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Turning Your PhD Thesis Into a Book: A Publisher's Top Tips

By Claire Maloney
Categories: Publishing

Want to turn your PhD thesis into a book, but not sure where to start? Claire Maloney (Routledge) gives her advice.

Which publisher for you?

  • Research publishers carefully to decide which one is best for your project
  • What are your priorities for the book? Check what kind of books each publisher specializes in (e.g. textbooks or research? What subjects/series?) and what opportunities they offer (e.g. paperback, digital resources, Open-Access)
  • Choose a publisher who is communicative, responds promptly and seems keen on the project. It’s best not to submit your proposal to several publishers at once as it can put editors off, but if you do not receive a prompt response, move on to the next publisher on your list.

What do we need from you?

  • We want to publish original research that adds to the current literature and is commercially viable for us (this last point is especially applicable to commercial presses like Routledge and Palgrave).
  • Publishers receive a large volume of proposals and enquiries from prospective authors: providing a clear, well-structured proposal with all the necessary information will help us and peer-reviewers to evaluate it quickly and will save both you and us time.
  • For PhD conversions, we need to see how you have revised the thesis to become a book: please provide 2 or 3 sample chapters. Sometimes a publisher may want to see the full thesis.
  • Structure the proposal according to the publishers’ guidelines: usually on the publishers’ website and it’s always worth checking as they do vary.
  • ‘Sell’ your book! (Like a job application/CV.) Tell us why we want this book: clearly highlight the strengths, potential and originality of the project.

What should you include in the proposal?

N.B. these points are from the Routledge guidelines, for other publishers, check their websites!

1. A Statement of Aims

  • Briefly and concisely state the main themes and objectives of the proposed book: 1-2
  • Provide a concise (150-200 words) and compelling abstract for the book.

2. A Detailed Synopsis, Including Chapter Summaries

  • Proposed table of contents with chapter titles and subheads.
  • List chapter headings and provide at least one paragraph of explanation on what you intend to cover in each chapter.

3. A Description of the Target Market

  • The intended audience for your book.
  • Will this book have international appeal? If so, where?
  • Is the subject area of the proposal widely taught or researched?

4. A Review of the Main Competing Titles

  • List the main competing titles (3-5) and provide a few sentences of explanation on each. What distinguishes your book from the existing competition?

5. Format and Timeline

  • Provide a realistic date for when you intend to submit the final manuscript.
  • A rough estimate for the word count, including references.
  • Any extra material – e.g. number of figures, tables, or use of third-party material?

Please also include:

  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • Details of possible Academic Referees: List three to five people who would make qualified reviewers for the manuscript. Though we do not always use these suggestions, they help give us an idea of where you think your ideas fit into current debates.

How We Evaluate Your Proposal or Manuscript

Evaluation by commissioning editor(s). The proposal will be considered carefully by the most suitable editor.

Evaluation by independent referees. We ask respected academic specialists in the field to give us independent advice on the content, quality, and potential market for a finished book based on your proposal or manuscript.

Editorial Board meeting. If the reviews are positive, then the editor puts together a written publishing plan and strategy. These circulate to all members of the Editorial Board in advance of a regular meeting, where each proposal is discussed and either approved, declined or provisionally passed, subject to certain revisions. The Editorial Board consists of editors, a publisher (who manages a team of editors), and a team of marketers who will establish a preliminary plan for the book.

Contract and publication. If your proposal is approved, we will then issue you a draft contract that includes an agreed date for the delivery of the manuscript.


This article arose from Claire Maloney’s talk at the UACES Doctoral Training Academy 2018. If you’re a postgraduate or early-career scholar researching issues related to Europe or the EU, join us for future events and activities.


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The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.