Preparing for the Publisher Meetings

This past year, I’ve had the pleasure of attending several conferences, each with their different flavors: the 22nd Annual ACMRS Conference in Scottsdale, AZ; the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy in Boston; the Association for Asian Studies Conference in Seattle; the Kalamazoo International Congress on Medieval Studies; and the Leeds International Medieval Congress. So. Much. Travel. And I’m really learning that it’s necessary to play favorites with airlines — and to sometimes skip flying with a particular one altogether, if it doesn’t even provide you with a glass of water free of charge (I’m looking at you, Frontier!).

Airline ordeals aside, the conferences were great, of course — so many scholars doing interesting and edgy research! In preparing for my meetings, I had several potential authors ask me whether they should bring certain materials, which got me thinking that it might be prudent if I wrote a post on what a prospective author can/should expect from publisher meetings, not only in terms of what one could bring relating to a particular project, but also just a brief overview of what these sorts of meetings will entail (at least, a meeting with me, as an acquisitions editor for a particular publisher). Because sometimes, it’s hard to know what to expect — hopefully, I can clear things up a bit.

What to bring to the meeting (and what you don’t need to bring)

If I’ve written to you because your paper topic at a given conference caught my eye, that means I’ve done a bit of research — I’ve found your CV, if it’s online, and I’ve checked out your faculty page and/or Academia page. This means that you don’t need to bring your CV along to your meeting with me because I’ve already seen it (thanks for asking about it though!). What you could bring, if you have a project in the works, is a prospective table of contents or chapter abstracts, just to give me an idea of how your project will be organized. Or, better yet, email me a digital copy of the document before our meeting — that way, I can send it to my series chair, who may want me to ask you particular questions about your project on her behalf. And if you are quite keen on submitting a proposal to one of my series, then it would certainly be great to fill out a book proposal form and email it to me prior to our meeting as well.

What information you’ll be expected to provide

I’m sure to ask you probing questions about your project, although if your research is in an early phase, don’t be afraid to answer any questions speculatively. I need to be sure that your project will fit into one of my series, so the more information you provide, the better.

The sorts of questions I might ask include: What is the thesis of your project and how does it engage with secondary research on the topic — e.g., when you engage with other scholars’ research on X, how do you respond to their arguments? What do you think are the dominant narratives on X? How does your work problematize or nuance these narratives? Is your research cross- or inter-disciplinary? These are just some of the questions that I might ask, depending on the scope of your research. Of course, I’ll also ask about your expected word count, whether you envision your book as having an index, images, appendices, etc., and what languages you’ll be utilizing (just to give me an idea of the amount of copyediting/typesetting work that would be involved).

How to prepare for the meeting

Chances I are, I wrote to you with a particular series in mind, based on your research interests and area(s) of expertise. Skimming over the series page will help you to ensure that the series is actually a good fit for your project, which will be helpful for the both of us! Also, take a second to learn a bit about me and the Press to which the series belongs, just give you a good knowledge base before we meet.

What to remember

As one of my authors has reminded me, “it’s totally normal to be a bit awkward and fraught” with regards to our meeting, since the meeting itself is going to be, by its very nature, a bit awkward. I’m learning about who you are as a scholar and an author, and also gauging how your project will fit into one of my series — and you’re learning about me as an acquisitions editor and also about the series/publisher(s) I represent. We’re interviewing each other, if you will. Interviews can be the worst, but it’s much better when you get to chat with someone about a subject you’re passionate about. So just remember that I am definitely excited to hear about what you have in the works — it’s why I wrote to you in the first place.

And not to worry — if we ultimately decide that none of my series are the right fit for your project, I work with a fantastic group of acquisitions editors, so if that’s the case, I’ll definitely put you in touch with the acquisitions editor of a series that is.

So that’s the 4-1-1. If you’re going to be at any conferences in the near future — especially ACMRS and Kalamazoo — and want to chat about your manuscript (or even a project that’s still floating around in your mind, a garbled mass of seemingly disconnected trains of thought) get in touch with me! I’d love to hear about it.

More helpful information for perspective authors can be found here!

by Shannon Cunningham

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