In the run up to Academic Book Week from 9-16 November, Dr. Anna Arrowsmith has shared her experience of publishing her thesis with the
Research Hive Blog. You can find her book Rethinking Misogyny: Men’s Perceptions of Female Power in Dating Relationships in the library, at HC 6400 ARR!
How I Got My Thesis Published
By Dr. Anna Arrowsmith
In September 2014, when I had completed the minor changes to my thesis required by my examiners, I immediately began the process of getting it published, without taking much of a break. This was for two reasons, firstly, the subject matter of Rethinking Misogyny: Men’s Perceptions of Female Power in Dating Relationships, had over the final months of four years I had been working on it become culturally apposite. The debate about gendered power was being fought out with more and more frequency between feminists and masculinists, especially online, and pick up artists, who formed some of my interviewees, were becoming more widely recognised too. The second reason was that I still retained that deep fear of someone getting there first and publishing on my subject (however inferior theirs may be!) before I did, so I had to strike whilst the iron was hot.
The process to publication took a year from beginning to publication date and it went thus:
Firstly, I looked through my list of references in my PhD and noted all of the publishers I had quoted from. I then found the contact details online for my list of 15 fairly frequently quoted publishers.
I then prepared the documents I needed to send them, two data chapters as PDFs (which I did not change from the PhD version at all), a book outline and an up to date CV. The text on the email was short and to the point, I just wanted to whet their appetite rather than overwhelm them with black text at this stage. It read:
“Please find attached an outline for a book version of my recently completed research PhD called Rethinking Misogyny: How Men Experience Women to have Power in Dating Relationships, along with my CV and three sample chapters.
This book will fit in very well with the current interest in gendered power in dating relationships as being discussed widely online and in the media, continuing the debate into academia and in doing so, extending the existing research area of gender studies. As the author, I have an extensive media presence, which I am happy to utilise for promotion of this title. I look forward to hearing from you.”
I spent at least a week working on the outline, which included all of the elements I had read were required in the publisher’s guidelines (which you can usually download as PDFs from their websites). Rather than tailor each one to individual publisher’s guidelines (which you are meant to do but I couldn’t be bothered if I’m honest) I amalgamated them all into a conclusive list of attributes I needed to include. These were: title, introductory paragraph, description of the book (which I based in a topical news story as a springboard, that of the murders by the disgruntled virgin, Elliot Rodger a few months before), marketing advantages, table of contents, chapter outlines, market competition, intended readership, about the author and suggested reviewers. You can see my full outlined in the attached PDF. Note, you have to sell yourself and the book!!! This will not feel natural to most English people; it will feel like boasting, but you must do it. You need to convince the reader why the world can no longer go on without your book in it and why you are the only person in the world who can change this egregious situation.
I emailed these documents to all fifteen publishers directly (you don’t need an agent for academic books, thankfully) at the same time. This is something you will read is not what publishers like you to do, they prefer you to approach them individually in order of preference, allowing each of them up to three months to decide on whether they wish to publish. Whilst I would never dream of submitting an academic article to more than one journal at once, I don’t think the same should be true of academic book publishers. To me, sending them off one at a time is a system that definitely favours the publishers rather than authors. I didn’t really think it was fair to be honest and I certainly didn’t have the time to wait for each publisher to take months to return a verdict, my subject matter was too hot. As someone who has run businesses before turning my hand to a PhD, I see myself as having applied the same logic as would be appropriate in the marketplace; don’t assume you have exclusivity unless it is specifically agreed and acknowledged beforehand. I would not have lied to any publisher who asked the question but I wasn’t going to proffer the information up front either.
I received as many rejections as non-replies, yet I did get three bites. One publisher immediately sent me a contract but they wanted me to pay for page setting, which sounded like a vanity press to me (although some Italian academics I know said they now have to pay the publisher to publish any academic book, so maybe this is more common than I know). Of the other two, one came back immediately (I always think speed of response along with a clear expression of excitement about the project to be important signs that they are good people to do business with) with a request to send the chapters off for independent review. The result was two very supportive responses from independent experts (as far as I know, they did not choose the reviewers I recommended), which the publisher forwarded to me, and I forwarded to my Mum and Dad.
The second publisher wanted three months (!) to make an offer and this really was a deal breaker for me. I had found out from an online listing that rates quality of publishers by Sense, that the two publishers interested were both on the second tier, so I went with the one that was keen to publish quickly and who sent me flattering reviews, rather than the one who wanted a further three months to decide.
As I have been previously published, I joined the Society of Authors (who only allow published authors to join) in order to get valuable legal advice regarding the contract. If I hadn’t been able to join them I would have gone with their counterpart, The Writer’s Guild, both get good reviews online. They gave me a detailed break down of the contract which was incredibly useful not only as a source of advice but as a mean’s of saying to the publishers “I have been advised I should be asking for X” and thus taking the strain off the relationship bargaining between the publishers and myself as an individual. You must do the same, I implore you.
I got some changes to the contract regarding royalties, which I was able to negotiate in my favour as I carefully let them know I had two other publishers interested (another reason to approach more than one at a time). They weren’t huge but still significant and I was pleased to sign with them as they had shown they respected authors and were responsive at all times. I signed with Ashgate in November 2014.