Academic Publishing: Proposing a Book


CC: My name is Catherine C, I’m the Assistant Editor for Design at Bloomsbury Visual Arts

LB: and I’m Louise Baird Smith, im the Commissioning Editor for Design and Photography books

LB: So this is a talk in collaboration with the Design Incubation team and Bloomsbury Publishing, just talking you through really how to start off with the book proposal, how to present it, and is it what we are looking for.

What is Your Book?

LB: So the first thing you want to establish is, what is the book? What sort of book is it?

  • Is it a going to be a research book—so you are looking at a quite high level specific academic scholarly work?
  • Or is it something that might be used by students and professionals in their day-to-day lives?
  • Or is it something like a text book, that would be used by a first year or above undergraduates.
  • Or is it going to be a big reference book which is covering the whole state of a specific topic or subject?

Once you establish what sort of book its going to be, you have to work out who it is for. So like these ones, this is what you would have for the students, books for the researchers, and books for academics.

You need to look at why they actually want that book? Is it something that is going to be aligning to their course, or is it going to be something that they need to pass exams, or is it looking at a new technology that they might be using in their work?

So those are the key considerations that you need to think about when you start looking at a book proposal. And then you’ll need to think about which publisher you’ll be looking to contact.

Choosing Your Publisher

CC: In terms of choosing a publisher, doing some research and just looking at websites is obviously a really good idea. You’ll want to look at a publisher who already publishes books in your area. And just checking websites is a really good way to.

LB: And different publishers might have different lists they work from, and so you might have one publisher, like Taschen, who do big beautiful books that might end up in museums. But you might have others who are like university presses, who wouldn’t necessarily have books that go into bookstores, but are very high level research. So having a look at the different focus they have is very important.

The Proposal

CC: When you get to the stage of wanting to put together/prepare a proposal, most publishers, definitely Bloomsbury, has a set book proposal document which we like authors to complete. You can find that on our website, and all academic contacts are listed on the website. So if you just get in touch, someone will be very happy to send you their document.

Its really good to give as much detail as possible and to stick (obviously) to the structure of their proposal document. So that’s just basically looking at things like—what your books is about, what is its coverage, what is the kind of structure. We ask for an annotated table of contents— that can be very really useful for us in terms of gauging what the book is going to be used for.

LM: That’s basically like how you would have an abstract for a journal—so just a really short description of each chapter.

CC: If you can give us some information about what is unique about your book, what is special about it, in what way is it better than competitive titles, who you think the potential readers will be.

And also see what your experience is, sometimes some authors submit CVs, alongside their proposal documents — which can be really helpful.

LM: Particularly if you teach in the area, or have done specific research already— that is really good for us to know.

And, depending on the publisher as well, they may ask for some sample material. Particularly on the certain textbook side, its really important for us to have a sample chapter, or a sample of a few pages from a chapter, so we can see the writing style, and the level that you write at. For academic books, it might be less important. But each publisher will work in a different way. Some will ask for the whole book, but the majority of publishers will want to see some sample material, and then they can work with you on that.

So the general process is, once you have put together this proposal document, it will go to me or one of my colleagues, who will send you feedback on whether it looks roughly appropriate for the list. If it aligns with the current books that we have got. It is not competing with something we already have? Is it filling a gap in our list, for a market that we can reach with our contacts?

If it is all looking good, and it is looking like a topic of interest, then we will send you feedback— it is a sort of collaboration between you and us making sure it is as strong as it can be at proposal stage. A lot of the development work happens up front, particularly with the more academic books. We want to make sure it is we are both clear on the process and what the actual project would be.

Then we, sort of, look at financial aspects as well at that point. If it is going to be a book based around gallery or archival material—that is obviously very expensive. So if it is a book that has a very small market that could mean financially it would not work for us. So these are the sorts of things we consider at that first, initial stage.

