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How to Turn Your Dissertation Into a Book: A Step-By-Step Guide for New Authors


Whether you are just starting graduate school, writing your dissertation, or the proud recipient of a recent Ph.D., you may be thinking about turning your dissertation into a published book. There are many reasons why this might be a good idea. In some fields, a published scholarly book is a preferred method for presenting a comprehensive view of pivotal research. A book gives you the space to discuss details, complications, connections, and ramifications in a way that is not possible in a journal article. In these fields, a well-reviewed book gives you instant credibility when applying for faculty positions, tenure, and related positions. A published book also has a much longer shelf life than an unpublished dissertation, and will occupy a respected place on your CV or resume for years to come.

In other fields, good dissertations are expected to produce one or more published journal articles, and many tenured faculty at top research institutions never publish a book. In these fields, publishing a book may still be an asset for those pursuing a traditional academic career, and can be a great way to transition into other careers such as science communication, education, or public policy. So if turning your dissertation into a book is something you are considering, here are some steps to get started.

Step 1: Identify your audience

Publishers are businesses that make money by selling books. This is true of "trade" publishers that sell books for the general public, and "academic" publishers that sell books primarily for students and scholars. Therefore, in order for a publisher to consider publishing your book, there must be a sufficiently large audience to buy your book. This audience will strongly influence how you organize and write your book, and may cause your book to be massively different from your dissertation. After all, the purpose of a dissertation is to show that you are knowledgeable about your field of study, and have made a significant contribution to it. In contrast, the purpose of a book is to serve a need for the reader.

Some dissertation topics may work well as required reading for college and university courses. In that case, you need to identify the types of courses that would be appropriate (e.g. courses in sociology that cover gender identity), and develop an understanding of how many students take such courses. For example, you might find that almost all colleges in the California State system have a sociology department. At California State AnyTown, there are 20,000 undergraduate students, and 400 students a year take a sociology course that focuses on gender identity. Other dissertation topics might appeal to people in specific professions (e.g. people who work with children who suffer concussions), and you might look at the number of people in relevant professional organizations (e.g. associations for coaches or pediatric nurses). At the other end of the spectrum, you might imagine a book that appeals to a fairly wide audience (e.g. a book that addresses recent events linked to gender identity, or a broader discussion of concussion in youth sports). For these books, the intended audience may be harder to define, so you can estimate its size in the next step.

Step 2: Identify competing books

Once you have identified a potential audience, you need to familiarize yourself with the books they are reading. Your book will be competing with these books, so you need to determine how your book will fill a gap for this audience. Here you have the opportunity—and the obligation—to read widely in your intended niche. If this opportunity doesn't excite you, do not try to write a book for this niche. The process of writing a good book is laborious and time consuming, so if you are not interested in exploring similar books for what works and what doesn't, you will not enjoy writing your own book for this category.

As you identify and read competing books, you should pay attention to the topics that they cover, and how the author writes about these topics. Consider whether the text is instructive or narrative, what details are included, how the text is organized, and whether visual aids such as photographs, diagrams, or tables are included. Also find out when the book was published, how long it is, how much it sells for, and how many copies have been sold (or at least what its Amazon sales rank is).

You may find books that are very similar to your book, or that are different in significant ways (such as the specific topic) but that have characteristics you want to emulate (e.g. a good strategy for presenting technically challenging research to a broad audience). As you gain a good understanding of related books, you'll need to develop a list of 3-10 books that will compete with your book. You will use this list to support two points:

  • Books similar to your book have been successful with your intended audiences; and
  • Your book fills an unmet need for this audience, so they will buy it.

That unmet need might be a more recent book that incorporates new knowledge, or a book that takes a different approach to a question that has already been addressed.

This survey of related books will also help you plan your book. If you find that multiple books already exist for your intended topic, you may need to shift your emphasis so that your book offers something new. If you find that there are few successful competing books, it may be that your intended audience is too small, and that you need to shift your emphasis to fit into a more productive niche.

Step 3: Create an outline for your book

Once you have an intended audience, an excellent understanding of successful books in the same category, and an idea for how you can fill a need in that category, you can start planning your book in detail. Put together an outline, starting with the major topic for each chapter, and thinking about how the overall theme will progress through the entire book. Even for a purely academic book, there must be an overall arch to your story.

While it may be tempting to slip into the same mindset that you used for planning and writing your dissertation, remember that the purpose of your book is to serve a need for the reader. So rather than focusing on your specific research contributions (which is essential for a dissertation), focus on what the reader needs to know. To facilitate this mindset, it may be useful to put away your dissertation for a bit (assuming that it is already complete) and focus on other projects. Then revisit your dissertation topic when you have fresh eyes and a better understanding of what would be useful for your intended audience.

As you flesh out the details for each chapter, set a target word count and think about any images or tables that should be included. Keep in mind that book publishers must pay for every page, image, and footnote to be edited, prepared, and printed. Books that are only available electronically still have most of these per-page expenses. Therefore, use successful books in your category as a guide for how long your book should be, and how many images should be included. Color images also add significantly to the production costs .

As you are preparing your outline, you will likely reach a point where you are unsure if the details of your plan will work. Then it is time to write.

Step 4: Write a sample chapter

If you want a publisher or agent to consider your book, you will typically need to submit a sample chapter or two. You may be asked to submit your first chapter or your "best" chapter, so I recommend starting with your first chapter and making it excellent.

While there are many different approaches to successful writing, one common theme is that the first draft is usually terrible. So write the first draft of your first chapter and let it be terrible. Then read and revise, and repeat. As you are writing and revising, I recommend regularly taking time to read some of your competing titles. How do they deal with some of the challenges you are facing? Are their approaches successful or can you envision a better way?

As you write your first chapter or two, you may find that you need to revise your outline. Pay attention to what you can effectively cover for your audience in the space available.

