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Q&A: How to approach a publisher to publish conference proceedings

Q: “I am organizing a conference that I think will be very good. How do I approach a publisher for the proceedings? What is such a publisher looking for?”

A: Michael Lennie, Authoring Attorney and Literary Agent, Lennie Literary and Authors’ Attorneys:

“Ask your adviser; or research similar proceedings to determine their publisher and editor. Obtain several and then contact them to see if they have an interest. The original contact should be by way of a query letter (one well written page) with or without synopsis, sent through snail mail with a SASE. Your initial query should be more detailed (3-4 pages) than the query for an article, including the names and a sentence or two about each participating panelist, his/her subject matter for the proceedings, the forum, date, time, etc.”

A: Richard Hull, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy:

“The market for published conference proceedings drops off the longer the time between the conference and the appearance of the book. Hence, once you have your conference scheduled, your best bet is to begin to approach publishers in your field with your proposed, tentative table of contents. The market will be those attending the conference, so if you have the book under contract when they show up for the presentations, and you can get their orders on the spot, you will impress your publisher with your industry and your understanding of the marketing issues he or she worries about.

The proposal should be based on the content of the invitation to contributors to the conference, and should list (again, tentatively, as you won’t have heard any of the presentations when you propose the volume, and will want to reserve the right to reject inferior material) the presenters and their paper titles, along with a page or two that discusses the likely general thematic content.

Some publishers have series that are devoted to conference proceedings; others to selected materials taken from annual conferences over, say, a ten or 25-year period. The market is the membership of an organization, libraries, scholars in that particular field or niche of a field.

While you are in a better position going to a conference with a contract in hand, don’t despair if you get the idea after the fact. Look for publishers of conference proceedings in your field and approach them, again in e-mails, letters, phone calls, and approaches at conventions where publishers have representatives present.”