Once we are happy with it, then we will take it onto peer review, which CC will mention in a second. Occasionally it will not be the right book for us or if needs changes—it might not quite what you want to publish. So if it does not look like it would work for the first publisher you contact that does not mean it is not a good potential book and we would be happy to put in the direction of someone it might fit with better if it is not right for our list at that point.

Peer Review to Contract

CC: So if we think it is a project that might be interesting for us, we would send it up for peer review to academics who teach or research in the area, just to get some initial feedback of what they think of it. Obviously we can advise from a publishing perspective but it is really good to get expert advice from people working in that area. We do organize that anonymously, but you do see on the proposal document that we invite suggestions if there’s someone that would be particularly suitable to review a book. We are always very happy to hear your ideas.

LM: And it helps guide us where we send it to, and if we don’t need some specific thing.

CC: That is something that we organize. We aim to get peer review feedback completed in a month. Sometimes the process can take longer, We will return that feedback to you anonymously and then it would be…

LM: And then we discuss it through— both in terms of the editor and editor’s assistant—whomever is working with you on the project at that point. We chat through peer review and work out if its something that we need to do changes on, or if it is looking strong as it is. Occasionally there might be a second round of peer reviews if big changes need to be made. But we use that, like I said as guidance, we can look at it as a book project but actually from the academic side its really helpful to have that extra peer review level of assessment as well.

So if we decide at that point if the project can work for us both financially and in terms of adding something to the field that is new then we put together a proposal pack for our publishing committee—that is sales, marketing, and editorial colleagues—who will look at the project as a potential investment basically for the publisher. We’ll look at potential print run, costings, royalties, looking at the scope of the book, whether is it international coverage. And the marketing, where will be pushing the book to?

And hopefully at that point if all goes through then we’ll be able to offer a contract. That is the point at which you and your editor will discuss and agree what you are agreeing to and what the publishers are agreeing to. That is usually in terms of delivery time scales, what it is that each party are doing? For most publishers its a pretty standard template of what is covered, it usually includes things like proofreading, and who’s responsible for that, who is responsible for the indexing, and number of images and words.

LM: I don’t if know if you want to run over, quickly the time frame that are usually involved in each stage up to the contract?

CC: Yeah. definitely. So when you send us a proposal we will always acknowledge it and then aim to get our in-house editors feedback to you within a month. On from that, we aim to have peer review back to you within hopefully the maximum of 3 months. And then typically the full process—from us receiving the proposal to making revisions as necessary following the review to being able to offer a contract—would be hopefully about 6 months.

LB: That is the ideal. Sometimes its quicker, sometimes its slower. It sort of depends on the time of year and often the kind of revisions that are needed.

After Contract

So once you are offered a contract, once its signed, you usually have, it is usually about a year to a year-and-a-half to write the book, but obviously that is done in collaboration with you, if you are going up for tenure, or if you are having a sabbatical that might affect the time frame that you have to write the book. So we want to work with you to make sure you’ve got a date that is accurate that we don’t end up missing because that could be quite disasterous for our books. So that is done in collaboration with you, and during that process there are various points where you check-in with the editorial team in house. So you might be working with the development editor if you are working with one of the thick textbooks. So they will be working with you on individual chapters, and images, and things like that. So there is various stages throughout that process. That is before it gets peer reviewed, and taken through to the production process, which is when its copy edited, proofread, typeset, all the rest of that.

Bloomsbury Information

Some reasons to publish with Bloomsbury: we combine the best of an academic press in that we have 2 stages minimum of rigorous anonymous peer review.

And we combine that with the best parts of a trade publisher in that our books look really nice. This is especially relevant for Visual Arts publishing.

We really pride ourselves on having good relationships with authors. Its a much more personal relationship than perhaps some of the bigger publishers. You will have one editor who will work with you through the publishing process.

Final Points

That is a very quick run through of the publishing process, up to contract. After that point you just have to write the book. So pretty easy (laugh). So if you have any questions, our contact details will be available after this. Thanks!