Step 5: Identify appropriate publishers or agents

Once you have a strong plan and a sample chapter or two, you need to identify potential publishers. Start by looking at your list of competing titles, and learn about those publishers. Also talk to colleagues who have published books, and ask if they would be willing to put you in contact with their publisher or agent. The process can be quite complicated, and for a comprehensive guide I recommend The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. Many publishers also post guidelines for potential authors on their websites. For most publishers, you will need to show that you understand your audience and competing books, and provide a detailed book outline and convincing sample chapter.

Here is an infographic that breaks down all of these major points:

Dissertation Into a Book Infographic

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The Professor Is In

Guidance for all things PhD: Graduate School, Job Market and Careers

converting dissertation to book

My Top Five Tips for Turning Your Dissertation Into a Book–A Special Request Post

By Karen Kelsky | February 26, 2016

This is a repost from 2011.

Today is another Special Request Post.  This one is from Maria, who asks, do I have a template (like my Foolproof Grant Template ) for turning a dissertation into a book?

No, Maria, I do not.  The process of turning the dissertation into a book will be different for every writer, and doesn’t lend itself to a template.  But there are some tips that I can offer for easing the process and making it more efficient.  This post is my Top Five Tips for Turning Your Dissertation Into a Book.

Why should you turn your dissertation into a book, you ask?

If you are in a book field, the fact is, your dissertation must be transformed into a book to be of full value to you.  The dissertation alone counts for little in the academic career.  The dissertation serves you only insofar as you can quickly transform it into the commodities that bring value on the market—peer reviewed articles (preferably published before you defend and start the job search), high profile grants that funded the research, high profile conferences in which you present the research publicly, and finally, the advance contract for the book from a major (NOT minor) academic press.  These are the tangible accomplishments that you must have to be competitive for a tenure track position at this point in time.

So here are The Professor’s Top Five Tips for Turning your Dissertation into a Book.

1)  Write the dissertation as a book to begin with.

Write from day one with a wide market of undergraduates in mind.  You want the book to be assigned as a text in undergraduate courses in your field.  Write it so those undergraduates can read it.  Don’t spend endless pages on tiresome, tedious obscurities of interest to 10 people in your sub- sub- sub-field.  Remember that the methodology section will be entirely removed from the book mss.  And the literature review will be almost entirely removed, with a small section folded into the Introduction or other chapters.  Conceptualize and write the entire thing remembering that these sections, while critical to your committee, are short-lived.  Don’t obsess about them; do the minimum, and move on.   In the meantime, put extra effort into a catchy, appealing Introduction and Conclusion.  These speak to readers, and to the editors and reviewers who will judge your mss. for publication.

2)  Make it short.

Academic publishing is in the same epic financial crisis as the rest of the academic world.  Publishers are going out of business right and left, and those that remain are under pressure to publish books that actually sell and make a profit (unlike the old days when it was understood that scholarly monographs rarely broke even).  Publishers must keep their production costs low, and this means they want shorter books.  I can promise you that if you present them with a 500 page monograph on the significance of the turtle as a symbol in 12th century religious iconography in Spain, for example, they are going to send it back with a polite email telling you they won’t be considering it until it is cut in half.

3) Know your market.

The dissertation may be treated like the intellectual achievement par excellence in your doctoral program, but in the real world of jobs with benefits, it is a commodity that has value only when it can be traded for gain on the market.  Ask yourself what sort of class your diss/book is suited for.  Do a google search of such classes and find out what kinds of books are assigned.  Take a look at those books and see what their main selling points seem to be.  Then ask yourself how you can adjust and mold your dissertation to be the kind of book that serves that market (without losing sight of your actual project and findings, of course!).  When you send the mss. to presses, you will be able to feature this “market research” prominently in your cover letter.

4) Don’t be boring.

Write with style and flair.  Just because you *can* write clunky, graceless prose in academia, and get away with it, doesn’t mean you *should.*  Be provocative.  Be original.  Be incendiary.  If your committee shies away from such showmanship, write a shadow chapter that you include once you’ve defended and are ready to send the mss. out to presses.  Presses are not interested in “solid scholarship.”  They are interested in products that sell.  Products that sell have to be differentiated from the competition–ie, they have to be exciting, new, and different.

5) Remember that your committee is not the world.

You have to please your committee to get a Ph.D., but you have to impress the presses to get a career.  Your committee controls you for a few years, but your book establishes your career trajectory for decades.  Set your eye on the prize, and don’t lose sight of it.  Do what you have to to satisfy your committee, but don’t ever forget who is in charge:  you.  You have an agenda, and that is publishing an influential, high-profile book with a top press.  Do not be derailed by committee politics and wrangles over whether you included XX citation in chapter 3 or properly acknowledged ZZ’s work in chapter 4.  Follow your own star, defend your positions, compromise when you must, and move on as efficiently as you can.  The best dissertation is a finished dissertation that is already a press-ready mss.

Here is my dissertation story:

I wrote a doctoral dissertation on why some young, single Japanese women in the early 1990s were demonstrating a striking enthusiasm for studying abroad, living abroad, working abroad, and finding white Western men to be their lovers and husbands.  My peers and professors in my graduate program severely disapproved of this project, and I was told by countless people that it wasn’t “legitimate” anthropology.  However, when I sent the mss. out to presses, not only did I get two competing advance contracts, I ended up getting an actual ADVANCE from the press.  This is practically unheard of for young academic writers peddling scholarly monographs.  The reason?  My book was provocative. It was original.  It had some naughty pictures.  I ignored the negative comments in my department.  And while I was absolutely committed to the project as a scholarly project  – based on the highest standards I could muster of ethnographic fieldwork, theoretical engagement, and disciplinary contribution —  I also wrote it to sell.  And, while it was published in 2001,  in 2015, I am still getting a (microscopically small) royalty check!

