On the 11th of July 2019, we were so lucky as to have Dr. Lydia J. White hold a workshop with us on the business of finding a publisher and writing a book proposal. Dissertations do not finish with the writing, nor with the defence: In Germany, the conferral of the doctoral title is dependent on publication. This workshop was designed to give us all insight into negotiating the issues surrounding book publication, particularly as the ‘first generation’ approach the final stages of their dissertations.
Lydia, who works for at De Gruyter, based in Berlin, commenced the workshop by telling us about her own work as Acquisitions Editor for Literary and Cultural Studies at this well-known publisher. She provided insight into the structure of her employer, how the book market works from the perspective of a publisher, and which pitfalls to avoid in pitching projects.
The bulk of the workshop was about discussing book proposals. Lydia outlined the expectations of editors, both through her experience at De Gruyter and as a scholar who has published her own work, explaining the importance of brevity, audience, and angle in writing a proposal. We learnt about the crucial components, including, for instance, the relevance of ‘competing titles’ (which is to show there is a viable market as much as to locate ‘competitors’) and the intricacies of including images with respect to copyright.
In small groups comprised of fellows and supervisors, we attempted to come up with feasible titles for our ongoing projects. Catchy titles, we learnt, are not as crucial as the inclusion of key words for publishers and search machines; further, buzz words and neologisms date, and potentially compartmentalise, books. Working through, and giving feedback on, alternative versions of titles for our projects proved a challenging and rewarding experience. Thanks to Lydia for coming out to Potsdam for an invigorating and timely workshop!