« JOTWELL: Sassman on Bray on the new equity | Main | Kende on Berger on The Rhetoric of Constitutional Absolutism »

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Tips on Writing & Publishing a Book

Thanks to Howard and everyone at Prawfsblawg for having me back. I have a research leave coming up, and I will be a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador. I will be teaching international water law at the Pontifical Catholic University in Quito and working on a research project on Ecuador's constitutional right to water. The whole family is going, and we are really excited. 

There are currently 42 countries world-wide with a constitutional right to water, and I am interested in expanding this initial project in Ecuador into a book-length comparative project on how countries formulate and implement this right. I assume it would be a good fit for an academic press. I also have an idea for a book that I think would fit in a popular press. This book would be entitled JUST ADD WATER. Racial discrimination, gender inequality, immigration, terrorism, global pandemics - just about every major issue in society has a significant and/or underappreciated water component.  Name almost any major challenge facing society, and my book will explain that challenge's relationship to water, and how improved water policy would help address it.  This research leave seems like the perfect time for me to try to at least get the ball rolling on my dream to write a book. My problem, though, is that I have no idea how to do it.

What would be really helpful for me (and I'm guessing many Prawfsblawg visitors) is advice on how to write and publish books. What is the difference between pitching to academic presses as compared to popular presses? How do you go about getting an agent, and when? What is the typical timeline? What are common mistakes or misconceptions? What do you wish you would have known before pursuing your first book project? What are some resources you have found particularly helpful (books, websites, etc.)?

Posted by Rhett Larson on March 3, 2016 at 08:50 PM | Permalink


Yes! Thank you. This would be very helpful. Great idea.

Posted by: SAR | Mar 4, 2016 2:23:02 PM

Having just finished a book (shameless plug: The Rule of Law in the Real World! go buy it! cite it!), I have some quick thoughts on the academic side (don't know anything about the popular side):

1. For a first book, conferences worked really well for me for connecting with editors. I had serious talks with editors from two presses about mine; the first, which didn't work out, I approached at the book display at a big conference; the second approached me after seeing a presentation of mine at AALS. Also, recommendations from friends with books seem like a good approach.

2. You need a proposal plus a couple sample chapters to gauge interest; some presses will offer a contract on the basis of that (after peer review), others will want a full manuscript to send out for review first (especially from first-timers). In many cases a pre-MS contract doesn't mean much anyway (except for looking good to tenure committees &c), since they can always reject the full MS when it arrives.

3. Presses tend to have guidelines for proposals on their websites, you should go look at them. But the basic information they all want tends to be: (a) what the book will say---short description plus chapter-by-chapter outline; (b) who you are and why you're qualified to write it, (c) who the competition is, what other books are in the area etc., and (d) some intelligent idea of the market for the book, i.e., will it be appropriate for classroom use, which fields of scholars will be interested, is there a policy market, etc.

4. Acquisitions editors vary, often have reputations, and a good one can make your life amazing.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Mar 4, 2016 2:55:01 PM

More importantly, how long do we have to wait until Rhett proves once and for all, with his inimitable style that is equal parts enthusiastic charm and thorough analysis, that it really is all about water?

Posted by: Patrick Luff | Mar 4, 2016 4:00:25 PM

Post a comment