Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (1)

Sometimes academic authors come to me as an editor with questions about book publishing. Too often they do not. They simply have their proposed manuscript to present. As a result, they sometimes make missteps on the road to publication. As we approach the season of academic conferences where I will be meeting dozens of prospective authors, here are some questions they should be asking.

Should I wait to


contact an editor until my manuscript is done?
No. Academic editors often prefer to talk with you at a very early stage. Then they can offer suggestions on the shape a manuscript should take before you start. It is hard to tell an author, “You know, if you had just written your 300-page manuscript this way instead of that way, we would be very interested in it.” So, editors often just say no at that stage when an early conversation could have led to a yes.

What’s better–to present one fully developed book idea or several partially developed ideas?
It’s better to briefly describe three or four ideas and then let the editor suggest which one or two have the most promise for her publishing house. That saves you time and the editor time. Then you can develop a fuller proposal on those that are requested.

Do I need an agent?
Agents are not required to work with most academic publishers. It is fine to approach the publisher on your own. If you use an agent, remember that the editor will still want to have direct contact with you about the content of the proposal.

How do I find an editor?
Talk to your academic colleagues who have published before. Do they have a name of an editor or publisher they would recommend? You can also go to academic conferences and stop by the book sales area to ask for an appointment with an editor from a publisher with a booth there.

OK. What questions do you have that I haven’t covered yet?

Next: Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (2)

Image by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.