What are Editors Looking for in a Proposal when Deciding Whether to Publish a Book or Not?

We recently held an online event with series editors and authors from our Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series about publishing their books, with an opportunity for audience questions at the end. Here’s a taster of one of the questions that was discussed, answered by series editors Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan.

What are editors looking for in a proposal when deciding whether to publish a book or not?

Sarah Mercer
The key thing is a contribution that belongs in the series you’re submitting your proposal to, so in our case, it must be about the psychology of language learning and teaching. It should have something original to say and the authors need to show that they can identify the gap their research is filling.

Your proposal should be relevant for a global market – it can be researched at a local level but must be reflected on in global terms too. It must be professional in terms of writing and content and should be worthy of book-length treatment and not something that could be covered by an article. It should have a clear coherent thread running through it – something to watch out for especially with an edited collection.

Stephen Ryan
In the case of a proposal from an early-career academic, the initial question we are asking is along the lines of “Do we believe this person can deliver a first-class manuscript?” We only have a few pages on which to make that evaluation. We go to each proposal in a positive state of mind; we are looking to encourage publication, not prevent it. It may sound obvious, but a professional presentation of your proposal is important. Careless mistakes, such as errors with names or dates of works cited or clumsily copied chunks of text, start to raise red flags. Basic care and attention make a difference.

Once we start considering the content of a proposal, we are looking for a clear idea; what is the proposed book about and where does it fit within the existing literature? What is unique about the proposed book? Who is likely to be interested in the proposed book?

My own personal view is that reading academic works should not be an ordeal. Reading should be a pleasant, rewarding experience. Evidence of a clear, engaging writing style is always welcome.

You can watch the recording of the event and find out the answers to the rest of the audience questions here:

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