Just Ask!

How can I get my thesis published without a whole lot of work? Which publisher is best? Why is my book not available in bookstores? Where can I actually meet and talk to a publisher? Does it have to take so long to decide if you want to publish my book? Why do publishers hate edited volumes? Why (not) self-publish? Who buys the most books? How do publishers promote their books? Why is it taking so long to publish my book? Why are the prices of this publisher so high that for that one so cheap? What is the ideal length of a book? What fonts should I use? What happens at book fairs?

There are no dumb questions. Rather, arguably it is dumb not to ask.

All of your questions are welcome (though no promises that I can answer you immediately at length).

Pose your questions in the comments field below or e-mail me at gerald.at.nias@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

38 Responses to Just Ask!

  1. Sharon Domier says:

    Could you please include advice on getting permissions. This is an area that many authors do not think about until they are trying to meet their deadlines, and it is very complex. Photos, quotes, lyrics, maps… so many different kinds of materials and so many different kinds of rules and/or procedures.

  2. Tom Glynn says:

    Can you give me some idea how long, generally, it takes to publish a book? Maybe take this in two parts: how long from the first (unsolicited) submission of a manuscript to a signed contract. Then from the contract to the point at which it’s available to the reading public. Thanks.

    • Hi Tom. Six months is not unusual to assess and approve a book project, from first sight till signed contract. It can take much longer, however. Some publishers are notorious for taking years to come to a decision. Others agree on the spot but here it’s because they trust the author and are excited by the project. Any decent publisher will peer revew every ms, even those they’ve verbally agreed to. This review takes time.

      From final delivery of the ms by the author through to printed copies should take about nine months. That said, rush jobs happen and also snail-like projects. I’ll update my original “long time” post with a link to an overview and timeline of the production process, hopefully today.

  3. Tom Glynn says:

    Any advise on putting together a book proposal? Thanks.

  4. Sam M says:

    ok, im a 14 year old girl and right now im writing book an i want to publish it once its done…the problem is, is that i dont have a lot of money to do it. im looking for a publisher who will publish teen writing really cheap…plus, i dont really want to wait for a year to find out that the publisher wont publish it, if you know what i mean. i want someone who will be quick with their decision, but also not super expensive. any ideas? please! ive been working on this for years…

    • Dear Sam M

      Trade fiction is not my area of expertise. However, I have three suggestions.

      First, you may not have much money but your age will count against you in any dealings with literary agents and publishers. As such, it may be worth self-publishing your book, especially as quite a few books originally published in this way are then subsequently picked up and ‘properly’ published by a trade press.

      Alternatively, you can suss out the various social networking sites where authors submit sample material for feedback. These sites are trawled by publishers looking for interesting new manuscripts.

      And, finally, if you want to go the conventional route, then find out which presses are publishing books similar to what you are writing. Do NOT approach these presses, however; you have to go about things the long way, by following the author trail. With a bit of creative Googling for the different authors you find (it might also be worth zeroing in on the site, Publisher’s Lunch), you can then find out which literary agents specialize in this type of fiction. They are the people who you must approach. Chances are, however, they won’t be interested (there are just too many would-be novelists out there clamouring for attention) hence my intuition that self-publishing via someone like Lulu.com might be best for you.

      Good luck!


  5. Nancy says:

    Thanks for this website; it’s been immensely helpful to me. Just a small question: how many words/pages do you suggest for a solid chapter in an academic history text?

    • Apologies for the delayed reply. Off-hand I’d say 5,000-10,000 words. However, length depends a lot on the format/purpose of the book and the chapter should fit with the rest of the chapters. For instance, in a 300-page book, if most chapters were about 20-25 pages long, a chapter that was 5 pages or 65 pages would look out of place.

  6. Tom Glynn says:

    Is there any rule of thumb as to how many book proposals one might send out at the same time? What’s considered ethical? And is considered unethical to send a completed manuscript to more than one publisher, if more than one responds favorably to the proposal? Thanks.

