Academic Book Proposal, Preparation #2: Long List of Target Publishers

This post is the second in a four-part series that helps you identify academic publishers for whom your book would be a good fit.

In the first post, I outlined how presses specialize in certain areas, which often correspond to more “traditional” notions of academic disciplines. Before being able to identify which presses publish in your book’s fields, and prepare the case for why your book is a good fit for those presses, then, you must first be able to place your (future) book within this landscape. Because we are accustomed to thinking about our books as arguments, interventions, stories, and methodologies, Activity 1 helped you take a step back from your book to see it as presses will. Activity 2, then, will help you use the answers you generated in Activity 1 to identify presses that specialize in your book’s field, narrow that list, and begin to prepare your book’s case for those publishers.

Prefer to have a copy of all four activities sent to you as a PDF so you can print them and work through them at your own pace? Click on the image below to download “Finding An Academic Publisher: The Ultimate Workbook.”

Finding an Academic Publisher The Ultimate Guide

First, you will make a “long list,” which will contain all the university presses (see Karen Kelsky’s post on why press prestige still matters) that might possibly be interested in your project. Later, you will narrow this list and rank presses in terms of prestige, but for now, you’re just interested in getting a sense of the publishing landscape in your book’s field(s).

I’ve put together a Press Information Worksheet to guide you through the process. Click on the image to download a free, fillable Press Information Worksheet.

Press Information Worksheet Finding an Academic Publisher Series

Press Information Worksheet Template:

If you’d prefer to make your own form, I recommend that it contain space for the following information. (Note: Items marked with a * denote information you will glean in Activity 3 and items marked with ** denote information you will glean in Activity 4)

Press Name


Recent important books:

Recent authors I know well enough to contact about this press:

Preliminary Notes:

Press URL*:

Series? If so, name of series and series editor(s)*

Series URL (if applicable)*:

Acquisitions editor for my discipline*:

Acquisitions editor email*:

Good fit? (Yes/no. If no, complete the “justification” below, and file this press information sheet away; if yes, continue until you reach the “notes from colleagues” section below.)*

Justification of the above*:

Proposal Guidelines (or “For Authors”) URL*:

Proposal Type (mail, email)*:

Proposal Notes (length, documents/sections wanted, formatting guidelines, etc.)*:

Notes from colleagues and mentors about this press**:


How to Create Your Long List of Academic Publishers

Want a free, downloadable PDF of all four activities (with bonus reflection questions)? Download your Finding an Academic Publisher: The Ultimate Guide.

To begin the entries for each press, do the following:

  1. Return to the list of 1-2 subject areas you chose for your book in Activity 1 (Step 3), based on the Association of University Presses’ Subject Grid. Find all presses that publish in those areas, and begin a separate press information worksheet for each one by completing  the “Press Name” and “Discipline” fields. Don’t worry about anything else at this point, unless the information comes up in steps 2-4 below.
  2. Review the list of all subject areas you wrote down in Activity 1 (Step 4), and see if any of the presses you just created information sheets for also publish in those areas. If so, add this information to the “notes” portion (i.e. “also publishes in other field.”).
  3. Now, scan your book’s bibliography, and make a note of publishers that appear the most frequently. If several of the monographs (NOT edited volumes) you cite by that publisher were published in the past 5-7 years, create a Press Information Worksheet for it, and fill out the “Press Name,” “Discipline” and “Notes” fields. Add the books’ titles to the “Recent important books” field. If you happen to know the author(s) well enough to email them or meet with them at a conference in your field to ask about their experience with that press, add their names to the “Authors I know personally” field.
  4. Finally, turn to your bookshelf and pick out the 3-5 most influential books published in the past 5-7 years with which your book is in close dialog. Create Press Information Worksheets for each one and complete the fields as you did above. If you have the physical book, check the back cover for the “subjects” it appeared in (usually the upper left-hand corner of paperback editions).
  5. You now have an unranked “long list” of all the university presses that publish in your book’s fields generally speaking, as well as some notes that will be useful to you as you rank and narrow your list, and prepare the strongest possible case for your book in Activities 3 and 4. Of course, there are other non-university press academic publishers (Routledge, Palgrave, etc.) that might be interested in your project, but for now, we will continue to focus exclusively on university presses.

Ready to begin narrowing and ranking your list? Head on over to Activity 3. Have questions about how to identify your book’s disciplines, or which presses publish in them? Leave a comment below or email me!

Finding an Academic Publisher_The Ultimate Workbook_Activity 2 Image

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Want to give your book the best possible chance of being published? Then you need to target the university presses who publish books like yours (not all presses do!) and tailor your proposal for those presses. Want a free, step-by-step workbook that shows you how to do it? Enter your name and email, and I'll send it right to you.

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