Thursday, April 27, 2017

From thesis to book

*Blog post updated to include copies of my book proposal

When I see advice sought or given about getting your thesis published, it is all too often couched in terms of 'If you want an academic job, you really need to have a monograph' (in the Humanities at least). Here, I don't want to go into whether that is right or fair, but rather highlight that this attitude implies that pursuing academic publications is really only reserved for those with an academic job or actively looking for one.
As someone who currently doesn't want an academic career, but definitely wanted to get my thesis published, it felt at times that what I was trying to do was a vanity project. And there weren't many others talking openly about some of the difficulties of publishing as ostensibly a non-academic (in the sense that I have a non-academic full-time job).
So, what I'll do here is a brief run-through of my experience of the publication process I went through, and how it may have been different for me as someone without institutional affiliation.
The process (dates are rough cause my memory is hazy):
  • April/May 2015: Submitted a proposal to a publisher recommended by my supervisor.
  • July 2015: Following positive noises from the publisher, submitted a full draft of the manuscript which was then put out for peer review.
  • Sep/Oct 2015: Reviews came back. One was more receptive to the project with minor alterations, while the other wanted something different. I followed the former recommendations and submitted a revised proposal in light of those comments
  • Jan 2016: Accepted for publication, contracts signed, and deadline set for delivery of manuscript.
  • May 2016: Submitted final draft.
  • Aug/Sep 2016: Manuscript proofed.
  • Jan 2017: Manuscript published.
Now, this timeline was elongated due to the fact that the publishing house I initially submitted to was taken over my a larger publisher which did delay the process. 

My experience of trying to do this in conjunction with a full-time non-academic job had some limitations:
  • I didn't have a community around me who I could immediately turn to for advice and support. As such, it was a rather isolating experiencing.
  • Evenings and weekends were often sacrificed, and friends and family roped in to help. There was no way that I could embed this into my day job, although I acknowledge that the current state of academia and academic jobs means that even academics may not have the time either.
  • Access to funds to cover costs such as image rights and indexing are harder to come by (although I am grateful to the IHR Scouloudi Fund to help cover image costs). I had the option to have the publisher provide an indexer but costs would have come from my royalties (which would be pittance) so I did the index myself.
  • Writing your author bio is tricky as you can't say 'Fiona Whelan is a lecturer/researcher at the University of X'. 
However, a lack of academic affiliation is NOT a deterrent to publishers. I did fear than emailing from a Gmail account or my admin work account would be a detriment to my proposal being taken as seriously as someone with an academic position. That fear was completely unfounded and I felt that I was treated with respect and courtesy throughout the whole process.

If anyone has any questions/comments, please do leave a comment below.

And if you want to see the final product, here is a link to my first academic book!

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