    • If you put yourself in a publisher’s shoes, you have your answer. Looking at a book proposal takes time and – if advice is called upon from outside – may even cost a nice bottle of wine, lunch or similar. However, that is part of the overhead cost of searching for good mss. The investment in evaluating a completed manuscript is considerably higher both in time and money. This is why publishers may blacklist an author who practises multiple submission of mss.

      I doubt any publisher will get upset if you reply to them with thanks for positively responding to your book proposal and advise that, as you appreciate that you can submit a ms to one publisher at a time, you are considering your options. This could be a good way to find out how keen they are to review the ms.

  7. JF says:

    Do you have any idea how to present a picture book app proposal?

  8. JF says:

    JF another couple of question.

    I have read your item about multiple submissions. I wanted to ask is it acceptable to submit different book proposals to different publishers at the same time?

    Is it worth having your work critiqued by others before submitting and what is the best way to go about it online? – are their copyright issues?

    • Sending proposals to multiple publishers is OK (though it is wise to warn the publishers you are doing this). Once you submit the ms for peer review, you need to come down to one publisher only.

      Critiquing is a bit of a lottery. Your friends and family will say it’s wonderful, your rivals may look to put you off your stride (esp. if it looks like you will be undermining the success of their own book project which is a bit behind yours). And you are right, your ideas can get stolen in a public viewing. On the other hand, such public previewing is happening in the hard sciences without too many problems, it seems. Probably the best thing is to give bits of the work to different people whose judgement you trust.

      Sorry about this delayed reply (was on summer holiday and missed it).

  9. EL Brooks says:

    In terms of academic book publishing, what is the protocol for agents/lack of agents? My book won an award at the university I was attending; how can I (or can I) use this in the query letter? Is it best to rewrite and edit the book first, or look for publishers first? Thank you.

    • Hi Emily. Apologies for overlooking your query. Agents don’t really exist in academic publishing (there’s no profit in it hence any 10% agent’s commission will be worthless). That said, academics writing a popular (mass-market) book will often use an agent.

      Was it a book or a thesis that won an award at your university? If a book, then you can hardly offer it again. If a thesis, mention the award in your covering letter but stress how and where you are reworking this into a monograph. For more details, go to:


      and download the free excerpt on converting theses to monographs.

      Good luck!

  10. Aviva says:

    Hello Gerald Jackson,

    First I would like to thank you for your excellent work and website! It is just what I was searching for at this moment!
    I am currently in the process of transforming my Ph. D. thesis into a book. After a long period of “thesis fatigue” ( as you aptly phrased it) I am ready for the overhaul! My question is: Should I keep the hypotheses presented in the thesis (as well as the term: hypothesis, hypothesize, etc.) in the book? Or simply present the conclusions arrived at from the research?

    • That really depends on the book. In most cases, however, I would think it better to reformulate your hypothesis into a line of argumentation that presents your research findings, i.e. they become a seamless whole rather than a question-answer thing.

  11. Anna says:

    Thanks for the useful website. I’ve got an offer to publish my book but have a couple of reservations. First, the publisher has peer reviewed two sample chapters and the proposal but says there will not be a further stage of review before publication. Is this normal? I feel as if I could do with a bit more help than this. Also they want me to pay the copyright for illustrations myself. Is this normal or could I try insisting that they cover it (I have about fifteen so it will be quite a large amount for me to pay)? I’m tempted to submit the proposal to another publisher to see whether they offer a better deal but am not sure whether this is acceptable now that they have peer reviewed it. Thanks in advance for your help, Anna

    • Ouch! I missed your query, Anna. Some publishers are cutting corners with truncated peer reviews these days (one of them a big one whose name starts with “R”). At a certain point, this behaviour will devalue the whole point of there being publishers: as gatekeepers for quality. The floodgates will then open to Creative Commons self-publishing instead. If the publisher is behaving in this way, I see no obligation to accept their offer. Shop around. Yes, it is normal for authors to be responsible to get permission to use copyright material and pay any fees involved.

  12. Ajit Behera says:

    How can i publish my thesis as a book?
    Is there any publication fee, Plz clarify me……..

    • A thesis is not a book. More about this in the free download at the NIAS Press page for ‘Getting Published’ (www.niaspress.dk). Reputable publishers do not charge fees to publish. That said, some books may only be viable if a publication grant is raised.