Similar Posts:

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  • The Status of the Press Matters, Still!
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Reader Interactions

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July 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

while I absolutely agree with your advice–and I realize the process is idiosyncratic–it is pitched to a graduate student rather than an assistant professor in the throes of the manuscript revision. any more nuts and bolts advice?

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July 28, 2011 at 2:33 am

Dear Junior TT, thanks for asking. If you have a specific obstacle that’s afflicting you, please tell me what it is, and I’ll respond.

For now, I do have one piece of nuts and bolts advice for the TT folks, that trumps all other advice, in fact all other advice put together, which is: you must get leave from teaching to write the book. You cannot do it while maintaining a full teaching schedule. It is, actually, impossible. So, if you’re not actually staring down the barrel of year 5, then take a break, and apply for grants. Even one-term or one-semester internal grants can put you over the top. I myself ended up with 2 full years of leave, which is how I both wrote a book and had two children (!) but in any case, schedule in preliminary time to ensure that you are released from teaching to write the book. If you do not succeed in gaining funding, then ask your Head/Chair for a special dispensation. A good department and Head will release junior faculty from teaching to get their publishing done.

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July 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm

While I find most of your advice useful, I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about “knowing your market” (#3 and #1, to some extent). I work on literature, and based on my experience (both as an undergraduate and as a teacher of undergraduates), we rarely, if at all, read secondary criticism in our courses. So I am having trouble trying to imagine how to pitch my book for an undergraduate audience/class. I understand your point about obscurity and also the need to make my research, however specialized, accessible to a broader audience, but I’d appreciate if you could write about this point more.

July 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Maria, OK. I would approach this a couple of ways. I’d find out what other books have recently come out from major univ. presses that are similar to yours. I’d study them to get clues about their length and density and jargon level. Id’ study their match with the press that published them–what are the clear emphases of different presses, and which matches your project best? Figure out the most likely “best match” press for your mss. and look at their most recent spring and fall lists. Figure out what their current orientations are, and speak DIRECTLY to those in your mss. Don’t bury them in chapter 4. Find a way to refer to them in the Intro, and to cast your project in that light as you think about the cover letter you’ll submit to the press.

Second, You HAVE to include a discussion of “market research” in any cover letter that accompanies your mss. to a press. So, here, if your market is not undergrad classes, then what is it? I’d move up to graduate seminars, and finally of course to the scholarly fields your project speaks to. You are far, far, better off if your book intervenes in several fields rather than just one. You want to be able to say, “this book will have an impact on, and be adopted for courses in, fields as varied as women’s studies, comparative literature, media studies, and global studies.” You also have to say what other book(s) your book is “similar to.” So figure that out, and figure out how that book was marketed by its press.

There is a LOT of detective work that you can do to figure out how to situate your work within markets, and also how to subtly adapt your book mss. to meet the emergent needs of the market.

August 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Thankfully, I am only entering year four and I have a fellowship year up ahead that I won in a national competition. Otherwise I would be (much more) terrified.

My problem is finding quality mentorship about book writing beyond: you need to get your book done (from my third year review) and “you just need to sit and write it” (which is all ever anyone tells me when I ask them about their process, like it was magic or something). Again, although I realize the diss to book process is different for everyone, it could use a little more demystification.

Everyone told me over and over again not to worry when I was writing my diss that it was “not a book,” to hurry up and “get it done” because “you got job, so you don’t have to worry about it.” Well, believe me it is definitely “not a book” and I am unfortunately facing that music right now the hard way. You do, eventually, have to “worry about it.” However, even a few years in, I feel as ill prepared to write a book as I once did starting the diss. I am a hard worker and I write every day, but I am frustrated to be dealing with similar issues as I did during the diss–the fumbling, the confusion, the dead ends, rough prose–but without a committee whom I can talk to about my progress or whether or not I am on target in terms of quality, my timeline, or to help me with questions like–is my project too ambitious? do I need to add that historical chapter? etc.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on getting the most out of a fellowship on that critical 4th year–as well as what a *realistic* revision timeline looks like for a diss that needs a lot of TLC. It is so easy to get bogged down and get discouraged because things aren’t progressing fast enough–and the unrealistic goals I set for myself don’t help. Thanks!

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January 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I finished my dissertation last April, and I very quickly received requests from two European publishers to turn my dissertation into a book. I was thrilled about this, knowing I had VERY FEW publications. My advisor and another committee member were not so keen on this “dissertation-turned-book” idea, saying it would be better to publish several articles from the dissn. They also had reservations about the publishing houses. In fact, when I did not reply quickly enough, one publisher became a bit pushy about sending my manuscript. I politely declined the offers of both publishing houses, only to get yet another offer from a third publisher (who had bought one of the other publishers).

After reading your blog, I wonder if I made a mistake? Should I have converted my dissn to a book? Thanks!

January 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm

this is an excellent question. And like all excellent questions, it doesn’t have a single easy answer. The main issues here are to me, that you mentioned that the publishers are European publishers. You do’nt mention your field or where you are based and hope to work. If your field is some form of European studies, and/or you are based in Europe or hope to work in Europe, then those publishers might be a reasonable choice. But if you are based in the U.S. and want to work in the U.S., then you most likely made an excellent choice in not accepting their offers.

Don’t accept the first offer of publication that comes your way!!!! Especially for your book! Play hard to get! And yes, go the hard route–the route of actually publishing a few articles as peer reviewed pubs, and then writing up a proposal for the book and submitting it to the very top presses in your field, most likely based in the United States. This is all time-consuming and difficult and carries more risk of rejection at various points. But the rewards are the REAL rewards, the big rewards, the tenure track jobs and the major fellowships and promotions. A book published by some little-known press does not carry a lot of weight as a tenure-book in the U.S., and it can’t give you the street-cred and the exposure/credibility that articles from the top journals and a book from the top press can.

