My first book contract was issued from an academic press! I cannot believe that just happened. Well, it didn’t exactly “just happen.” It’s been brewing for months. Here’s my process of how it all came together for me.
A meeting, a pitch, and a conversation in October
While attending the national ACES conference last October, my mentor introduced me to an editor he had been working with on his first book. He raved about her. He said that his book, newly published at the time, would not be the finished product it was without her guidance and wisdom. He said it was vital I meet her. And meet her, I did. Soon after we started talking, we talked about my clinical and research interests. She was interested in my work with Veterans. I pitched my idea about a book working with the Veteran population. Turns out this was also an interest of hers, and we were off!
Once I returned from the conference, I do what I normally do when connecting with someone at a conference. I sent a friendly, follow-up email. You can learn more about networking with purpose here. I referenced our conversations and again expressed interest in the process of writing a book on working with Veterans. I asked about the next steps of the process. She informed me that the first step would be for me to write a 10-12 page book proposal or prospectus. The prospectus varies according to the publisher, but usually includes a detailed table of contents, a marketing strategy, other books that would be in competition with yours, and sometimes a sample chapter or two for your book. Once that was finished, it would be sent out for peer review. We also connected by phone a little later as well, and she answered my questions. I told her I would write a prospectus, and she would hear from me in a few months.
Freakout moment: “Can I do this AND write a dissertation?!”
Once I was realizing that this could actually happen, anxiety set in. I had thoughts of “Am I really capable of doing this along with completing my dissertation?” I felt a little crazy at this point. I immediately consulted with my wife, my adviser, my friends, and other colleagues. They all said the same thing, reassuring me that I was fully capable. My wife reminded me of my clinical load seeing clients, and said I may need to reduce my hours for the Summer. I agreed. Other cohort members reminded me that if I didn’t go for it, I would probably regret it later. They also said that my current writing discipline of writing 5 days per week would allow me to do both. I agreed with their assessment, welcomed their encouragement, and I began writing the prospectus.
Prospectus written and submitted
Several weeks later, I wrote the book prospectus and submitted it to my mentor and other colleagues for their review. They liked it. Once that was done, I sent it to the editor for review.
Peer feedback given
Several weeks later, she responded with feedback that she and the reviewers enjoyed the prospectus and why it was something that she would be interested in publishing. We discussed the next steps.
Phone conversations about writing timeline
I continued to have multiple conversations with the editor about writing timelines, and I was grateful for her consideration of me and that completing my dissertation was still the most important thing in my academic life at the moment. She assured me that the finished manuscript would not be due until well after my dissertation was complete.
Book contract issued
Just a few days ago in April (6 months after that first pitch and conversation), I was issued my first book contract from an academic press. Wow, I can’t believe that just happened! So now what? Celebrate, of course!
Questions, consultations, and negotiations
I read and reread through the contract carefully and sent it to my mentor for his review. I read a few academic articles about negotiating a book contract. I consulted with a couple of people about the contract. I asked about indexing and illustration costs, and was told that the publisher picks up those costs (which can be well over $1,000 and some publishers pass along this cost to the author). I called the editor and negotiated some of the royalty rates. And in case you didn’t know this, you will not become rich writing an academic textbook. Not even close.
Book contract to be signed
I plan to sign the updated book contract this week. Good times!
Create a writing schedule and follow it
Probably the most important piece of advice the editor has given me so far is the following: it is imperative that you create a writing schedule that is based on the deadlines provided by the publisher and stick to it. This is very similar to the dissertation writing schedule as mentioned here. Regarding writing practice, here, here, and here, I’ve written about the importance of writing 5 days per week. The good news is I’ve been writing almost daily for the better part of 3 years. By maintaining this discipline, I am better prepared to face this book project while also finishing my dissertation. A bit nervous and excited, later on I will provide an update of how it’s going.
Hopefully, these steps will help you if there is a book within you to be written now or in the future. Feel free to post questions or comments below.
Until next time…keep writing.