Publishing in your home language in your home country is tough enough, so seeking out a publisher on the international market might seem an unreachable goal. It isn’t. And it’s worth it not only for the respect and recognition, but also the ability to reach new audiences and potentially stimulate new academic partnerships.
Here are 7 steps to getting published internationally:
1. DO consider your audience
While writing your dissertation, your attention will have been focused on a very narrow audience – your dissertation committee – and a very narrow theme – the niche you are carving for yourself in your field.
However, when you are converting to a book-length manuscript, this focus needs to widen.
You will need to determine whether you want to appeal to a professional audience of academic peers or a wider audience of the general public.
When you are expanding your audience further to an international one, even more work is likely to be required to engage these additional readers. You will need to identify, through conversations at workshops and conferences and by perusing the publishing houses that your mentors and peers use, who your professional audience might include.
Questions to find out more about a professional audience might include:
- Who comes to your own presentations at conferences?
- In which publishing houses does your professor publish? Why? Does he/she reach certain target groups there?
If you are considering a public audience, evaluate their appetite by talking about your topic among those not involved in academia. Find out who is publishing related best sellers, identify public intellectuals who engage in the topic and follow the journalists who are writing in this area. Test the waters by reaching out via social media and engaging in public conversations.
Questions to find out more about a public audience might include:
- How do friends and family react when you tell them about your topic? What interests them most about the topic?
- Who is speaking about the topic on Twitter?
- What are bestsellers and trending topics in the publishing world?
- Which newspapers/blogs are talking about your topic? And who is their audience?
In sum, present your work as often as possible – at conferences, at workshops, in writing seminars, to friends and family, and on social media – so that you have many eyes upon it. Grow a thick skin while you are at it. You’ll need it when/if you get a revision and have to resubmit or reams of peer review comments to which you have to attend.
2. DO proofread and edit
Read and reread and read it again. Then, get others to read your manuscript. Pick it apart and put it back together. This step is a necessary evil and somewhat related to the “Don’t rush into it” point below. You need distance and perspective to get things right, to notice the gaps and assumptions, and to ensure that a wider audience understands your research and findings.
While bringing in a professional editor may seem tempting, they are often quite expensive. You might also consider using some of the innovative editing software and AI tools that are being developed, such as Grammarly and Trinker AI.
You should check whether your publisher has proofing services, as utilising them for all your publishing requirements will save you a lot of time in the long run. Also, enquire whether your university has proofreading services or whether someone in your department or a trusted colleague or graduate student could use some extra cash to do the job. The first choice, of course, is to get a professional involved. The investment is worth it, as your manuscript is your calling card and you need to set the best first impression.
3. DO check the publisher’s author guidelines
There will be a set of requirements that you need to meet and a style to which you need to conform. Pay careful attention to these elements before submitting your work so that the publisher can see you have abided by their preferences.
Each publishing house also has a set of aims or goals and a scope of work that they choose to publish. Make sure you are a good match.
Keep in mind that translation services might be required. Find out who is responsible for that aspect of the process. Getting your work translated by a native speaker is extremely important, so it is not worth skimping here.
4. DO submit a book proposal
A proposal is an excellent place to begin. Even if you only plan to start your final draft in a few months, working through this process is important and can be initiated before you have a finished product in hand. Publishers will probably have details on their website, but it is a good idea to offer several potential titles, keywords that will help categorise the book, and a synopsis or abstract with enough information to adequately communicate your topic and findings. A tentative table of contents is also helpful, as well as a brief overview of your intended audience and uses for your book. Lastly, a suggested timeline for the book project should be included.
5. DO send a cover letter
Cover letters may seem passé but a number of editors have expressed a positive disposition towards cover letters in these busy times. Especially when you are submitting to an international journal, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself, situate your work within the field and justify why your contribution cannot be ignored. A good letter can help build on a pre-existing relationship with the editor or spark a connection, all of which is important to a successful partnership. It is typically the editor’s first impression of you, so you need to promote yourself and distil your work into a compelling and concise introduction.
6. DO exercise patience
The process of getting a book from complete manuscript through submission, to revision, proofing and printing is long and tedious. A typical cycle could take 18 months to three years. Much of this cannot be accelerated, so temper your expectations and respond in a timely fashion to any queries from the publisher.
7. DON’T rush into it
When it comes to timing, it is essential to keep in mind that a dissertation is very different from a book manuscript. In fact, they are two unique manuscripts: the dissertation is for an audience of one — your committee; the book is for a broader group of peers working in your field, and beyond. So, when rewriting your dissertation as a book, your audience changes, the focus widens and the tone must shift. The content, too, must be adjusted. Parts of your original thesis, like your methodology section, will need to be cut radically so that it flows better as a book. And often, this is easier to do once you have some distance from the dissertation process.
There are a number of pitfalls to avoid. Even though the process is lengthy, you need to spend a significant amount of time identifying the right publisher. Hopefully, you have put out feelers at conferences, and perhaps your dissertation committee can help advise, but most likely, you will need some time to do this research.
If you are looking to publish abroad, you must ensure you have found the appropriate publishing house. Check-in with your international colleagues, attend international conferences (once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted), and constantly check the publication details of books and journals that you have found useful in your work.
Often, these processes are easier to complete once you have gained a little distance – in time and headspace – from your dissertation writing, submission and defence. So, do not be too hasty and rather avoid submitting work that looks and reads like a dissertation as your chosen publisher will probably reject it. Give it the time and attention it deserves.
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Image: Pexels 2021 / Thoni Huang