A Disclaimer: I haven’t published a book yet! So in that sense, please keep in mind that I’m speaking from a certain degree of inexperience. My book manuscript is out for review, though, and what I can speak to is the process of turning a dissertation into a book manuscript–a process still fresh in my memory.
While there’s no one process, my talk will focus on potential steps you might take in moving from the dissertation to a book manuscript.
Some First Steps
- Reflect on whether a book is your goal. Is this what you want to do with your dissertation? Will embarking on this process serve your own professional (and other) goals?
- Consider other options, such as breaking the dissertation into a series of journal articles.
- Assess who could be the primary and secondary audiences for your book manuscript. No matter what your dissertation chair or committee thinks of the project, you will have to sell it–to persuade specific acquisitions editors that they can literally sell a specific product to specific groups of consumers/readers.
- Conduct some initial research on the different presses that publish in your field. Consider which presses published those books that most informed the intellectual project of your dissertation. Also consult field-specific lists of presses that can be found online (here’s one for rhetoric and composition, for example). Read the submission guidelines and study the title lists posted to the websites of presses that interest you.
- Educate yourself about the differences between a dissertation and a publishable book manuscript, so that you can plan your manuscript development accordingly.
Dissertation vs. Book (Germano 157)
Manuscript Development & Revision
- Re-read the entire dissertation, making a list of areas requiring substantial revision and/or development. In order to do this effectively, you’ll need to have your audience and purpose in mind, as well as awareness of the differences between a dissertation and a book.
- Turn each item on your list into a clear action step, a task.
- Organize those tasks into a one-year schedule that takes into account other commitments as realistically as possible.
- Carry out the tasks, sticking to your schedule. If you get off schedule, pick up and resume where you left off. Don’t waste time on guilt or self-criticism. If you can’t manage that, ask for help (from a writing group, current or former dissertation director, colleague in the field, or therapist).
- Fine-tune your habit of regular, consistent writing–ideally daily. Develop one if you haven’t already.
- From Dissertation to Book, by William Germano. I consider this a must-read, and much of what you find above is informed by this work. I recommend reading it before getting started, and then referring back to it throughout the process.
- Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books, also by William Germano. I suggest reading this after you’ve made some headway with developing your book manuscript, but before developing and submitting book proposals.
- Revising Your Dissertation: Advice from Leading Editors, edited by Beth Luey.
- “My Top Five Tips for Turning Your Dissertation Into a Book” and “How To Write A Book Proposal,” by Karen Kelsky for her blog, The Professor Is In.
- “Dear First-Time Author: How to Turn Your Dissertation Into a Book,” by Theresa MacPhail for Vitae.
- “Writing Your Book While Juggling Teaching and Kids,” by Katherine T. Vukadin for The Professor Is In.
- “The Less-Obvious Elements of an Effective Book Proposal,” by for The Chronicle.
The Real First Step
Now let’s get real. What’s the first step in turning your dissertation into a book manuscript? It’s to FINISH your dissertation!