Publisher Meetings - What to Expect

It occurred to me, after many author meetings at various conferences, that perhaps early-career researchers don't really know what to expect when they initially chat with a publisher about potentially publishing their first monograph. (The entire process can definitely seem daunting — this blog post by Dr. Laura Varnam wonderfully describes the many ups and downs of writing one's first monograph and is a great resource for first-time authors.) Therefore, I thought it might be helpful if I wrote up a post on what a prospective author can/should expect from publisher meetings (at least, a meeting with me, as an acquisitions editor for a particular publisher). Because sometimes, it's hard to know how such conversations will play out— hopefully the below information will prove useful to prospective and seasoned authors alike.

What to bring to our meeting

If I've written to you because your paper topic at a given conference caught my eye, that means I've done a bit of research — I've found your CV, if it's online, and I've checked out your faculty page and/or Academia.edu page. This means that you don't need to bring your CV along to your meeting with me because I've already seen it (thanks for asking about it though!). What you could bring, if you have a project in the works, is a prospective table of contents or chapter abstracts, just to give me an idea of how your project will be organized. Or, better yet, email me a digital copy of the document before our meeting — that way, I can send it to my series editor, who may want me to ask you particular questions about your project on her/his behalf. 

What information you'll be expected to provide

I'm sure to ask you probing questions about your project, although if your research is in its infant phase, don't be afraid to answer any questions speculatively. I need to be sure that your project will fit into one of my series, so the more information you provide, the better.

The sorts of questions I might ask include: 

  1. What is the thesis of your project and how does it engage with secondary research on the topic — e.g., when you engage with other scholars' research on X, how do you respond to their arguments?
  2. What do you think are the dominant narratives on X? How does your work problematize or nuance these narratives? 
  3. Is your research cross- or inter-disciplinary? If so, can you provide me with an example?
  4. What type of source material do you (or will you) consult to support your claims?
  5. Finally, what is the methodological framework of your volume, and how is your content organized? 

These are just some of the content questions that I might ask, depending on the scope of your research. Of course, I'll also ask about your expected word count (note: not page count, as we use word count to calculate printed pages), whether you envision your book as having an index, images, appendices, etc., and what languages or special characters you utilize (just to give me an idea of the amount of copyediting/typesetting work that will be involved).

How to prepare for our meeting 

Chances I are, I wrote to you with a particular series in mind, based on your research interests and area(s) of expertise. Skimming over the series page will help you to ensure that the series is actually a good fit for your project, which will be helpful for the both of us. Think over the above questions so that you're ready for them at the meeting and can confidently discuss your research. Also, take a second to learn a bit about me and the Press to which the series belongs, just give you a good knowledge base before we meet. 

What to remember

As one of my authors has said, "it's totally normal to be a bit awkward and fraught" with regards to our meeting, since the meeting itself is going to be, by its very nature, a bit awkward. I'm learning about who you are as a scholar and an author, and also gauging how your project will fit into one of my series — and you're learning about me as an acquisitions editor and also about the series/publisher(s) I represent. We're interviewing each other, if you will. Interviews are the worst, but it's much better when you get to chat with someone about a subject you're passionate about. So just remember that I am definitely excited to hear about what you have in the works — it's why I wrote to you in the first place. 

So that's the 4-1-1. If you're reading this and want to chat about your manuscript — or even a project that's still floating around in your mind, a garbled mass of seemingly disconnected trains of thought — get in touch with me! I'd love to hear about it.