My exact question to Elizabeth and Jim was, “What role does a prospective author’s prior publication record play in determining their fit?”
Elizabeth was quick to say that prior publication records rarely factor into her decision-making at the proposal level, although they often inform her decision to reach out to an author. “Prior publications are essential in helping scholars to make their work visible. “Ideally, you’ll be able to figure out how to turn pieces that won’t fit in the book into articles rather than publishing all four chapters as separate articles first — definitely don’t do that! What you really want to avoid is giving away your book’s main idea or key concept best hookup apps for college students reddit in a journal article, so people don’t feel like they need to read your book.”
Her advice was to find the sweet spot where you establish a platform for your work but, at the same time, don’t give too much of it away
Jim echoed this advice, but he also stressed the importance of presenting one’s work in settings that mimic a peer review, like conferences, to benefit from initial feedback. “That sort of early review can help you hone your project even before submitting it to an editor,” he noted.
I have a working understanding of how to go about contacting an editor: you start with an elevator pitch, then submit a book proposal and writing sample, and then work with an editor to finalize the manuscript for peer-review. When I have a roadmap like that, my ideal scenario is to work backwards. “
But I’ve had no sense whatsoever as to how to spread those dates apart. Should I make initial contact with a prospective editor before I have my idea fully sorted out? Or would it be better to wait until I think of it as done? I knew the best timing was probably somewhere in-between — but where? Perhaps the answer to this question is obvious to more senior faculty, but as a first-time book author, I felt paralyzed by it.
So I asked my two experts, “From the time I make initial contact, when should my book proposal and writing sample be ready?” I was surprised to learn from them that a book proposal may not be as valuable or crucial as I would have guessed — and that what I really need to do is perfect my elevator pitch.
In other words, I think, “Okay, if I want to submit the manuscript for peer-review on A date, then I need to send off my proposal and writing sample by B date, so I should reach out on C date
Elizabeth advised me: “I find it useful to have a sense of a person’s work before we have an initial conversation. Even just a paragraph or two can be a helpful way to set the scene. If I’m reaching out to someone at a conference, I don’t necessarily expect that, but if someone is reaching out to me, I do expect them to have something ready.” She continued, “At Duke, we prefer to send out full first-book manuscripts to peer reviewers rather than book proposals, so I don’t always find the book proposal the most useful document to base my judgment on — I’ve been disappointed by promising proposals that led to lackluster manuscripts too many times.”
Jim stressed that each editor will have their own preference, but he wants the opportunity to arrive at a meeting prepared. “Every editor has their own inclinations as to whether a paragraph will do or whether they want to see a fuller prospectus — and sometimes that might vary depending on how much time they have,” he said. “I like to do at least cursory research beforehand to see what else is out there, how this might fit in with my list, and how broad or narrow the topic might be.”