Many first-time authors tend to have lofty beliefs about whether their book could reasonably be adopted in university courses. But how can you tell your book’s course adoption potential for sure?
Use the questions below to figure out if your academic book can be adopted in university courses and, if so, which ones.
Note: If you’re struggling instead to articulate who your book’s audience even is, I encourage you to start by checking out my post on identifying your book’s audience or my standalone course on the same topic (it’s that important!)
Intellectual Level and Academic Register
At what level is your book written? Could you give your book to an advanced undergraduate student right now with the confidence that she will follow your argument throughout the whole thing?
Remember, that most university presses themselves suggest that you can only have one main audience. You are either writing for scholars or for undergraduates. And if you are hoping for your book to earn you tenure, you are primarily writing for your colleagues.
Book Scope vs. Course Scope
Does the whole trajectory of your book’s argument already map onto one unit of a typical undergraduate seminar you teach or graduate seminar that was offered in your doctoral university? How many single-authored monographs were assigned reading in your own undergraduate and graduate courses?
If you decide that your book’s scope fits with existing courses and your undergraduate or graduate courses often included full monographs, use the following steps to lay out your book’s course adoption potential.
- Identify which specific courses (graduate v. undergraduate; survey vs. special topics) your book as a whole fits with.
- Get a rough estimate of how many universities/departments teach these courses in the US.
- What are their typical enrollments for these classes? Multiply #2 by #3.
- Bonus: reach out to faculty you know who teach these courses. Ask them if they would consider assigning such a book as required reading.
Chapter Adoption, Rather than Book Adoption
It is much more likely that individual chapters will be adopted in graduate and undergraduate courses. So, use the following steps to assess your book’s chapter adoption potential.
- How frequently, as part of your own graduate coursework, were you assigned similar chapters as a bound course pack (that students must purchase from the bookstore)? How frequently do you assign such course packs at the undergraduate or graduate level?
- What is the broadest possible course any of your chapters could be assigned in? In what discipline(s)? How many universities/departments teach these courses? What are their typical enrollments?
- What special topics courses could your individual chapters work in? How many universities/departments teach these courses? What are their typical enrollments?
Further Reading on Your Academic Book’s Audience
- understand the serious stakes of mis-identifying your book’s audience
- clearly articulate your book’s primary and secondary audiences
- accommodate your primary and secondary audiences in your monograph’s prose (don’t frustrate your primary audience or alienate your secondary audiences!)
- know which publishers in your discipline actually publish books like yours
- produce material you can use in drafting your book proposal’s “audience” and “fit” sections
Humanities First Book Author Inner Circle
Writing your first academic book in a humanities or qualitative social science discipline? Wondering how to manage such a large project? You don't have to struggle alone! Sign up, and I'll send you resources and advice to help you get a handle on your manuscript, find the best publisher, and develop productivity habits to get the book done.