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Coming Up With a Book Idea and Creating A Proposal

By: , Posted on: August 14, 2015

caroline and komang

It was Komang who originally suggested that we should put together a proposal to write a book. We’d been approached to write chapters for others and in doing so had identified a gap in the market. We were at first intimidated by the idea and I think individually we wouldn’t have pursued it. However, we encouraged each other to start thinking about the process. We each went away and started to look at potential publishers, quickly drawing up a list of reputable publishers that we were familiar with and seemed to publish other academic books in our area. The process of applying to a publisher was new to us and we didn’t know what to expect.

Looking at the proposal forms revealed that each publisher had different expectations. Some wanted very basic information submitted via a simple form, others wanted example chapters and a very detailed proposal. Both of these proposal types put us off a little. Why would somebody publish our work with such little information required? Were they reputable? What happens if we spend weeks writing an example chapter and then nobody will accept it? This could be a waste of valuable time.

See Komang and Caroline discuss their process for getting started in the video below:

Elsevier had already been at the top of our list but their proposal form reaffirmed our idea that we should approach them first. They could only say ‘no’ and we would move our way down to our second choice. The proposal form was a little daunting at first. We had to fill in a preliminary title, summarise the scope and content, justify our expertise, identify a target audience, explain how the book might benefit that target audience, construct a preliminary table of contents and scrutinize our competition. We could also submit work that we had published elsewhere as an example of our writing style. There was lots of helpful advice on the Elsevier website and that made a big difference.

Related Reading – Getting Started: What it Is Like to Publish Your First Book

We each took the form away and completed the sections. When we brought it together we were pleased to see that we both had very similar ideas about the direction we wanted to take, and that we hadn’t identified a great deal of competition. Discussing our intentions with trusted, already published colleagues and asking what the expectations were for the level of detail in each of the sections was really useful. In the end we filled each section with relatively large amounts of detail but tried to be clear to Elsevier that we were willing to discuss all sections and would be flexible in our approach. As we would be working with collaborators this seemed to be the only sensible way forward.

The process of applying to a publisher was new to us and we didn’t know what to expect.

Once the proposal was complete our final decision was to identify an Acquisitions Editor. Even though there was a lengthy list, we felt like we were aligned to several editors none of whom suited us perfectly! We selected our closest area, crossed our fingers that we had selected the correct one (we hadn’t) and clicked <send>.

In the next blog post we will discuss how we responded to reviewer’s comments and worked towards getting our proposal accepted.

About the Authors

Dr. Komang Ralebitso-Senior

komangI am an early stage academic with a keen interest in research, and research-led teaching, on how microbial communities are studied and then exploited in different environmental biotechnologies. My senior lectureship with Teesside University in 2006 was my first academic post following postdoctoral fellowships in Singapore and Oxford. I really enjoy working in successful partnerships with different colleagues especially where we do research across disciplines, share ideas and learn from each other. So co-editing a book with Caroline will go down in my memoirs as one of my career highlights.

Dr. Caroline Orr

caroline orrI am a relatively early stage researcher whose area of expertise is in molecular ecology specifically looking at functional microbial communities within the soil. I first joined Teesside University a couple of years ago as my first lectureship position following my PhD and a small amount of postdoc work. When I first joined the University I was keen to establish myself as a researcher not just a member of teaching staff but struggled initially to juggle the two. I was quickly introduced to Komang who was interested in research similar to my own area.

Initial collaboration

It seemed logical that we try and collaborate in an area which suited both of us so we began to establish a project looking at the effect of biochar on the nitrogen cycling community using undergraduate/masters level projects and gaining small amounts of funding to initially set this up. As Komang is more established in this field she was approached to write a review on the topic for an open access journal. We put the review together and found the writing process, as a first-time duo, quite enjoyable.

Writing a book?

Around the same time Komang was approached to write another chapter for a book on a similar subject, which we then co-authored with our former MSc student. We started to think of ideas for chapters that we could submit and realised that there was potentially a gap in the market for a book covering the effect that biochar application can have on the soil microbial community. It seemed like a daunting task but we challenged ourselves to pursue the idea and started looking at potential publishers.

View our previous article on Getting Started: What it Is Like to Publish Your First Book

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Earth & Environmental Science

The fields of Earth science, planetary sciences, and environmental science encompass disciplines critical to the future of our world and its inhabitants. Our well-being depends on a thorough understanding of air and water resources, soil chemistry, atmospheric dynamics, geology, and geochemistry, along with a myriad of other aspects of the environment we live in. Elsevier supports the efforts of researchers and scholars in these areas with content that meets their cross-disciplinary needs: journals, books, eBooks, and online tools that span computer science, chemistry, energy, engineering, biology, agronomy, ecology, environmental impact and many other topics fundamental to the study of our world. Learn more about our Earth and Environmental Science books here.