Working with book publishers


I thought I would start a thread about post-viva people working towards getting their thesis published.

This might be a good thread to ask questions, air doubts, and hopefully get some support from others in the same boat during the publication process.

I finished my humanities PhD before Xmas and started approaching publishers in March. I had a list of 12 potential publishers and sent out individualised proposals to all of them.

Of the 12 I have since received 5 rejections and 5 follow-ups. Rejections were pretty sharpish so its good to not be waiting about. The 5 follow ups / expressions of interest took around 4-6 weeks for the replies so I guess to a point no news is good news for others waiting out there. Luckily thus far my top 3 publishers are all interested - so hopefully, after peer-review of the proposal, I might be able to move onto the next stage with one that I want.

Are there any publishers that you have worked with? Any advice/tips?



This thread sounds like a good idea - anyone got any tips?

Avatar for Eska

Yes it is a good idea. Does anyone know what format a proposal is in, is it an abridged version?


this is something I have been wondering about - trouble is, I dont know where to begin!
It would be really helpful to speak to a former phd student who has had their thesis published as a book - any out there?

My questions might be daft - I wonder about payment/funding. Are you expected to fork out yourself to pay for publishing costs? Is this something the publishing house covers and then takes back from any profits? How difficult is it to get a grant or some funding to help if you do have to pay upfront??!!?!?!!

Also in some of the articles I have read online the proposals sent to publishers are quite specific - outlining the number of months it would take to convert the existing thesis into a more publishing friendly 'book' form, what is a realistic estimate for this? (I realise each thesis will be different).


@Emma: From what I've been told from my sups and department people, a good publisher will NOT ask for a contribution to publishing costs. I've been advised to steer well clear of publishers that do.

I sent out various individual proposals to various publishers and received two offers straight away. I thought this was a bit dubious as surely the proposal needs to go through a peer-review process AND the manuscript itself needs to be peer-reviewed. To top it off one of the offers said I would have to pay over £1000 toward publishing costs. No chance. One publisher was a pretty established one but with less of a reputation in the humanities field. The other is a pretty well known one who plays on the name of a more prestigious uni to attract more people I guess.

All publishers ask you to specify the period as to when the manuscript will be available for their consideration. As I have finished my PhD I put 'immediately' as in my naive mind I'm thinking, at least in my case in terms of the structure of the thesis, I need to simply CMD+F all the mentions of "thesis" and change them to "book"!!! I know I'm in for a shock somewhere down the line thinking that way lol!!!!


@Eska: Proposals have to follow the guidelines of each publisher. I found that most proposal forms have the same sections but in a different order. Some do ask for more specifics but it just depends. One I had my paragraphs pretty tight after doing 3 or 4 proposals I found I could complete the others pretty quickly.


One piece of advice I would have is NOT to approach your preferred publisher first. I did, and thankfully they have taken it to the next stage, but looking back the later proposals were so much tighter and well written after all that practice!

Avatar for Eska

Thank you Larry David. That's really useful!


Publishers prefer Professors and established people from established places. They also do not like controversial work. Try self publishing- you can at least then update it. see a Many publishers do not even reply- despite having your work for 4 months- so you did well. Some ask others to write it. Also--- I hate criteria-- if you have an original piece of work, well structured, they should recognise it. It ought not to be about ticking boxes, delays so much development.


Thanks for the help LarryDavid - I had been warned about the £1000 payment before, It isnt currently an option for me so its great to know there are publishing houses out there who dont get the author to pay upfront.

tim - I had thought about self publishing, but I have been encouraged by examiners and supervisors to try traditional publishing first, I realise publishers prefer established names but I do know of a few former students from my uni who have been successfully published in my field (N.I. history & arts) so I'm going to submit proposals and guage interest anyway.


@Emma - I agree with what you are saying. I think that self-publishing is an ideal model for an established scholar and I have a dream on someday publishing all my work through my own webpage while generating interest and revenue through that. However as early-career people the whole drive of publishing is the peer-review process which is what ultimately establishes you in the academic community (Sorry for all the 'academic speak' there!)

@Tim - Thanks for your post. To be fair, all the publishers that I contacted did reply. To the credit to the publishers that had no interest, they replied immediately (even one two minutes after I emailed!!!) Also, the other publishers that are interested haven't had my work for 4 months but 4-6 weeks thus far. Again to their credit, the publishers who appear to be interested have been very professional and courteous although of course there is no guarantee their interest will go any further.


Good luck with everything LarryDavid - let us know if there are any developments in the near future (I'd be very interested to know how you get on!)


Hi guys.

Can't believe it's been 3 months since I last posted in here!

Anyway my no.1 choice for my book - the no.1 publisher in the field - has offered me a contract for my manuscript. I'm over the moon!

Since I last posted in here there has been some back and forth with the editorial team regarding the structure of the book. The reviewers were very positive with the proposal I sent but did ask for changes. It has been agreed therefore that I will rewrite the first part of ch. 1 (say 5000 words) and to take out the proposed ch.2. I feel bad about losing the material for ch.2 as it was my supervisor who pushed for that chapter to be included in my thesis, but in terms of marketing the book from a publisher's point of view then it does make sense. And at 100,000 even as a thesis I knew that the project was too long and convoluted. Anyhow I have already published the main argument of ch.2 in a journal article and I can incorporate some of ch.2 into ch.1 as well. That is the only major change; the other suggestions were just to explore further some arguments I made in the sample material I sent.

All the reviewers made the point that a book manuscript is not the same as a PhD thesis. I got the sense that they found some of the material dry and maybe a little anal in terms of setting out arguments and saying what I was going to do and why I was doing it etc etc. So I will try to emphasise my own voice in the manuscript I am preparing.

All in all I have 6 months to send the manuscript but even though I am working full-time I hope to send it in 3 months and get the ball rolling.

I anyone has any questions about the process thus far then I'll try and help!