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Professor Dame Sarah Worthington

June 3rd, 2024

5 tips to make your book proposal stand out

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Professor Dame Sarah Worthington

June 3rd, 2024

5 tips to make your book proposal stand out

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

What are the commonalities between successful book proposals? This blog will explore some key considerations for prospective authors.

The publishing ecosystem is diverse. Different publishers have different specialisms and reputations which are earned through publishing different types of books. So, a first consideration for any author seeking to find a home for their book or project is to identify a publisher whose specialisms align with their work.

LSE Press is a new university press publishing exclusively in the social sciences and exclusively open access. The LSE has a global reputation in the social sciences, and authors with LSE Press would be joining our existing list of books and journals to further that reputation in LSE Press outputs. We are an academic press focused on publishing serious social science research that has the potential to influence academic debate, public policy and general public debate. Our standard book proposal form sets out the essential information we need from authors before we can consider whether a book proposal is right for us.

Book proposals inevitably fall by the wayside at every stage: our standards are high and the process of selection is highly competitive. A good proposal takes time and careful thought: all the material you send should be sufficiently comprehensive and well developed to be ready for external scrutiny.

At LSE Press, we are often asked what makes a proposal stand out. Each aspect of the information in the proposal form is crucial, but each book is also different. That means there is no one magic ingredient that makes a winning proposal. Nevertheless, some generalisations are possible. These are tailored for LSE Press books, but many academic presses apply broadly similar criteria.

Readers need to feel reassured that the ideas being presented have clout, can be relied upon and, if necessary, the underpinning resources can be easily identified and pursued.

  1. Catch attention early: That can start with a good title – something short, catchy and accurately informative is ideal. But the substantive issues are far more important. Your initial short summary should indicate why your book topic is interesting, why the book will have wide appeal, why your subject treatment is distinctive and should be published now, and why you are the right author to deliver its message. Make this pitch concise, compelling and credible – don’t over claim, as that immediately dints credibility.
  2. Academic quality: Not all publishers seek original academic outputs, but LSE Press is an academic press looking to publish leading scholarship in the social sciences. If your book falls within our subject range, you will then be competing on quality and originality. You should explain why your book is important, original and distinctive in the market. The rigour and robustness of the underpinning research should be self-evident, but not laboured. We are publishing works of serious scholarship, so readers need to feel reassured that the ideas being presented have clout, can be relied upon and, if necessary, the underpinning resources can be easily identified and pursued. But all that can be delivered with a light touch: be kind to the reader.
  3. Audience: All our books are published open access, meaning that they are free to read and download from our website and across the world. LSE Press puts significant resource into ensuring a quality presentation of all the books it publishes. We can only make that commitment for books that are likely to garner a significant readership both within the relevant social science disciplines and beyond. The LSE is known for its interest in delivering research that has the potential to influence policy and public debate. LSE Press is the same. We want our books to be works of serious scholarship, accessible not only to readers in the relevant academic disciplines but also to wider audiences, including interested professionals and the lay public. So a strong proposal will explain in some detail who these readers are likely to be, and why this particular book would appeal to these various audiences. Does it answer a salient question for policymakers, perhaps, or make accessible vital educational resources, or engage with a particular public debate? And why would this book stand out for busy readers in a crowded marketplace?
  4. Accessibility/writing style: Given the earlier points, it is clear that writing style matters. Your proposal documents should demonstrate your ability to use language that is accessible, and your book structure and general writing style should make it easy for interested and committed readers to engage with the issues, understand why they matter, and be clear about where the robust research leads and what implications then follow.
  5. The entire package works as a book: This last point is sometimes forgotten. The whole book must hang together as a coherent and compelling unit. This means that each chapter has an essential role to play in making the arguments that are being presented, and no essential parts of that argument are missing. Ideally all this should be done in a manuscript that readily digestible by interested readers. Typically this means a manuscript that is no more than 120,000 words long, often less.

A good proposal takes time and careful thought: all the material you send should be sufficiently comprehensive and well developed to be ready for external scrutiny.

All this advice applies equally to proposals for monographs and for edited collections, although the latter often merit a longer explanation of why the selected group of contributors have come together to deliver this book, and why the output needs to be a book rather than a special issue of a journal or simply a series of cross-referenced articles.

In short, at LSE Press we are looking for authors keen to deliver top calibre scholarship in the social sciences on subjects that are likely to have wide appeal to readers. Our subject range is broad, and we happily consider authors at every stage of their careers. We want authors who can pull off the delivery of their material in a rigorous, robust, compelling and original way, and whose structure and writing style are such that their message travels easily. We know how hungry readers are for such books, and we will put dedicated and experienced LSE Press resources behind your book to ensure it reaches those readers.

For further information on the publishing process with LSE Press, refer to this page.

About the author

Professor Dame Sarah Worthington

Professor Dame Sarah Worthington is Chair of LSE Press and a Professor of Law based at the LSE Law School. She specialises in commercial equity, personal property and corporate law. Her research is primarily focused on the controversial issues relating to personal property rights and abuse of power in commercial, not-for-profit and corporate contexts.

Posted In: Open access publishing perspectives

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