Many, many students of my acquaintance have fallen prey to the siren song of the eager publisher anxious to publish their book, and thrown away their primary claim to fame on a publisher that nobody’s heard of, and that doesn’t have the wherewithall to actually promote and advertise the book. And then they are crushed and wonder why even with a book they aren’t getting shortlisted for jobs. That is why. The status of the publisher matters. Go for the very, very best that you can.

January 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Thanks so much! I’m glad I did the right thing by turning them down.

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January 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Can you publish parts of your dissertation as articles and still publish it later as a united book? Or is it an either/or question?

January 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Typically you can get 2 articles out of the book, and in fact you *should* get two articles out of the book (ie, two of its chapters) because putting those out early in high profile journals gives you name recognition and clout when you shop the book to presses. More than two, and you start getting in trouble because presses don’t want to publish a (first) book that isn’t substantially new material. So in the case of a typical 5 chapter book, two chapters out as articles is the baseline to aim for. Of course everyone’s case will be slightly different, and if you have related material that is on the topic but not used in the book, definitely put that out to journals as well.

January 30, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Thanks! I appreciate that!

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March 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Have you heard about publishing more chapters in other language, that is, two in English and one or two more in other language? I’d assume editors won’t care, since the non-English article won’t be considered duplicate by librarians, but I’m not sure. Thanks!

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May 24, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I know you are speaking of dissertations but can this also apply to theses? Thank you

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March 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Are there any benefits to self-publishing in the absence of a traditional publisher? Competition for publication in Peer-reviewed sites can be a factor. What about publishing on Scribd and others? What are the benefits and downsides? If nothing else, it gets me found on the web besides in Rate-my-professor.

March 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

My gut says it doesn’t help, but I’m actually going to put this Q out on FB and Twitter. Stay tuned.

March 7, 2012 at 8:14 am

Responses coming in on Twitter and FB: innovative online publishing/blogging is increasingly valuable for exposure, etc., but self-published books will play no real role in establishing an academic reputation. The issue comes down to peer-review.

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August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

I wrote my dissertation on seven working class girls in a deindustrialized urban neighborhood as they made the transition from 8th grade to high school. A university press said they are VERY interested in it, so I am busy this summer rewriting it as a book. What do I do with the literature review? What do you mean by folding it into the introduction or sections?

August 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm

You want to remove the lit review for the most part, as that is one of the hallmarks of a dissertation that must be removed from the book. However, it is certainly valuable to refer briefly to work on the subject that plays a role in your analysis, so you’d break off chunks of it, and put some in the intro as appropriate, and/or some in the various chapters where they are relevant. But you don’t want a big fat tacky “lit review” chapter, or even whole section of a chapter, as that is a thing to leave behind in graduate school.

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November 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

I’m in my last year at university and I chose to write a dissertation. There aren’t many books in the area I’m researching. Once I finish my dissertation, do you reckon it would be possible to publish – considering I’ll only have done an undergraduate degree and no masters/PhDs?

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January 15, 2013 at 1:06 am

I wrote my dissertation back in May of 2009. My mother passed away quite suddenly during fairly routine heart surgery a few months later. It was devastating; she was my best friend. My father starting dating a neighbor three weeks later and this woman hates my sister and me. She stole many of my mother’s things, and convinced my father to sell the rest along with my family home, all without telling us. They moved to another town, and now I barely speak to my father. I tell you all this to explain why I was derailed when I should have been publishing chapters from my dissertation. I presented a couple of chapters at conferences, and received a positive response. I exchanged information with a fairly reputable publisher, but by the time she tried to get in touch with me, I was in a black fog. That was three years ago. Can I recover from this? Is it over for me?

January 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

I believe you can recover from this if you want to; you just have to start building up the record now that would have happened then, without the trauma. That’s difficult but doable.

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February 6, 2013 at 7:46 am

Dear Karen, If you have a four-chapter dissertation that you are turning into a book manuscript, is it still advisable to publish two out of four of the chapters as peer reviewed articles? Many thanks

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July 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

This is all excellent advice, thanks. I was wondering if you could also provide some more details on the actual structure of the all-important book prospectus? I’m working on one now.

July 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

See my post, How to Write a Book Proposal.

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August 25, 2013 at 8:20 am

Thank your for advising about publishing a dissertation as book. In my case, my dissertation was an exploratory study about the effect of ethics education on undergraduate accounting students in an African country, where ethics is not taught in accounting-related programs in public colleges. There a lot of studies published on this subject matter; but, none of those was conducted and/or published in such a country. Now, I am wondering whether to publish my entire dissertation in academic journals or, just publish parts of it as articles. Nevertheless, I am also wondering if it is a good idea to have my dissertation published as a book. Honestly, I am a little bit confused. Would you please advise?

Thank you and best regards,

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September 30, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Hi! First, I’d like to thank you for having a blog like this because it’s so incredibly helpful for people like me. I just finished writing a dissertation of my own, and I’m looking to turn this into a book. The whole process seems so daunting that I’m actually wondering if it’s at all possible. Certainly my supervisor and faculty committee have all recommended that I get it published, but I do realise that a dissertation is very different from a book manuscript. My dissertation is based on US-China relations in East Asia. I’m not currently affiliated to any institution, though I have work experience in the field. My problem is that I don’t know quite how to go about adding anything of value to this, besides updating it and re-writing it to sound peppier rather than pedantic. Can you help with this?

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April 19, 2014 at 11:35 am

I have a more practical question. So I am considering turning my dissertation into a book, but this is not something that I considered at the time that I started my dissertation. Although my participants were annonymous and used pseudonyms to protect their confidentiality, do I have to go back and track them down to get their permission…I am specifically thinking if I want to use a direct quote as in example. The participants signed the informed consent for the dissertation and were aware that it would be published as a scholarly journal, but not as a book that could be purchased. Please give me your perspective.

