Monday, May 28, 2007

Advice on book publication

"Tenured Radical" has very good advice on book publication, and the comments are good as well. These are all historians here, but most things apply to lit. crit. as well.



Blogger Lauren said...

Thanks for posting this!

One thing that I'm still unsure about is how to go about revising the dissertation into a book manuscript. Someone posted a response that said that you should write to a wider audience than your committee, but that seems a little vague. Any other pointers?

11:43 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

It is, indeed, vague, because it's hard to generalize (I think) about the process. The biggest difference between a dissertation and a book ms. is that that reader of a book ms. can put it down at any moment and stop reading. Quite simply, a book needs to be more compelling are forcefully argued than a dissertation. What that means will depend a lot on what the dissertation looks like.

Think of it like this: One of the things you are learning while you write your dissertation is how to, well, write a dissertation. That's fine, but that means the finished product will retain a lot of the residue from your learning process: evidence that is really there to support a thesis that's no longer central; readings that are too long because you were worried about displaying your mastery over a text; etc. By the time you get to the end of writing a dissertation, and esp. after you have had some time to reflect on it, you will probably have a better sense of a) your argument, b) the evidence required to substantiate that evidence, c) how to organize that evidence. For most people, this amounts to a reconceptualization of the project. Often, it also means addressing more authors or texts, or expanding or narrowing the focus. For what it is worth, my dissertation had 4 chapters. For the book, I changed the order, trashed one of those chapters, thoroughly re-wrote another, added two more, and then extended the other two. Or something like that.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I seem to recall Tony Cuda (or was it Jason Jones) saying that the key to book publication includes the words "Bill Germano." His book or two on the subject are supposed to be very good--and I remember his talk on this subject during Spring 2003 being so as well.

6:53 PM  

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