author has spent years of research and re-writing is reduced to its component practicalities: the key selling points of the project; its primary and secondary markets; the competition; the ill-advisability of the diagram, graphs and quotes beloved of the academic world, due to expense and time-consuming copyright permissions; and the rather plaintive request for a realistic deadline for the submission of the final typescript. Intriguingly, there is also a request for details of any social media activity used to promote the academic’s work, a reflection of the importance such an audience is now seen to be in terms of a potential buying public.

Reading through the various questions, and trying to think about how I’d answer them in terms of my own work, has proved incredibly useful – much like blogging, the potential readership is equally, if not more, important a consideration in writing a book as the content itself. Social media is a much maligned practice, and much of it justifiably so, but doing this exercise is proving, once more, the key role that blogging plays in the development of the writer.


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