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November 7, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Thank you for this wonderful website. I always find such good advice here. I am finishing my dissertation and applying for some jobs and postdocs at the moment. My issue is that I don’t think it makes sense to revise my dissertation into a book. I think that two of my chapters would be great as journal articles, and I have what I think is a good plan for a closely-related second project that would make a good book. Do you think I have a case for postdocs if I’m proposing to start work on this second project during the postdoc, rather than to revise the diss? My advisor says this is a good plan, but he’s not particularly savvy about the current market. Thank you for your insight!

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December 21, 2014 at 8:14 am

I’m an MFL teacher in a secondary school in Uk and I got a PhD in E-learning and Applied Linguistics two years ago by now. After the awarding, I went into teaching because I needed a job and now I’d like to (re)start with researching. Unfortunately I’ve got just an article published so far and I need to publish more in order to start looking for jobs in (US) University field. When I got my Phd, the Viva external supervisor suggested me to publish one chapter of my dissertation, and now I’d like to start from there. I’m doing some research, in order to update my potential article, but I’m a little bit “rusty” and I’d need some general advice on how to publish and how to start to go into teaching at University with a postdoc, visiting assistant professor, no tenure-track position, etc. . I would like to write the article in English (the dissertation is in a foreign language) to make it internationally interesting. First, do you think is it possible to me start presenting my proposals as independent researcher? Unfortunately not being affiliated with any University, I don’ t have a mentor/advisor. Second, how can I know which are the major academic press in my field? (I know, it is a silly question, but that’s is). Would it be indicated starting with a peer-reviewed journal? Thank you in advance, Karen. Any further advice/suggestion it will be more than appreciated. (And I know, first think I should improve my English, of course 😉

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May 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Dear Karen,

I wanted to ask you about the practice of publishing journal articles out of your dissertation before sending a book proposal. In what way do the already published ‘chapters’ support or compromise your case for a book proposal? In a sense, publishing articles helps you have a wider dialogue and improve the quality of the dissertation by taking it beyond the advisor/committee, but in another sense, it puts part of your book already out there. Can we say that as long as these articles are published in reputed journals, you are reinforcing your case for book publication? Any thoughts on this subject would be extremely helpful.

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October 27, 2015 at 7:20 am

Could you tell us how to send the book out to presses? When I see a “provocative” book that I think my book has the potential to be, and then i look at the publisher, and then I go to the publisher website, it always says that they accept the books only through an agent. How did you approach publishers? I assume you did not use a book agent. I’m a bit confused about this process of approaching publishers with the proposal.

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December 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for offering so much insight through your blog. I have completed my book proposal for my phd thesis that i have been working on for some time. I need to include a sample chapter. I was thinking to include one of my empirical chapters that are the core of the discussion. I have removed some sections that will not appear in that book chapter. However i was wondering do i need to fully present the chapter as it will appear in the book? Changing the language to a less academic one and relating the discussion to wider issues will take quite a bit of time. I look forward to your res ponce. Thank you so much. Stratis

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February 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

Part of this seems like good advice, but part seems just awful. The goal of having your first book be aimed at undergraduates seems terrible, and I can’t imagine wanting to hire or tenure someone who seems to be doing that. Is “The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job” aimed at undergraduates? It’s bad to write something only 10-15 people want to read, but fine to write something that 500-2000 will read, as long as you’re not depending on royalties for your income.

It’s as though you were giving advice about how to write scripts for films, and you said “try to dumb it down so you can sell it as a made for TV movie.”

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February 27, 2016 at 1:52 am

I think you are missing her point – she isn’t saying ‘dumb it down’. She makes it clear her own manuscript was written to the highest standards of the discipline and field. She is saying writers should increase the readability of their texts. Write the manuscript to high standards of scholarship, but if you are writing in a way so jargon-filled and obscure that an undergraduate can’t read it, you should have cause for pause. Even University Presses can no longer afford to lose money on books written for only 15 scholars in a feild, no matter how fine the work. All authors submitting manuscripts to scholarly presses now have to think about reaching the widest possible audience – it is far better for a press if the book at least breaks even on the sales of a book

February 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm

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May 9, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Greetings, I wrote a dissertation in late 2013. Thinking about submitting in academic arena but not sure how to do so. Appreciate any suggestions.

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September 20, 2016 at 11:21 am

I defended my PhD thesis in 2014 and received the top grade. It was recommended by my opponent / examiner that I turn the thesis into a book. The dissertation was in a way already a book (both in some print versions and as a permanent link to an electronic database, but it would be legitimate to write a book for another publisher, so that is not the problem). The problem is that I was so sick of the PhD work and (over?)eager to start on my postdoc that I procrastinated with the book revision (i.e. making the the thesis more about the theory and less about individual novelistic analyses) that I wonder whether it is too late. At the moment what little time I have left from a university lectureship ( a VERY teaching-intensive job description) goes to my postdoc monograph and I cannot focus on two research projects at once. Which should I prioritize? The PhD thesis can be located by other researchers quite easily, but it is still a dissertation, not a “real” book -even though it is well written per se.

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November 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm

I wonder if you can reassure or advise me. I started researching and writing a book nearly 20 years ago. I found myself unable to access academic literature and so embarked upon a PhD. My intention, when undertaking the PhD was always to write the book. My supervisors were supportive of this and the thesis passed without correction last year at a Russell group university in the UK last year. Since then I have been writing a book proposal for my ideal publisher (with whom I have already published) and adapting the thesis. I have cut out the methodology chapter, integrated relevant parts of my (discursive) literature review into the body of the text, and am in the midst of writing a new introduction. My substantive chapters have fallen quite easily into shorter chapters that I think more appropriate to the practitioner readership I want to reach. Apart from these changes, the thesis and proposed book are pretty much identical. I was very worried, when discovering, during the thesis submission process, that my thesis would be made available online. I embargoed the online version for a year, and was (verbally) assured that the university library would seek my consent before making it available. I was really, really upset to discover this evening that not only have they not honoured this assurance, but that I didn’t even have to go through an academic website to access my thesis in its entirety. As you so rightly point out, publishers are interested only in commercial viability. Despite reassurances from my supervisor, I fail to understand why a publisher would be at all interested in publishing a book so closely based on a document that any Tom, Dick or Harry can access in seconds. I’m not interested in an academic career and only undertook the PhD in order to support my book. I’m really worried that in doing so I made a really big mistake.

