Advice From an Editor: Translating an Idea Into a Book

Charles Glaser, Editorial Director (Applied Sciences) at Springer sat down with Helen Burbank, Marketing Manager (Engineering) at a conference in Germany to discuss the best ways researchers can translate an idea into a publishable book. Read on for some insightful tips on how to approach the process.

By: Charles Glaser, Editorial Director Applied Sciences & Helen Burbank, Marketing Manager, Engineering

Helen: At which stage of a book do new authors tend to reach out to you?
Chuck: It varies widely, from the idea stage to nearly completed manuscript.

Helen: In a perfect world, when would you like people to reach out to you about their ideas?
Chuck: I like to be involved at the earliest point possible. This gives us the best chance to align expectations regarding the process and the desired result. It also gives me an opportunity to describe our value proposition and competitive advantage.

Helen: What are the first steps you go through with an author who has an idea for a new book?
Chuck: I like to hear a little bit about the author’s idea(s) and talk a little bit about our process, from idea-stage through publication. Hopefully, the author likes the sound of the way we do things and then I invite them to create a book proposal, using a very straightforward template I can provide.

Helen: What should be in a good proposal?
Chuck: As a rule of thumb, the more the better, but we try to make it easy for potential authors to create a proposal. The more information we have at the outset, the more likely we are to succeed in reaching the intended market. In reality, the most important pieces of a good book proposal are the ones that might “speak” to the intended audience, explaining about the book: who it’s for, what it does for them, and what that is that they won’t find elsewhere. Here are some of the questions I ask potential authors to answer for me so that we can evaluate their idea:

    1. What’s the topic? What are the key challenges faced by the intended audience, which drive the need for the information you intend to provide? Given this, what would be the tentative title of your book?
      • Book titles (and subtitles) are very important, since today most readers find the content they need by searching for it on the Web. Since all of the words in a title and subtitle are “searchable,” creating a title that contains as few words as possible, while maximizing the number that are likely to be used as search criteria, will ensure that your book will rank high in search results.  The best title of all is three words long.
    2. Who is going to be involved in the project?
      • We need to know if the book will be written by an author or a small team of authors, or whether it will be created by an Editor, who will assemble a team of contributing, chapter authors. We also need to see a brief BIO for each author/editor.
    3. What is the book about?
      • Pitch it to me! Give me a short “blurb” selling me your idea. Don’t forget that not everyone involved in the process is as knowledgeable about the subject as you, so give it to me in layman’s terms.
      • Pitch it to the intended audience. Tell them specifically how your book will relieve their “pain.”
    4. What is already on the market?
      • Why does the world need this book? Does it serve a new and exciting topic? Does it cover what you see as a hole in the market of books currently available? Include other books from the area with which your book would be competing. If you don’t think your book would be competing with ANYTHING, tell me where people (like yourself) are currently accessing information on this topic: Conferences? , tutorials, journal articles?, web forums?
    5. Who is your potential reader (undergrads, grads, researchers, popular science)? What are they going to get out of this book?
    6. What will be your rough table of contents?
    7. Timeline: Roughly how long do you think it will take to complete your manuscript?

Helen: Any last tips or tricks for authors looking at getting their ideas turned into books?
Chuck: Pursue the ideas most important to you. Writing a good, technical book can be very worthwhile, but given the other things you can do with your time, you might as well create the book that’s most important to you. We try to make the proposal process as straightforward as possible, so you can concentrate on creating the quality content needed for the book.

If you have an idea for a new book, please contact one of our publishing editors.
Springer publishing editors by discipline can be found here.

Featured image: Academic Library, Mills College by Melinda Stuart. CC 2.0 via Flickr

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