3 Strategies and 5 steps to developing your dissertation into a manuscript

Let’s set the record straight. “A dissertation is not a book.” In her recent TAA webinar, “Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”, Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz of MargaretEdits shared practical strategies and tips for bridging the gap between completing your dissertation and writing a compelling book manuscript.

 

During this session, Puskar-Pasewicz offered three strategies for making the transition from dissertation to book and then suggested five steps to get started on the journey.

3 Important steps to reconceiving your dissertation as a book

Early career academics and newly minted PhDs in the humanities and social sciences often want to turn their dissertation into a book. While this is a laudable goal, it is important to keep in mind that university presses seldom publish unrevised or lightly revised dissertations. Instead, they seek books that grow out of dissertation projects and are substantially more developed. Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz’s TAA webinar offered terrific advice about the big picture of moving from dissertation to book. TAA members can review her webinar for an overview of the whole process.

Where most writers get stuck, I’ve found in my work coaching academics for the past decade, is in the early stage of reconceiving their project. Taking the following three steps can help you shake off the familiar old conception of your work that you’ve lived with for years and chart a new map for a truly book-worthy project.

First steps for a second edition

It’s time for a new edition of Doing Qualitative Research Online! At SAGE, that decision isn’t an automated step. The decision is thoroughly considered and vetted. I had several meetings with my excellent acquisitions editor, then created a proposal which was sent out for review. Comments from reviewers were discussed in further conversations, and we came to an agreement.

Now I have to do the work. How should I start? Every time I write a book, I am determined to avoid problems encountered in past projects. No matter how hard I try, I end up with some degree of frenzy at the end. To lay a positive foundation, here are the questions I am exploring and the steps I am taking:

Success, secrets, and finding our way! The inside story of TAA authors’ development

How do TAA authors find their way through a complex and ever-changing maze of writing and publishing? In April 2018, we asked TAA authors, via an online survey and follow-up interviews, to share their experiences in writing and publishing. From 139 survey responses and 12 interviews, we gained rich and insightful descriptions of TAA authors’ writing and publishing journey. We learned about: pitfalls and challenges that can be avoided as authors write and publish books, what authors wish they had known before beginning the book-writing process, and the top three strategies TAA authors leveraged to improve their skills.

To share TAA authors’ experiences and wisdom with you, this blog post reveals some of their pitfalls, lessons, and strategies for writing and publishing textbooks and academic books.

Reflections on seeking a publisher 5: On giving sole consideration

Some publishers ask for sole consideration of your proposal. In my process, I have mostly given sole consideration to the publishers to whom I have been proposing.  This has been largely a product of my approach: as discussed in previous posts, I feel that it’s best to write a distinct proposal for each publisher, to better match their list. Because that’s a pretty big effort, I don’t send out a lot of proposals at once. In August, I sent out one proposal that never earned any response, so I suppose that I wasn’t quite offering sole consideration on the two proposals I sent after that. Because it takes time to move from one proposal version to the next, and because the responses I did receive were generally quick (on 3 out of 5, I received a response within a day or two), I was basically offering sole consideration: as soon as I got a positive response, I focused my energies on responding to that one publisher, and not one making a proposal for another.

Reflections on seeking a publisher 4: On writing proposals

In my experience, proposals are more difficult and nerve-wracking than writing the book. When I work on my book, I think about the strengths and about what I can offer to people through my writing. When I work on a proposal, it’s hard not to think about the possibility of acceptance and rejection, which is rather more stressful.

In writing, I find it crucial to hold on to my ideas as a foundation and focus first, before considering other people’s interests. But for a proposal, especially, I have to speak to someone else’s interests. It’s all well and good for me to believe that I have great ideas and that everyone could benefit from reading my book, but, realistically, the editor at a publishing house doesn’t much care about me; they care about their job and about finding books that will sell, and who knows what else?  If I want that editor to do something—like read my proposal, or offer me a contract—it’s important to know what they want, because that knowledge gives me a better chance of writing something that will suit that editor.