November 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

My advice is to proceed with the proposal and the revised manuscript and just see what happens. Most people really don’t know how to, or want to, access “published dissertations” and they aren’t nec. competition with your published book. I would not disclose to the press anything about this. It’s their job to do due diligence. Just proceed with your publishing plans.

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June 10, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I’ve stumbled upon your website by sure luck as I’ve been having some trouble finding specific information to my predicament. I’m a freelance newspaper journalist and have been writing for quite some time, I’ve sort of created a signature style for myself in my local newspaper and I’m quite fond of it. I’ve been approached by a professor to turn her dissertation into a book, it’s a historical recount on the style of clothing in a specific geographical area. I somehow as able to turn the paper into an actual book, a readable book instead of a research paper, but I seem to have one problem. What do I do with footnotes? I’ve excluded the names of authors within the text itself and just added a subscript number, but where should I place the footnotes in the book? Do I have them all added up at the end of the book? Do I add them at the end of every page as footnotes?

It’s my first time turning a dissertation into a book and I’m still figuring out the ins and outs, I’ve edited it a number of times to perfect the written word, to make it easier to understand and I hope I was able to achieve it. The footnotes are a problem that I can’t seem to figure out. Do you have any advice I can use please?

June 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

This is something you shouod discuss with the author, but basically you’re deciding between footnotes or ENDnotes (where they are all at the end) and given that you’re aiming for a very readable book, endnotes are probably the way to go. But again, this will also hinge on the publisher’s requirements as well. If you don’t want to ask the author but want to present her with a finished doc, then do endnotes. Also, please be aware that WordPress and any other word processing programs, have an endnote/footnote function that will put in the subscript number and automaticlaly open the endnote/footnote space to type in.

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September 4, 2017 at 9:20 am

Dear Karen, I just stumbled over your website while searching for information and advice on publishing. Few weeks ago I successfully earned my PhD from one of the top UK universities. My examiners were very happy with the quality of work and recommended that it would be good if I publish it as a book since my career interest is not in the academia at the moment. When I started my research that was not part of my idea but with the interest it generated from my supervisors and examiners, it is something worth considering. My work is a qualitative research. I will be keeping tab with you for more professional guide on how to kick start getting it turned into a marketable book. Thanking you in advance for your wonderful assistance.

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September 8, 2017 at 10:20 pm

I’m so happy to have stumbled on this page. I have a real practical question about transforming the dissertation into a book manuscript. Some of the advice here suggests that it’s fine to include 1-2 peer-reviewed journal articles from the dissertation as book chapters (with the journal’s permission, of course). But what about a journal article from your dissertation that may be a co-authored piece?

For example, one dissertation chapter I was fortunately able to transform into a published article with much help from my advisor and so the piece became a co-authored article. If I receive permission from the journal to use it for a book chapter though then do the personal pronouns in the article remain intact in the book manuscript (e.g., “we” rather than “I”)? Do I state that this one chapter is a co-authored chapter and keep all the language the same in that chapter as t appears on the article (copy and pasting the journal article, word-for word)? I don’t think I’ve seen that before in a monograph but this is new terrain for me. Or is there typically wiggle room to change the language of that particular chapter to better fit with the book as a sole authored piece while still referencing the co-authored published article?

I think it would be odd if the book shifted from one chapter where “I” might be suggesting X to then mention that “we” are suggesting X. Yet at the same time my co-author for the article helped me further articulate such ideas for the dissertation chapter to actually be published as an article and I want to give credit where credit’s due. Thank you!

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December 4, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Would these tips still apply for independent scholars who have a master’s degree but no PhD (and aren’t interested in obtaining one)? Or should people in that category look to scholarly trade?

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December 21, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Hi Karen, I have an issue that has not been addressed anywhere on your blog yet. I am 7 months out from finishing my Ph.D. and finishing my book proposal while still on the market. The press asks for a competing texts section. I’ve discovered that a tenured professor included the original argument that I made previously in a peer-reviewed article in her book several times while claiming that she was the first to make it. An entire chapter is almost verbatim.This book was published by a highly esteemed academic press. My question relates to the competing texts section of the proposal that the press asks for given that there are only a handful of books that compete with my (heavily) revised and expanded dissertation. Do I critique her book or point out that she was not the first to come up with the idea in the proposal when comparing how her book differs from mine OR do I leave her book out altogether? How do I handle this in my competing books section? Based on my research, there is no point in publicly calling the scholar out as professors in her position are untouchable and it would only serve to hurt my career. Since there are only a handful of competing books, I don’t want ignoring her book from such a major press to seem like an oversight to the press. I found this, but it does not help me with the nuts and bolts of navigating my proposal: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Price-of-Plagiarism/237250 Thoughts?

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August 5, 2018 at 1:29 pm

To figure out how to work in some of my lit-review-y type things, I picked first books from people I’d known as grad students (who got good contracts), and then compared them to the dissertations – which I could download or consult in the school’s library. Very useful!

August 6, 2018 at 8:54 am

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November 4, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Hi Karen:) I feel somewhat overwhelmed as I am unsure of what to do with my dissertation manuscript book. Would it serve best broken down and published as articles? Is it best to pitch it to publishing companies? Please advise.

