Scholarly Publishing at Georgetown: Submitting Your Manuscript
Choosing the right publication venue for your completed manuscript is as important as the research and writing that went into it. An appropriate publisher can make sure your manuscript is published with minimum delay and maximum impact, giving your work broad notice and allowing you to move quickly to your next research project.
Book publishing is a much different process than journal publishing: few publishers produce both books and journals, and those that do tend to have completely separate divisions. This section focuses primarily on book publishing although we have incorporated information about submitting to journals when appropriate. This section covers:
- First Books & Revised Dissertations
- Selecting a Publisher
- Book Proposals
- Contacting an Editor
- Publisher Decisions and Rejections
Main Campus faculty may contact Carole Sargent, Director of the Office of Scholarly Publications, for guidance on selecting publishers, submitting a book proposal, and finding an agent.
First Books & Revised Dissertations
Many first-time authors would like to publish their dissertation as a book; however, there are significant editorial and economic challenges to publishing a revised dissertation, and extensive revisions will be required by your editor. In some cases, these challenges may be so significant that you will find the wiser course is to publish one or two solid scholarly articles based on your dissertation, and move onto your next book.
For more information:
Selecting a Publisher
The first step in seeking a scholarly publisher is to identify presses that are currently publishing works like yours. Simply scanning your bookshelves (and those of your colleagues) may yield the names of several presses that publish in your subject area. The American Association of University Presses (AAUP) maintains a very helpful subject area grid listing university presses and their subject areas of interest.
For journal articles, three sites that rank high-impact journals are Journal Citation Reports (Web of Science), Google Scholar Journal Metrics, and ScImago Journal Rankings. Each site uses different methods to calculate rankings, so it can be useful to compare a journal’s rank in multiple sites. Although journal rankings are an imperfect measure of quality, be wary of journals that seem completely unknown to you or faculty colleagues. See our Journal Quality page for more information.
Even if one press is clearly your top choice, we recommend identifying and contacting multiple publishers about your manuscript.
Publishers’ guidelines for manuscript submissions vary widely -- use this chart to link directly to guidelines of university presses of special interest to Georgetown faculty. When you contact a publisher about your book, you won’t submit the entire manuscript. Even if you’ve already written the book and are ready to publish, an editor will want to see your book proposal, not the complete manuscript.
Your book proposal should include a short description of you and your manuscript, a table of contents or detailed summary of each chapter/section in the work, and your manuscript’s intended audience (e.g., general readers, scholars in particular fields, or students). It’s also helpful to include an estimate of the book’s length and any special features (e.g., how many images or illustrations you will need) and an estimated delivery date.
The editors who read your proposal will be evaluating it based on several criteria. Here are a few tips from university press editors on writing a strong proposal:
- Each university press has its own culture, character, and subject areas. In your proposal, you should address why the press you have chosen is the right publisher for your book and how your book will complement the other books published by the press.
- A critical issue that editors will consider when reading your proposal is what how your book will contribute to scholarship in the field. Your proposal should clearly state why your book is important and how it builds on, fits in, and differs from the existing literature.
- Editor will also want to know why you are the right person to write this book, so you should document your expertise and authority in the subject area. Include a brief narrative biography, highlighting your qualifications for writing this book, such as your previous publications, professional talks, conference presentations, media coverage, and scholarly blogs.
Recommended resources on the book proposal:
- Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform by Christina Katz (PN161 .K37 2008 LAU Stacks)
- Nonfiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon (PN161.L96 LAU Stacks)
- Thinking Like Your Editor by Susan Rabiner (PN161 .R28 2002 LAU Stacks)
- Interview with Sara Cohen
Contacting an Editor
When you are ready to send your book proposal, you must first pick an appropriate editor. While some presses have a general contact for all submissions, most publishers have assigned an editor to each subject they handle. Contact information and subject areas for editorial staff at selected presses are available in this chart. For other presses, try a search for "[press name]" editors or look for contact information on the publisher's homepage. After reviewing the subject areas for the editorial staff, submit to the most appropriate editor. If your manuscript is interdisciplinary and might be handled by multiple editors, pick a single editor to contact. Most editors would prefer to forward a submission to a colleague rather than have an author independently contact multiple editors at the same press.
Learn more about the acquisitions process from university press editors:
- Talk at Georgetown University by Kate Marshall, Acquisitions Editor, on the acquisition and publication process at the University of California Press.
- AAUP video, It's Not Scary: The Art of Getting Published with a Scholarly Press, with tips from university press editors on how to select an appropriate publisher and editor.
Publisher Decisions and Rejections
Publishers normally take several weeks or more to respond to a book proposal, and an editor may ask you for more information about your book during the review process. In addition to the proposal being reviewed by an editor, he or she will often send the proposal out to one or more consulting scholars before making a decision. Even if the decision process is handled entirely in-house, your proposal will likely be read and reviewed by several individuals before an offer is made.
If you receive an acceptance, don't sign the book contract without reviewing and negotiating the terms! Read more about book contracts in the next section.
If your submission is rejected, thank the editor and move on to another press. There are many reasons a publisher might reject a submission. An editor or editorial committee considers questions of sales (the economics of scholarly publishing today demand attention to the bottom line), other books recently published or forthcoming, titles already accepted and under contract at the press, production costs, and many other factors beyond a manuscript’s scholarly merit.
Occasionally an editor will reject a submission in its current form, but suggest revisions and invite a second submission. If possible, revise and resubmit your proposal according to the editor’s directions--and do so in a timely fashion. Although a resubmission may still be rejected, demonstrating your willingness to take suggestions and turn projects around promptly will be respected by any editor and may help with later submissions.
An agent (specifically, a literary agent) acts as your representative and advocate with publishers. Agents can help you identify appropriate publishing houses for your manuscript, assist you in tailoring your work for a particular market, handle initial contacts with editors, and negotiate contracts, royalties, and rights on your behalf. Agents are paid by commission (usually 15% of sales).
Having an agent is essential for certain types of publications. Most trade presses, for example, categorically refuse manuscripts unless they come from a reputable agent. However, academic publishers typically do not require agented submissions, and most agents will be reluctant to consider placing journal articles, short works, poetry, or anything else with narrow sales potential.
Carole Sargent, Director of the Office of Scholarly Publications, advises main campus faculty who are looking for an agent. The Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR), the professional organization for agents, is a good starting point for finding an agent. Most agents require an introductory letter describing your work, and some also ask for a sample of your manuscript.