How to Get Your Book Published-Advice from a Commissioning Editor

May 4, 2017 Sarah Higginbotham


serggn Getty Images.jpgAs a Commissioning Editor for the chemistry book program at Wiley, my role, first and foremost, is to support our authors and editors through the process of developing a successful new book, from initial concept through to publication. I spend much of my time immersed in the chemistry community, talking with researchers, lecturers and students to establish how we can best support their studies and professional needs, and to discuss new publications and projects. These conversations directly inform my commissioning activities, helping me to identify suitable topics and authors, and ultimately informing decisions about what to publish.

For many Wiley authors the process of developing and publishing a book will be unfamiliar territory, but as Commissioning Editors we are on hand to provide support and guidance, particularly in the crucial early stages as you develop your book concept and proposal.

Developing the concept

All successful books originate with a clear and engaging concept. Whether you have in mind a student textbook or reference volume inspired by your research, the first step is to identify why the book will be useful and what makes it unique. Perhaps it will be the first book on an emerging new research topic, or maybe you have been teaching for many years with no suitable textbook to recommend to your students. Whatever your motivation for writing or editing a book, it is important to consider why the book should be published and how it will benefit the reader. As Commissioning Editors, we are always delighted to discuss new book ideas and help our authors to refine their initial concepts based on our publishing expertise and detailed knowledge of the market and subject community.


What makes a good book proposal?

Once you are happy with your concept, the next stage is to outline your plans in the form of a book proposal. Your Commissioning Editor will provide a book proposal form to guide you. The proposal should clearly describe your vision for the book, including a detailed content outline, together with information on the intended readership, any competing titles, and why you are the ideal person to write or edit the book. The proposal is your opportunity to highlight the unique aspects and value of your book; think of this as a sales pitch to your Wiley Editor and peers. The more information you can provide at this stage, the more constructive the review process will be.

What to expect from the review process

Your Commissioning Editor will send your book proposal out for external review, with the aim of gathering feedback from several international experts in the field. We ask reviewers to comment on your proposed content, the potential market for the book, and the contribution it would make to the current literature in the area. The reviews will be shared with you and you will have an opportunity to discuss any suggestions or concerns with your Editor. You will also be offered the opportunity to prepare a formal response and revised proposal, as appropriate. The review process is a valuable opportunity to refine your plans, but it is important to remember that you can’t always keep a tight focus for the book and keep everybody happy!

How do we decide what to publish?

If feedback from the reviewers is positive, your Commissioning Editor will present your final proposal, the review summary and an accompanying business plan to a committee of representatives from editorial and marketing departments within the company. We discuss each book project in detail, considering various factors such as the contribution your book will make to the subject community, the likely readership, what publication format will be most appropriate, and where the book will fit in the current Wiley portfolio. We also review the business plan to confirm that the project will be profitable for Wiley. Taking all of this into consideration, the committee makes a decision about whether to proceed with publication.

What happens next?

If your book proposal is approved, your Commissioning Editor will offer you a contract for publication. At this stage we agree a provisional schedule for the project and discuss the terms of publication such as the all-important issue of author royalties! Your editor will be pleased to discuss the contractual terms and talk you through your contract if you have any queries.

Once the book contract has been signed, you will work with other Wiley colleagues who will provide specialist support on manuscript development and production. Your Commissioning Editor will continue to be responsible for all editorial aspects such as book content, contractual matters, publishing decisions, liaising with our marketing and sales teams, and ultimately ensuring that your book sells successfully.

Have you ever considered publishing a book, but not sure where to start? Your Commissioning Editor will be pleased to discuss your ideas and support you through the process. You can find a list of our subject specialists on the Wiley author services site here.

Image credit: serggn/Getty Images

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