November 5, 2018 at 8:27 am

This is advising I can do, but not in a blog comment! Please email me at [email protected] to see how we can work together.

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March 24, 2019 at 10:39 am

I have written my dissertation 7 years ago:

1) Can I still publish it as a book ?

2) Can write articles of it ?

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April 26, 2019 at 5:33 pm

wow good for you! I had a quick question–i am interested in turning my dissertation into a commercial paperback book, like something you would pick up in the airport, as my field site is a popular vacation destination…I want to impact average Americans and not necessarily scholars…any advice on what steps to take?

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October 3, 2019 at 7:37 am

Hi Karen, I have a more specific question about writing the introduction to a book. A lot of the books I read as a medical anthropologist have extensive and theoretically thorough introductions that draw on large bodies of existing theory, laying out for you how this particular book builds on existing work on , for example, subjectivity, the state, personhood, liberalism , or whatever. These intros can be helpful for giving student readers a sense of the field (which maybe publishers will like, thinking about the student market?), but they can also be long and boring. Other books have tiny introductions that just get straight to the author’s point, and don’t worry so much about engaging other people’s work. I tend to like this second approach, not because it’s less work, but because you can jump right in and develop your own ideas. it feels liberating. But my hunch is that you’re only allowed to do the second strategy if you’re already a famous scholar. I’m writing my first book, based on my dissertation. What would you advise?

October 4, 2019 at 1:03 pm

this is advising beynond the scope of a blog comment response. I suggest you consider working with a developmental editor about this, and if you want names, email me.

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November 5, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Hi!, am a publisher and have been approached by many scholars who want to turn their dissertations to books, i want to gain some valuable skills in doing this kind of work to offer them some assistance. I would like to get a mentor to assist me in case you know of some one, kindly help me

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June 28, 2022 at 1:42 am

I am Deniz Çupi and I live in Albania. I have finalized my Ph.D. on the topic: Discourse on environmental problems in Albania during the post-communist period” at Tirana University. So, I would like to publish it in a book. Can you tell me what are your conditions?

Best regards Deniz

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January 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Hello, what do you mean when you make this comment in our text ” when I sent the mss. out to presses”,

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March 28, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Hi there, I think your article is fantastic and really interesting but I had a further question for you.

I have just finished my degree in Business Administration (finished at 84% with dissertation mark as 90/100), and I have just accepted an offer to become a lecturer at an FE college. When I submitted my dissertation proposal to my tutor at the college, he asked me if I wanted to publish the research with him as a book (he’d be a co-author). I was ecstatic at this idea but now that I’m starting a career in education I’m wondering if this isn’t the right thing to do. Do you think this is a good idea? I have no real understanding of publishing research and I’ve been working as an administrator for the most part of my career, only now going down the route of lecturing. My newer long term goals are to get into lecturing at a university after getting my master’s and then working up through the chain. Do you think publishing this piece of work through my college now would be a mistake? The college has just won an award for being a very successful college so they have a good reputation but I’m not sure what publishing now would mean to me and my career? Sorry for long winded question! I don’t know if this helps but I am 22, living in England and my dissertation topic is; Attitudes towards unfulfilling employment: A generational analysis. Thank you so much! 🙂

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December 20, 2022 at 10:10 pm

Dear the professor is in, You offer a lot of advice, much of it practical. The writing is crisp. However, I do dislike your overuse and overreliance on “the market.” Maybe it’s an American thing. I engage in academic work to challenge and combat neoliberalism, not to revel in it.

Sincerely, Chan Wai Tak

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December 15, 2023 at 4:46 pm

Any recommendations on how to fund the process of developing the dissertation into a book (or several books, in my case)? Are there grants, fellowships, post-docs, or other sources of funding to enable focus on this project? Thank you.

January 10, 2024 at 1:40 pm

Generally postdocs are the best bet.

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How to Turn your Dissertation into a Book

You finished your dissertation and want to turn it into a book? Then don’t let the revision process scare you – we've got you covered with helpful tips and tricks on the way.

This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.

After years of hard work on their dissertation, more than a few Early Career Researchers consider turning their PhD research into a monograph. While this is great to reach a whole new audience, the process of getting there can seem complex and daunting at first.

But we’re here to help!

The first and most essential step is to decide whether your dissertation should become a book at all. For many scholars this is a no-brainer, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, where the publication of books is crucial for getting professional recognition, climbing up the career ladder, and eventually gaining tenure.

Your dissertation could also be published in the form of one or several journal articles. Or something you just want to upload on a university server and be done with.

However, let’s say that you do want to convert your thesis into a publishable book, here are the general steps of this exciting undertaking:

  • Find your match
  • Build your confidence
  • Get down to the nitty gritty
  • Pitch your work
  • Respond and revise

1. Find Your Match

The process of revising a dissertation goes hand-in-hand with the search for the right publishing house. The question what kind of book you want or need will influence your choice. Vice versa, the publisher shapes what kind of book you will be rewarded with.

Publishing with an established publisher is still considered as a sign of quality. They take care of things like quality control and peer review, and they select their titles carefully, so they fit their lists. This also means the books will sell better. Moreover, and most importantly: a publisher makes your work visible, be it online, in catalogues, on conferences, book fairs, or by distributing your book among libraries and universities.

Are you looking for the right press to publish your academic work? Find out here whether De Gruyter might be the right partner for your project!

Ask yourself this: Where do you want to see your book? Where have your favorite publications been published? Browse bookshelves, and visit book exhibitions at conferences . Talk to editors, approach them, ask for their conditions; check websites.

But whilst you do all of that: Please never submit to more than one publisher at the same time. Wasting editors’ time is frowned upon and doesn’t bode well for future publication with the house.

2. Build your Confidence

Once you decided on which press would be a good choice (from university presses, independent academic publishers, trade publishers etc.), there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration.