Academic Publishing
Design Incubation/Bloomsbury
Louise Baird-Smith – Commissioning Editor for Design and Photography, Bloomsbury


Design Incubation Fellowship 2018: Call for Applications

Design Incubation is currently accepting applications for the January 2018 Fellowship and Workshop Sessions. The application deadline is September 1, 2017.

Application Process

Design Incubation welcomes online applications for the January 2018 Fellowship and Workshop Session. Applications are being accepted June 1, 2017–September 1, 2017.

The upcoming 2018 Design Incubation Fellowship will be held January 11–13, 2018 at the Manhattan campus of St. John’s University, 51 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003.

Applicants are required to provide contact information, title/current rank, institutional affiliation, a CV, and a 200-word biography. Candidates also need to indicate for which of the 2 tracks they are applying. (see Fellowship Program Format.)

Preference will be given to full-time faculty currently employed by accredited colleges or universities. Adjuncts and independent scholars are also encouraged to apply.

There is no fee to apply for the Design Incubation Fellowship. However upon acceptance there is a $200 fee for the 3-day workshop and all Fellows must be available to participate in person at the Design Incubation Fellowship workshops. A formal letter of acceptance will be provided so attendees can apply for travel funds from their home institutions and pay the workshop fee to reserve their place.


Design Incubation Fellows commit to working on a research project for six months. The Fellowship begins with a three-day workshop (see below) where participants learn about different modes of publishing and writing strategies. During the six months following the Workshop, Fellows pledge to continue to work on their projects during which time they receive feedback and group checkin’s. The 2018 Design Incubation Fellowship Workshop will take place at St. John’s University’s Manhattan Campus on January 11-13, 2018. All Fellows are required to participate in the Fellowship Workshop.

Design Incubation Fellowship 2018

January 11–13, 2018. New York City. A three-day workshop facilitating academic writing and publishing for designers.

The mission of Design Incubation is to support and facilitate the development of research in the field of communication design. The organization works with academics and practitioners to create scholarly discourse and publications focused on creative projects, critical analysis, historical perspectives, technological advances and other topics relevant to design studies.

Visit the Fellowship Program Format page for details on the fellowship and program format.

Applications accepted: June 1, 2017 – September 1, 2017. Visit the Fellowship Application page for details to apply.

2017 Design Incubation Fellowship
January 11 –13, 2018
St. John’s University’s Manhattan campus


The 2018 Design Incubation Fellowship Workshop will include sessions with Maggie Taft, Managing Editor of the journal Design and Culture as well as guest appearances by a number of authors and publishers. Aaris Sherin is director of the Design Incubation Fellowship program. Sherin is a Professor of Graphic Design at St. John’s University in New York and author of a number of books including her most recent titles Elaine Lustig Cohen: Modernism Reimagined and Sustainable Thinking: Ethical Approaches to Design and Design Management. (See below for schedule.)

Day 1

Thursday, January 11th

Introductions with Hosts

Dan Wong, Co-founder of Design Incubation
Liz Deluna, Co-chair Design Incubation
Robin Landa, Co-Chair Design Incubation

Structuring Scholarship

Aaris Sherin
Director of Fellowships at Design Incubation

Lunch break (see recommendations)
Writing for Journals: Workshop Session

Maggie Taft
Managing Editor, Design and Culture

Day 2

Friday January 12th

Book Publishing with Bloomsbury Publishing

Louise Baird-Smith
Commissioning Editor – Design and Photography Bloomsbury Visual Arts

Break Out Session / Working Groups

Facilitated by Maggie Taft, Robin Landa, Aaris Sherin, and Elizabeth Guffey. Participants will work on drafts of their writing in small groups.

