Want to get published? Want to make a strong debut? Know your audience.
Helping launch a first-time author into what I hope will be a career-long scholarly conversation is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job. My advice for them?
Don’t just try to get published. Try to get read.
That means that for you, the author, the actual “publishing” part of working with a press isn’t and shouldn’t be the main focus of your attention. Publishing, after all, is an intermediary step on the way to building and sustaining a meaningful readership.
Taking this as your point of departure, you need to first think about how your research might attract readers, or why it should be read. When you’re drafting the book proposal, or just trying to conceptualize how your research will be reworked as a book, the most important thing to think about is pivoting the research towards your audience.
Find an editor that is not only enthusiastic, but also willing to work with you in order to get the readership right.
An idea for a book manuscript can’t just be interesting—it also has to do something for its readership. As the author, you should bring a fresh voice to a conversation that audiences haven’t heard before, one that can speak to a number of people in the appropriate field and share something valuable, or force readers to think in a new and innovative way. Take a hard look at your proposed manuscript, and think about how you would characterize it as a reader. Is it a unique and fascinating case study? Perhaps it stretches the bounds of a theoretical debate? Or maybe it’s a beautiful ethnographic narrative. Zero in on what about this study makes it required reading.