The process will be much smoother if you focus on the most important factors from the very start. The biggest mistake he sees from first-time authors is that they tend to send him proposals that read more like dissertation descriptions, not actual book proposals.
If you take the following advice to heart, not only will you save valuable time (and your sanity), but you may even learn to enjoy the challenging process of writing your first book. I asked several editors at top university presses for their advice on turning a dissertation into a book. Boyer explains the core of the problem like this: “A book is what happens later, once you’ve grown past the dissertation.
The dissertation, on the other hand, is a new kind of academic project, unlike anything else you’ve done.
It is the academic project that marks your transition from student to scholar.
A book is the fifth or eighth iteration of something that used to be your dissertation.
But it is no longer recognizable as your dissertation.
The reader must be brought into the book, made part of the conversation. Your writing style matters as much as the content of your book. At this stage, you’ll need to take a step back from the trees (the nitty-gritty details of your argument and evidence) and start paying attention to the forest (how your book is written and for whom). Peter Potter, the editor in chief of Cornell University Press, warns that many first-time authors “spend too much time explicating their argument in great detail” instead of focusing on how they can “distill their argument down into its simplest form.” For Potter, an overly long and detailed book proposal is one indication that an author is “still struggling to understand the larger significance of their work.” In other words, when it comes to writing a solid book proposal, less is often more.
In order for this to happen, the author has to break that intense relationship she first had with her subject in the dissertation. Then, she has to remake that relationship in order to include the reader in it.” So far, so good. And as it turns out, when you’re working on a book, you need to think more about writing effectively—and for a more general audience. Karen Darling, a senior editor at the University of Chicago Press, suggests that first-time authors read widely as they work to transform their dissertations into books.
But not, she cautions, simply so they can pack more citations into those books.
(Side note: A book will always have significantly fewer citations than a dissertation.) Darling doles out this advice to new writers: “Read widely across genres, paying attention to what makes for good storytelling, a compelling voice, a persuasive argument.