Turning Your Dissertation into a Book
by Lorri Hagman, executive editor, University of Washington Press
Interested in publishing your dissertation as a book? You will likely need to revise it extensively so it will appeal to a wider audience and compete in the literary marketplace. Here are some guidelines to help you in this process.
- Allow plenty of time!
- The review process can easily take up to a year, as it entails a peer review of your manuscript, potential revisions, further peer review and then approval.
- The editing process can easily take a year to a year and a half as it entails copyediting, design, typesetting and proofreading, preparation of the index, printing and binding.
Dissertations differ from books in several ways
- Dissertations are highly specialized, while books are geared to general readers.
- Dissertation audiences are usually fewer than 100 readers — books are about 500 or more, in general.
- In a dissertation, the author’s authority must be proven; in books, it is assumed.
- Dissertations contain extensive documentation (to prove authority), while books document to credit sources and help the reader.
- Dissertations can run long; books are often far shorter.
Elements that make a good book
- A concise, memorable and intriguing title that includes essential key words
- Clear and effective organization
- A succinct introduction
- Illustrations that enhance the text
- Sections that are meaningful either alone or as part of the total book
- Navigational aids, such as chapter titles, running heads, subheads, notes, bibliography, index
- A voice (relationship of author to reader) that functions like an invisible tour guide or creative storyteller, and avoids sounding like a lecturer at a podium
The revision process
- Forget your dissertation. Forget your committee.
- Be bold!
- Clarify your modified topic and audience.
- Determine how to present it in a dynamic way.
- Remove unnecessary references to yourself.
- Delete conspicuous chapter intros and summaries.
- Make style parallel in chapter titles, captions, chapter openings and closings, subheads.
- Revisit the introduction and conclusion.
- Remove unnecessary notes; condense or combine others.
- Eliminate most cross-references.
- Cut unnecessary examples and data.
- Make chapter openings strong, clear, and inviting.
- Add definitions of jargon, foreign terms, biographical and historical dates.
- Brainstorm several possible titles and subtitles.
- Tighten prose.
- Use active verbs.
- Begin and end sentences with words you want to emphasize.
The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. (2003). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
German, William. (2005). From dissertation to book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Harmon, Eleanor, et al., ed. (2003). The thesis and the book: A guide for first-time academic authors. 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Lucy, Beth, ed. (2004). Revising your dissertation: Advice from leading editors. Berkeley: University of California Press.