A few months ago, Publishing Trendsetter did a series on the life cycle of a book. Not surprisingly, it was focused on trade—since, well, that’s where “everyone” wants to go. The thing is, academic publishing doesn’t always work like trade does. Seeing as Ye Olde Humble Blogge deals with academic publishing, and Ye Olde Humble Authorre works in it, let’s fix that imbalance. Continue reading
Okay, enough with the snark, it’s been done already. I’m pretty sure a goodly number of the people who read this and aren’t looking for insightful commentary on Yves Klein’s monochromes (which accounts for a shocking amount of the traffic ’round these here parts) will have to publish academic books at some part of their tenured lives. What follows is a short list of things, from my standpoint as The First Person Who Reads Your Proposal, that you might want to know. Continue reading
Rule 1 of the acquisitions department: the publishing house is a business.
Rule 2: rejecting book proposals is easy; accepting them is hard.
It may seem strange to think that some twerp intern with only an MA (if that!) has the power to reject manuscripts from emeritus professors, but more than one submission has found itself in The Slammer (AKA “The Rattling File of Death,” AAKA “the non-invited submission file”) on an intern’s advice. Sure, I spent over three years in grad school learning the minutia of my field, but really—they’re trusting me with Someone’s Life Work, the Brilliant Book What Will Change the World?
First, who seriously hires a literary agent for an academic book? Most academic book deals, at least at our little press, come out of glad-handing and conference drinking sessions; Bossman knows pretty much everyone who submits a book to us, having been on the philosophy and religion circuit for years. Forget the agent fees and just buy a ticket to ACPA or AAR and a few drinks for the folks manning the book booths.
Second, the editor and intern are both academics. We both read academic books. You know, dry, dusty, and boring tomes. Even the best are usually dense, of interest to only a few nerds who find questions of (law as a kind of rule-guided social behavior/interpretive jurisprudence/modality in medieval logic and metaphysics/the possibility of unicorns existing) so amazingly fascinating that they’ll shell out a nice sum of money for a copy of their own. Thus, is describing the book you’re representing as “new and exciting” really a good idea?
Bossman and I got a few laughs out of the inquiry. Hey, if bad presentation’s the worst thing about that inquiry . . .