  13. Nikow says:

    Not a thesis question. I am at the other end of my career, a Reader approaching retirement who has written a fair number of paper and reports, but wants to present the results of three decades research across disciplines.

    The publishers who respond use lovely words like ‘fascinating’ and ‘I really enjoyed this’ and then get down to business – ‘we aren’t sure whether it fits our list’.
    How can you respond to this? Are they lying when they use these kind words? Or does ease of classification trump reader interest every time?

    I ask a specific question:

    Darwin’s Origin of Species was utterly unprecedented. Treviranus and Lamarck had published about mutable species, but Darwin single-handedly invented co-evolutionary ecology.

    Would he have gotten published today? or just a lot of crap about how ‘fascinating’ it was and how much the commissioning editor ‘enjoyed reading it’

    • Apologies for the delay in reply. I was away on holiday and missed your query. Sadly, I think that most publishers (just like everyone else) are so pressed for time these days that they resort to template answers. The essential fact is that they don’t believe the proposed book will fit their list. Darwin? In today’s world, maybe he would have become one of the legions of authors turning to self-publishing. That said, even as late as the 19th century, gentlemen-scholars were in effect self-publishers. And publishers? They were jumped-up printers who knew their place.

  14. James says:

    Is the sample Excel template for casting off available?

  15. Rena says:

    I’m currently turning my thesis into a book. In my (English language) thesis, I cited a number of non-English sources (translated in citations). How do US university presses react to such sources? Are they okay with them or should I rather try and replace them with English langauge sources?

    • No idea how US presses react (we are in Europe). My gut instinct is to say that you should use what you have. That said, if you are citing (say) the Russian-language edition of an English-language original, then it would be smart to cite the latter.

  16. Dr. Amer Taqa says:

    Please can you send me more information about the coat for publisy student thesis and how long time.


    • No self-respective publisher will touch a student thesis as is; it needs to be reworked into a monograph or into several journal articles. Theoretically, it is free to be published but in reality some works are unpublishable without a subvention. How long? Depends if it includes the time the author takes to revise. Nine months after acceptance is a reasonable guess though some presses can take years.

  17. Joanne says:

    Fascinating to read your articles! I have learned a lot from them!

    I am contemplating to self-publish children’s picture books. And am exploring the possibility to have them printed off-shore. How can I check the reputation and competency of the printers?

    Any thoughts or advice?

    Best regards

    • Hi Joanne. Sorry to miss you query among the spam. It depends on what type of printing you are looking to do. If a children’s book, I’m guessing this will include colour illustrations and the page size won’t be the standard 6″ x 9″ common in Canada. Colour offset printing of (say) 1,000 copies is much cheaper in china than Canada but remember there are shipping costs and (worse) import duties. An alternative you might like to explore is print on demand, i.e. single-copy printing. The costs here are much higher but you can print 5 or 50 copies instead of 1,000. Here, you might like to check out places like Lulu.com to see what their page formats and printing charges are. A lot of people use LightningSource, though our experience with them was bad, and if you look to self-publish directly via Amazon they have a POD service, too. Good luck!

  18. Laura Fullmer says:

    Hi there,
    I have been asked to “revise and resubmit” by a publisher. I completed the revisions and re-submitted the manuscript proposal and sample chapters. It has been 8 weeks since then and I’ve heard nothing. Should I ask what the status is?
    Thanks so much

  19. duchess1749 says:

    I want to write a biography about Emma, Lady Hamilton who was a wife of Horatio Nelson. How many pages should the biography be and what should the word count be?

    • Why ask me? If you are serious about such a project, you need to research it properly. That includes seeing what else has been published, by which press, and when. A wider examination of this genre (what are its general characteristics, which presses are active here, etc.) is also vital, not least because such biographies are trade publications, aimed at a mass market. That also means you need to be accepted by a literary agent specialising in this genre; you cannot go direct to a publisher. (Well, of course you can but the changes of a trade publisher looking at a book proposal or ms sent unsolicited by an author are virtually nil.) Good luck!

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