Reading:
Last Checks to Do Before Submitting a Book Proposal

Last Checks to Do Before Submitting a Book Proposal

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August 26, 2020
Submitting a Book Proposal - Stack of books against a yellow background

Submitting your book proposal to a press is thrilling. It feels great to finally get the pitch off your desk and into the hands of the awesome acquisition editors you’re hoping will give you a book contract. Before you send it off, however, make sure you’ve covered all your bases so your proposal has the best chance possible of finding a publishing home. Here are some key last checks to do before you hit send.

Confirm you’ve addressed all the proposal elements

Academic publishers are very clear about what they need you to include when submitting a book proposal. They include this information on their websites and update when those elements change.

Before sending off your proposal, review each press’s elements and make sure you’ve addressed 100 percent of the required and suggested sections. Your proposal and other submission documents should directly answer any questions each press lists and address their unique audience and lists.

Although some of your proposal elements can be the same for multiple presses (for instance, book structure, chapter descriptions, and timeline to completion), other sections of the proposal should be tailored for the specific presses you’re pitching. For example, your discussion of audience and market, as well as competing titles and fit with existing scholarship, should all directly engage with each press’s unique lists and publishing history. Show them why your book is a perfect fit for them—this requires that you truly understand what’s different about each press and reflect that difference in your proposal.

Double check the submission process

Due to COVID-19 and work-from-home orders, most publishers have switched to digital submission processes if they didn’t already use them. Some have built new submission portals on their websites for this purpose while others require you to send proposals as email attachments to the relevant acquisitions or series editors.

If your publisher research is a few months old, it is worth it to confirm each press’s current submission process. If a press’s website still lists paper submission, send a quick email or DM to confirm. You don’t want to go to all the trouble of printing out and mailing a hard copy that will sit indefinitely in a mailbox because nobody will be at the office anytime soon.

Do another copyedit—of everything

Even if you’ve already copyedited your materials or hired someone to do this for you, take another look just to cover your bases. You can do this step yourself, but resist the urge to gloss over any sections just because you’ve read them a million times already. It’s super easy to miss errors if you assume you already know what’s there.

Remember to copyedit ALL of the materials you’re submitting. That includes the proposal document, your CV, sample chapters, and any email or submission portal text. You don’t want to send everything off only to then notice that glaring typo in the email subject line or that you misspelled the acquisition editor’s name.

Update your CV

Go through your CV with a fine-toothed comb and fix any errors. CVs are added to cumulatively over the years and thus often include inconsistent formatting, misspelled items, and missing citational information.

Check on things like date order and capitalization as well as formatting for conference papers and courses you’ve taught. References aren’t necessary for the CV you include when submitting a book proposal, so those can be deleted. Make sure your formatting follows the most current edition of your chosen style manual, whether that’s Chicago, APA, MLA, or another one.

Update publication dates (“forthcoming 2019” is a big tip-off this CV hasn’t been looked at in awhile) and triple-check titles for publications and talks. It’s pretty embarrassing to get your own article titles wrong on your CV, but it is common.

Make sure you have included current contact information. If you recently changed jobs and thus email addresses or you no longer have that cell phone number, adjust accordingly. If you’re not going into your campus office or checking your office voice mail, don’t include that phone number on your CV. Replace it with a number the press can actually reach you at right now.

Choose clear file names

If you are submitting a book proposal digitally, clearly identify your files with logical names that will make sense to others. Digital files get downloaded to editor desktops and get sent around to editorial teams and other press staff. To avoid yours getting lost in the shuffle, choose helpful file names.

A generic file name like “CV” or “book proposal2” doesn’t tell an acquisitions editor whose CV that is or what book this proposal refers to. Instead, include your last name, a phrase indicating what type of document it is, and a shortened book title. For instance, “Khadijah Jones CV 2020-07-27” makes clear whose CV this is and when it was finished. Similarly, “Khadijah Jones, Book Proposal, Creative Worldings” keeps your name on the file while clearly indicating which book this proposal refers to.

Last checks like these ensure all of your proposal documents are in tip-top shape. They also show acquisition editors you are serious about publishing with their press and have done the work to pitch them effectively. After running these last checks, you can hit send and celebrate, confident you’ve given yourself the best chance possible of landing a book contract.

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