Tips on turning your dissertation into a book

In Twitter, I noticed Matt Gold (@mkgold) shared tweets being delivered by (@fhi_duke – Franklin Humanities Institute). The tweeter was at a session about turning your dissertation into a book. The talk was by Ken Wissoker, the Editorial Director of Duke University Press (@kwissoker). I thought the info was great, and so I’m posting here the  tweets @fhi_duke delivered. Apparently Ken’s talk will be available in a podcast soon.

  • Dissertations are highly contingent, written for specific committees & institutions – for people who are obligated to read it! #1stbk
  • In a diss, your committee can say “so what you are really trying to say is…” in a book, you have to know from the get-go #1stbk
  • In a book, emplotment & pacing are important – knowing what the reader needs & why #1stbk
  • A diss needs other theorists to justify its argument; In a bk, yr reader doesn’t need to see how u parse theorists that they’ve read #1stbk
  • Thinking about audience: do you want it to be taught to u-grads? (that might dictate length) To circulate beyond your discipline? #1stbk
  • A book published 5 years from now: how will it be read? On hand-held? The need to write with some uncertainty in mind #1stbk
  • Duke Press published ~100 title/year – 30 MSs are turned down each week – but often this is a matter of FIT bet. book & press #1stbk
  • At your professional meetings, pay attention to the strongest, most prolific presses – write to editors ahead of time #1stbk
  • Book proposals: don’t start off discussing other people’s work! Make your work front & center #1stbk
  • Book proposals should include chapter summaries & a sample chapter – send BY MAIL, don’t make the editor print the copies! #1stbk
  • Be honest about where you are in the writing: whole MS, 2 chapters – an interested editor will WANT you to send something #1stbk
  • Editors sometimes send out dissertations in lieu of completed book MS to reviewers – but rarely just excerpts… #1stbk
  • Book reviewers // test screening audiences – reviewers will advise on whether arguments are convincing, what works/doesn’t #1stbk
  • Diss to #1stbk usually a 4-5 year process
  • Writing groups can be great help – w/ people who can model the audience you’re interested in reaching #1stbk