Cultivating a relationship with a publisher; sooner rather than later
Most academics and authors want to have a productive relationship with a publisher or publishers. It eases the road ahead and makes the process less mysterious. A good (or dare I say great) relationship with a publisher will also give an academic market knowledge about their chosen area of authorship and its readers. But how do you go about cultivating such a relationship?
The first step is to start now. Waiting until after the research and writing is done it like going on vacation and only reading about your destination after you’ve landed at the airport. Sure, you know about the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, but what else is there to do? Things might work out but laying plans in advance is the ideal.
Publishers need authors just as much as authors need publishers. Before you start a conversation, do your research. Become a fan of what they do. Dive into their products and understand how they compare to the others in the market. Be able to speak as intelligently about what they publish as you can about your chosen area of research.
Let’s split scholarly publishing into book publishing and journal publishing.
Connecting with publishers at a convention or trade show is one easy way. Many large publishers will have a booth in the exhibit hall. Start by introducing yourself and focus. Then move onto your interests in what they do. Be genuine.
For journal publishers, ask if they need reviewers or editorial board members. For book publishers, they may also use peer reviewers, or sometimes have market centered focus groups. Inquire how you may participate in their publishing process.
For book publishers, they may have sales representatives come and visit universities for textbook adoption. Get to know your person and explore opportunities with them for review, or give feedback to the company, etc.
Publishing websites may also offer a place to connect. Reach out to them and offer to lend your assistance.
For journals, you might also start a correspondence with the editor. Talk about the recent issue and give your feedback. Offer to send a letter to the editor, or comment online.
Follow the publishers on social media and join their conversation. Everyone loves a retweet!
And you can do all these things with several publishers. There is no exclusivity in these relationships.
All of these ideas must be done with genuine interest and therefore you’ll want to focus on what they do for the publisher, as opposed to a stealth way for you to get published. I guarantee you will benefit from the efforts in your writing and publishing career. It will make you a savvier author.
The critical element is to do this ahead of time (read this as now) and not when you need something. Research, writing, and publishing are a continuous loop. You are an expert in the first one and gaining great experience in the second one. Why not fully understand (and participate) in the whole process as opposed to be at its mercy?
Besides there is more to do in Philadelphia than the Liberty Bell (Hint: Reading Terminal Market, the Barnes Museum, Morris Arboretum, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and more). Come find out at the TAA Annual Conference June 14-15!
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He has been in scholarly publishing for over 25 years. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. His newest book is the new edition of You Can Write and Publish a Book: Essential Information on How to Get Your Book Published, Second Edition. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at email@example.com.