Lunch break
12:30pm–1:30pm (see recommendations)
Writing Process and Feedback
1:30pm –2:30pm

Andrew Shea
Author of Design for Social Change
Principal of design studio, MANY

Break Out Session / Working Groups
2:30pm –5:30pm

Facilitated by Maggie Taft, Robin Landa, Aaris Sherin and Elizabeth Guffey

Day 3

Saturday January 13th

Break Out Session / Working Groups

Facilitated by Maggie Taft, Robin Landa, Aaris Sherin, and Elizabeth Guffey

Lunch break
12:30pm–1:30pm (see recommendations)

Robin Landa
Distinguished Professor Kean University
Author over twenty books including
Nimble: Creative Thinking in the Digital Age

Elizabeth Guffey
Professor State University of New York
(SUNY) at Purchase
Author of Posters: A Global Perspective, and Retro: The Culture of Revival Founding Editor of Design and Culture

Sharing Session / Wrap Up
Group Dinner (Optional)

Please note: This schedule is tentative and is subject to change.

2018 Senior Fellow

Maria Rogal
School of Art + Art History
Graphic Design Program & Affiliate Faculty
Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida

2018 Fellows

Camila Afanador-Llach
Assistant Professor
Department of Visual Arts and Art History
Florida Atlantic University

Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Robert Busch School of Design
Michael Graves College
Kean University

Liat Berdugo
Assistant Professor
University of San Francisco

Anne Berry
Assistant Professor
Cleveland State University

David Hardy
Assistant Professor
James Madison University

Jessica Jacobs
Assistant Professor
Columbia College Chicago

Cynthia Lawson
Associate Professor
Integrated Design
The New School

Christine Lhowe
Seton Hall University

Courtney Marchese
Assistant Professor
Quinnipiac University

Daniel McCafferty
Assistant Professor
University of Manitoba

Grace Moon
Adjunct Professor
CUNY Queens College

Sarah Rutherford
Assistant Professor
Cleveland State University

Misty Thomas-Trout
Assistant Professor
University of Dayton

Karen Zimmermann
University of Arizona

Local Lunch and Coffee Spots

13-25 Astor Pl, New York, NY 10003

Pret A Manger
1 Astor Pl, New York, NY 10003

Le Petite Parisien – Sandwiches / Baguettes
32 E 7th St
New York, NY 10003

Mamoun’s Falafel – Middle Eastern
30 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003

V-Spot – Vegan / with Gluten Free options
12 Saint Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003

Bluestone Lane (coffee shop)
51 Astor Pl, New York, NY 10003
(just downstairs in the same building as SJU)

Chopt Creative Salad Co.
51 Astor Pl, New York, NY 10003
(just downstairs in the same building as SJU)

Many tasty Ramen and Sushi places on St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd Ave.

Design Incubation Fellowship Redux: Fellows Get Published

Meaghan Barry, Assistant Professor at Oakland University and Aaron Ganci, Assistant Professor at Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design, two of our 2016 Design Incubation Fellows have recently published in the journal Design and Culture.

Barry’s Statement of Practice interview with designer, performance artist, and Cranbrook Designer-in-Residence Elliot Earls explores the many facets of Earl’s practice and the evolution of his thinking about design, education and performance over the last several decades.

Ganci reviewed John McCarthy and Peter Wright’s text, Taking [A]part: The Politics and Aesthetics of Participation in Experience-Centered Design.

Barry and Ganci continued their writing projects with the support of Design Incubation’s Fellowship Director, Aaris Sherin, to craft these articles.

For more information on how Design Incubation supports design writing and publishing see the Fellowship page on the Design Incubation website. Applications for the 2018 program will be accepted June 1, 2017 – September 1, 2017.

Webinar: The Writing and Publishing Challenge @RGD

A webinar discussing design scholarship with an emphasis on the intersection of professional practice and writing.

A webinar discussing design scholarship with an emphasis on the intersection of professional practice and writing. Information about discipline specific journals and book publishers.

As design educators we are increasingly asked to do it all. We need to excel in the classroom, provide service to our institution, maintain a professional practice and publish and engage in design-related scholarship.

See more at: