Friday, April 11, 2008

I Think I Know the Answer

OK: I'm pretty sure that I know what to do here. But I'll ask anyway.

I got an email today from an acquisitions editor at an academic press expressing interest in the book I'm "working" on (not having worked on it in about 3 weeks). It's pretty clear from the email that this person came across my profile on Field College's website, where I briefly describe my work in progress, and is emailing me based on that.

This is not--I don't think--a disreputable publisher; I've often used books that they've published in my research. It's not one of my top choices, but it's fine. (I think. There's some press out there that consistently publishes horribly edited books, and this might be it--I'm not sure; I kind of think it's a different one, but I can't remember, and don't have anything around to check.)

But. This strikes me as weird. I assume that the acq. ed. is just trolling academic websites and emailing everyone with a topic that remotely fits their lists, and that therefore being published by these guys (just let me get ahead of myself for a moment) wouldn't be the best way of placing my manuscript. So my question is the following: Is this something that's "done"? Is there any reason at all to reply? I assume that the answer is No, but I might just be overly cynical and/or timid. Thoughts?


Dr. Crazy said...

Ok, I would do some more research about the press. Here's the thing: I ended up with my book contract based on the fact that an editor emailed me regarding a CFP I posted (unrelated to my manuscript). Before I did anything, I looked at the press's website, figured out who they were, etc. Then I replied to the email, and said that I didn't want to do a collection based on the CFP, but that I did have this other book proposal and would they be interested. They were.

Is it the best placement ever? No. But it's not the worst. And the fact of the matter is, given where I am (time-wise and location-wise)on the tenure-track, middling placement for a first book seemed just fine to me. But I didn't care terribly much about placement, to be honest, anyway. I just wanted it to be an actual book:)

At any rate, my advice is to do a little research about them (like google them and go to the website) and see what you think. If it seems decent, then my thought is, why not send them an email to get more details? You wouldn't be making any commitments in doing so, and it could be a good connection to make. On the other hand, if it doesn't seem decent with minimal research, no, you don't need to respond. Also, ask around about other people's experiences with the press.

Just my 2 cents :)

Sisyphus said...

Hey, I got an email based on my upcoming (totally not diss-related) conference paper --- it must be Random Solicitation Month! (oh, my --- I just reread what I typed)

Anyways, I didn't know the answer to that either (so keep me posted) but the editor very nicely sent me a catalog of what they've published. It lists not only their recent stuff but their backlists too. If it's good stuff that you would be happy to be published along, email and ask for more info.

You can also create an account and ask questions about the publisher on the Chronicle forums.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Editors do this a lot, actually, expressing interest based on things like conference papers (like Dr. Crazy says), and some of them, I think, check up on major departments in the field and see what dissertations on their subjects people have written. So I don't think the fact that they've contacted you in this way is at all a sign that the press is lame (in the same way that when applying for jobs and feeling desperate about the job market, it's easy to forget that schools are desperately worried they won't get the right person, I think it's easy to forget that while we always feel like we're begging presses to publish us, they're still worrying about finding good stuff to publish).

Now, the press might well be lame, or at least, might not be one you want to publish with, but like Dr. Crazy says, decide that based on what the press itself has done, not on their means of contacting you.

The other thing to consider is where you are in your book process right now anyway - if you're not ready to show anyone anything, you can reply politely but non-commitally. Then when you are sending a proposal out to publishers (a bunch at a time, of course), you could send it to these people referencing their original interest in your work. (Unless in researching the press you discover that it is the one that does crappy collections and you don't want to publish with them, or something else off-putting, of course.) Then you'd have a better sense of where you stand in relation to publishers generally.

heu mihi said...

Thanks, all--I've done a little Chronicle-snooping, and I think that I might inquire for more info but really not get particularly excited. This isn't where I would want to place my MS, I don't think--at least, not yet (I'll gather a few rejections first!). However, it's definitely motivated me to get my ass in gear re. that proposal thingy, and I spent a couple of hours this afternoon figuring out what exactly some of the top UPs want--because I might as well aim really really high at the start, right?

medieval woman said...

Yes! You should absolutely aim high! You should send the proposal out to as many places as possible and see who bites - just like applying for jobs. Unless they want you to send a couple of representative chapters, in which case I think you might have to take those one at a time. I know they say that you can't have the ms under review two places at once, but does that apply to a "couple of representative chapters" as well?? Hmmmmm...