How to respond to peer reviews of your book manuscript

Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press, Writing Groupand Jessica Gribble, acquisitions editor at Lynne Rienner Publishers, share their advice on how to best handle the peer review process:

Don’t take it personally. “Remember that the purpose of this review is to help you make your manuscript the best work it can be,” said Gribble. Also, reading criticism, even constructive criticism, of something you’ve worked on for so long can be emotional, so it is wise to wait several days before discussing it with your editor.

Discuss the reviews with the right colleagues. “If you’re just kibitzing because your feelings are hurt, that’s not constructive,” said Gribble. “If you have a mentor or colleague who knows the project well, that person may help you come to terms with which things in the review deserve more attention, which are the most important changes to make.”

Reviews are not gospel. Nor is every piece of advice in every review. As with anything, said Holzman, some reviews are better than others. “You need to evaluate the overall quality of the review, and weigh the advice you’re given,” he said. “Conferring with your editor can help you decide what sort of revision makes the best sense.” [Read more…]

You’ve reached your maximum number of textbook pages, but lack content. Now what?

Q: “I am writing a book under contract and my chapters have been running so long I have already written the maximum number of pages negotiated with my publisher, yet have only fulfilled half the overall content promised. How should I approach this with the publisher? Should I renegotiate the overall content covered in the book or engage in some major editing?”

A: Laura Taalman, mathematics textbook author:

“This may not be an issue with you, but are you sure that YOUR page count is the same as theirs? Depending on what program you use for your writing, and what kind of format the graphic designers and compositors will use, your count may be very different from what they will be counting. Maybe your problem can magically go away?” [Read more…]

Tips on copyrighting your completed textbook

Q: “I have recently completed a textbook, and am searching for a publisher. Should I have the book copyrighted?”

A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, Atlantic Path Publishing:

“You can, or the publisher can do that for you in your name. The publisher typically pays the fee and sends two finished copies to the Library of Congress when the book is out. Request that the publisher register the copyright in your name, which is normal unless you have permanently assigned copyright to the publisher. My understanding is that in signing the publishing contract you do assign exclusive copyright use to the publisher (hopefully for a specified time rather than indefinitely), after which rights can revert to the author. However, an original work is ultimately, automatically, the property of its author or creator, which is a separate function from granting rights. It does seem confusing. Publishers typically do the paperwork and payment for registering the copyright, and a textbook often contains additional material and ancillaries that the publisher provides, and that may be why most textbooks have the publisher’s name on the copyright page. But, if I understand correctly, copyright ownership of the author’s content can be (and often is) registered in the author’s name (unless it is a work for hire), and the publisher usually will perform this service if asked. I believe we have attorneys on this list who can clarify this for us.” [Read more…]

How to write a stellar book proposal and get published

Tips of the Trade ImageQ: “A publisher has expressed interest in my ideas for a book, and has asked for a proposal. What goes into a good proposal?”

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

Download ‘Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal’ from Lennie Literary Agency and for further information, see the books referenced therein. Click to download PDF

“A proposal should be as good as or better than the book itself because publishers sign non-fiction books based on the proposal and one or two sample chapters, not based on the completed book itself. Do not short change yourself by slapping together a generalized proposal. Read the book(s) and relevant articles, and do your best work!”

A: Kären Hess, the author or co-author of more than 30 trade books and college-level textbooks on a variety of topics including financial planning, dental marketing, art, literature, engineering, hospice care, reading, management and report writing:

“A cover page; an overview including what the book is about, the need, that is why the book is useful or necessary; the audience, that is who the book is for and who will buy it; the competition, that is, what makes the book different from or better than other books on the subject and a list of competing titles if any; author qualification; an outline with detailed subheads (can be narrative paragraphs, bulleted list of key points or a formal outline); and a sample chapter (not necessarily the first chapter, but what is considered the strongest chapter). Conclude with an offer to provide any additional information desired and contact information.

It should be obvious, but the proposal must be well written (clear, concise, forceful, error-free and nicely formatted). If it is an unsolicited proposal, a strong cover letter is a must.

Some proposals include an appendix with letters of endorsement, copies of articles about the author or the author’s work and the like.

Presentation is critical – the axiom you never get a second chance to make a first impression applies. Use a good printer and quality paper with a professionally appearing binder. Never submit a handwritten proposal.”