How important is it for an author to have a significant social media presence and to demonstrate that to the publisher?

Questions: How important is it for an author to have a significant social media presence and to demonstrate that to the publisher? –SR 

Answer: Generally a social media presence is less important in academic publishing than in trade publishing (which are books for the general reader).

But obviously being able to utilise your contacts for promotion of the book is certainly a plus and may well reach people we wouldn’t naturally get to with our own marketing. 

It wouldn’t be a sticking point really though on whether a project was signed up – there are plenty of hugely successful academic authors who barely touch social media.

Your background, the project and the reviews are the most significant aspects for us.  It’s nice to be able to say when presenting a new book idea to our committee that an author has 10,000+ followers, and we would certainly exploit that with the author’s help, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the book will sell any better than one which relies on our own marketing contacts. 

With fairly limited marketing budgets across academic publishing, having a pro-active author, whether on social media or through other channels, is a big help in reaching the right people.

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

“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.

Can an author approach more than one publisher at the same time?

Answer: This is an interesting question and one which has caused much discussion even in our office! 

Question: Can an author approach more than one publisher at the same time? -MR

Answer: This is an interesting question and one which has caused much discussion even in our office! 

In some cases, publishers will request that you only approach one at a time, but this isn’t always enforced in every subject or publisher.  Some editors I’ve heard will not consider a project if it has been sent to multiple publishers – the argument being that it can seem like you’ve just sent it out haphazardly to everyone, without fully considering which is the best publisher for you and the project.  It’s best to really consider who already publishes in the area you’re working in, where the best books are coming from and whether the reputation of the publisher is right for you (for instance, if you need a university press for tenure, or you need a publisher who double reviews the manuscripts, and so on).  As each publisher will invest time and money in the review process, submitting to various places is a difficult one, but you should certainly feel free to submit elsewhere if you haven’t heard back.

I’d personally say that given the fact it can sometimes take a little while to hear back from editors initially, it might be worth approaching a few to start with to gauge interest – however, it is best to be upfront about this, and certainly once you have had contact with an editor you need to make it clear to everyone if the project is also being considered by another publisher (for politeness as well as practicalities).  It is tricky if you were to get to the point of being offered a contract by two publishers at the same time without either knowing you’d been discussing the project elsewhere, especially as by that point there will likely have been a significant amount of input from the publishers and reviewers in developing the overall approach of the project.  Again, if in doubt have a look at the publisher’s website and see if there is guidance on multiple submissions.  And individually submitting the same project to several editors at the same publisher is generally poor form – if you’re not quite sure who to approach, try one editor and ask them to pass the project on to a colleague if it’s not right for them, or copy the editors into the same email so they don’t all end up individually assessing the same project.   

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

“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.

Is there any difference between writing a single authored book and a co-authored book?

Question: Is there any difference between writing a single-authored book and a co-authored book? -AB

Answer: While different publishers or series may have set rules on when they will (or won’t) accept co-authored titles, in most cases, there usually isn’t a problem from the publishers’ side on this. 

Sometimes it can actually be a bonus where the book is interdisciplinary or has broad coverage where a single author couldn’t be an expert in all the content. My colleague is publishing a book on climate change in history written by a historian and a climate scientist together – it’s a massive selling point because we can say our book has holistic coverage and the science is valid.   

Something to bear in mind though is how to divide the work, and do you know you can definitely successfully work together over a couple of years? In terms of how you split the work is up to you – maybe you’d each write certain chapters and swap to read/edit the other ones, or you may have certain aspects of the book you’ll research individually, then write up together.  Generally, there would be a lead author, though this isn’t essential.  Saying all that, going above two co-authors can get tricky, so over this number, you’ll need to really consider if multi-authored is the right approach – an edited collection may then make more sense (a different author writing each chapter, with overall editors who commission individual chapters).  Another consideration is that any royalties will be split between the primary authors/editors of the volume, and you will be equally responsible for the delivery of the book.

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

“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.

How important is it that an author has written a book before?

Question: How important is it that an author has written a book before? Does that improve their chances of you taking on their project and giving them a contract? –MR

Answer: While there is an element of reassurance if an author has already published a book before, everyone has to start somewhere and there will always need to be a ‘first book’ at some point. 

Some big textbook lists/publishers may not sign unpublished authors as the bigger textbook projects have a higher risk factor than an academic monograph might do, but this isn’t the same across the board. 

I’ve worked on subjects where academic scholarship was relatively new, so the pool of previously published authors was very small – getting new voices into the mix was really important to build up the high quality literature in the area.

Equally, if someone has written many books before, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be offered a contract for their next book. 

Whether you have tons of experience as an author, or are brand new, the combination of the project itself and your experience in the area (as a researcher, practitioner or teacher, depending on the type of book) along with the feedback from the peer reviews is a more realistic predictor of whether a project would be approved.  If in doubt, just drop the editor/publisher an email and see if it’s worth submitting a proposal.

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

“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.