From thesis to book in 10 steps
Let’s get this over and done with early, the harsh truth is – revised theses by yet to be known authors rarely sell enough copies to cover the cost of production for publishers.
A thesis is written purely to showcase the knowledge of the student at doctoral level so it takes no imagination to appreciate how difficult this will be to read for anyone outside of your PhD committee and why booksellers and librarians avoid them.
Therefore, before you do anything, you need to make the transition from you as student not yet empowered to speak with authority and gravitas, to you as author with an authorial voice and accompanying writing style.
Here’s how to do it.
1. The further effort
This brand-new project builds on rather than is converted from your thesis research. This is an important point so it is useful to keep this in mind throughout.
As your book project has a different focus and purpose, you need to be prepared to do more work to satisfy the demands of your new audience.
Note: As always, targeting your reader is key. See our blog about creating your own readatar (https://www.howgatepublishing.com/single-post/2016/04/01/creating-your-own-reader-avatar).
This may include restructuring, rewriting, adding more case studies and examples and for sure some degree of updating to ensure that the book is as up-to-date as possible.
Neither publisher nor reader will treat a first book as a practice exercise. If you are not yet in this space, then we strongly suggest that you take a break and come back to it at a later date or consider one or two shorter project journal articles instead.
2. The commitment
If you have made the decision to publish a book, then stand by that decision. This is not the time to try and publish the full text plus a journal article from every chapter and here’s why:
Note: It is important to remember that whichever contract you sign first, they become the 'publishing' copyright holder. Concealing other publisher arrangements that you have for the publication of chapters in journals or edited volumes could potentially put you in breach of copyright. Copyright can be a grey and often misinterpreted area, so we intend to cover copyright in more detail in a future blog.
This is also not the time to send your thesis with a short covering letter to every publisher in the hope that one of them will be interested and here’s why:
Note: The scatter gun approach to finding a publisher is never the right approach. It is important to research potential publishers in terms of their subject area specialization, their market focus and their author services. A book that is suitable for a military audience will do far better with a publisher specialising in that area than one that more generally covers international relations. As a new author, a smaller publisher will give you more guidance through the publishing process than a larger publisher where some degree of previous publishing experience is needed.
3. The structure
It is important to work out the structure of the book as this is likely to be different from the thesis structure. A good starting point is simplifying your table of contents so as to articulate the material in a logical and accessible fashion. Take into consideration any comments that you have received from your PhD committee, publisher and reviewers.
Note: Rather than edit the thesis itself, take parts of the thesis and rewrite them into this new structure.
Revisit your chapter titles and make sure that they are clear what the chapter is about. Long chapter titles with many subsections are no longer needed for your book and witty chapter titles are great in theory but can put readers off who are eager to know quickly what is in each chapter.
Note: Chapter titles are also increasingly used as a key part of the metadata for your book.
4. The painful first cut
Books are normally much shorter than PhD theses. You should aim for no more than 80,000 words including all references and the index. Having spent months (years) writing, understandably you will be reluctant to take out large parts, but this you must do. After all, the thesis will always endure in its pure form.
Here are two areas that can be cut early:
You will need to cut the part where you thank your PhD committee. You can still acknowledge them, but as individual scholars rather than as part of your committee.
2. Review of Literature and Methodology
Separate chapters about the review of literature and research methodologies may be vital in a thesis, but not in a book, as readers and experts in your field are likely to be familiar already with both. Usually, you can integrate the methodology into the introduction or remove it altogether.
5. The introduction (3000 words)
In essence, the first chapter needs to set out the argument and set out for the reader some detail on how the information and evidence was collected.
Note: Start by identifying your unique selling points (USPs) and build your introduction around them so as to highlight what is really original about your research, its contribution to the field and what makes the book ‘stand out from the crowd’.
This chapter should be more fluid in setting out the key ideas about the conceptual and empirical fields the book covers and author positionality. It should provide readers with a concise ‘preview’ of the various chapters. This chapter could also include material on the definitions of terms – this is useful. Als