First and maybe most importantly: Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge what you have already accomplished. This has been a huge effort, and you have earned every right to be proud of yourself! Then, get to work.

Be prepared to invest time and nerves into reworking your dissertation. Focus on what you have already done, and build from there.

Remember, a book is not a dissertation. You do not need to convince anyone anymore that you are the expert and that you have done your reading. The reader of your book trusts that you are, and that is why they bought it.

3. Get Down to the Nitty Gritty

  • Envision your audience. This will help you give your dissertation a makeover.
  • Your viva was probably a while ago, so lots of new and interesting research has been published since then that could potentially influence your work. Do the reading.
  • Go over your literature review and see what is not needed anymore for your argument. Do not quote other people as much – the reader wants to know what you think. The reader of your book is also not hugely interested in all of the methodologies out there. Tell them what you used and why, but cut everything else.
  • Tell the reader in the introduction what the book’s central argument is. What is your contribution to the field? What’s new? In the conclusion, tell them what the consequences are. What difference do your findings make? How do they help the field?
  • Try to stay close to the 100,000 word threshold (=300 pages), including notes. Keep the manuscript sleek, limit the apparatus. Try to have chapters of equal lengths.
  • Sure enough, images are nice and often help the reader get a sense for the text, but do not forget that you have to clear rights for most of them, and get all the technicalities for print sorted.
  • Use simple wording. Be on point. Always remember your audience needs to understand you, and not all of them are experts.
  • Go easy on the footnotes: Resist making them a container for all of the brilliant thoughts that don’t quite fit in the flow or argument of your book. If a remark doesn’t belong in your text, it might not belong in your book altogether.

Bear in mind: With a dissertation, you have something to prove. With a book, you have something to say.

4. Pitch Your Work

After revising, you need to prepare a pitch: Sell your book! Let the publisher know why your research is important and how it changes the field. What’s the unique selling point of your book, what sets it apart from others?

To get started, check the publisher’s website. Usually there is a proposal form hidden away somewhere. Try to find information on the submission process and/or a personal contact. Follow the guidelines, and write an e-mail to the responsible Acquisitions Editor.

Indicate that you are familiar with the scope of the publisher’s list. Maybe you know of a book series of theirs, where your work might fit in. Let them know you did your homework, and that you are invested. Describe how your book complements other titles in the series and why it would be a great fit.

Learn more about book proposals in our blog post “How to Write an Academic Book Proposal: 6 Questions for Laura Portwood-Stacer” .

Be concise. Your proposal should demonstrate not only that you are an expert on the topic, but that you can condense and synthesize what you know, that you can share it concisely, and that you can present your research in a way that is stimulating and thought-provoking.

Usually, the more material you send, the better. Being able to read a sample chapter of the dissertation, in addition to the proposal, makes it much easier for the publisher to get a sense about the writing style of an author, who is still unknown to them.

5. Almost There! Respond and Revise

After you submitted, and heard back from the editor of the press, you can relax a little. Your manuscript is now either under consideration with the editor or already sent out for external peer review. This might take a while.

Chances are, when you hear back from the editor the next time, the reviewers will have criticized parts of your manuscript and are asking for improvements. Hence, you will need to get back into the text once again. This can be a hard moment, but remember: you are so close now! Revise one last time and at the end of the road, you might already see the light of your shiny new author contract.

Good luck – you got this!

If you are interested, check out this related blog post

converting dissertation to book

[Title image by hanna grace via Unsplash]

Rabea Rittgerodt

Rabea works as Acquisitions Editor at De Gruyter. She is specialized on 19th & 20th century social, cultural, and global history. You can follow her on Twitter via @RabeaRi .

Sophie Wagenhofer

Sophie Wagenhofer works as Senior Acquisitions Editor Islamic & Jewish Studies at De Gruyter.

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How to Turn Your Dissertation into a Book

Why write a book? There are many reasons. Writing a book helps you clarify your thinking, establishes your authority, boosts your confidence, promotes your research, expands your audience, helps other people, brings you income, and outlives you. As students at the GC, many of us write book-length dissertations at the cutting edge of our research fields.

On the other hand, your dissertation and your book proposal exist in two different genres. Whereas your dissertation is a document designed to show your work and support your candidature as a newly-minted (or soon-to-be) PhD, your book is an exercise in storytelling. You are now the expert, and you’re crafting a story for a broader audience that should take them on an intellectual as well as emotional journey.

Whether you’re considering an academic or a popular press, this blog post discusses some tips and guidelines in turning your dissertation into a book. It is adapted from advice given by the GC’s own Ken Wissoker, director of the Intellectual Publics initiative and editorial director of Duke University Press, at his recent GC event  From Dissertation to First Book: A Practical Guide .

Building the Foundation

It’s important for people to know who you are as an author for your book to have success. Try to publish a few articles based on chapters of your dissertation in journals that are relevant to the topic and area you’ve been researching. Alternatively, publish an article or two based on research you’ve done that is more peripheral to your main book argument. Try to avoid distilling all the points that will form the core of your book in a single article.

You can also establish a print presence by writing for blogs (read more about how to write and publish op-eds in our recent  blog post ), as well as local print and magazines. While this can help you to get a potential following, it also helps prospective publishers feel more confident in your brand image, as well as your expertise and ability to deliver and promote your message to a broad, academic or non-academic audience.

Today’s world is digital, so it’s a good idea to have a website and a blog. It’s also good to be active on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Consider making a professional Facebook page. You could even consider making short YouTube videos about your research findings or teaching modules. These are all ways you can think about branding yourself, and creating a broader impact that will make publishers see your presence and be more likely to want to invest in you! (Read more about how to re-brand yourself for non-academic careers in our  blog post .)

Re-working Your Dissertation

After you’ve completed your dissertation, take a step back. Ask yourself, what is my dissertation trying to do? Think about it as a film: you’re the director, so what scenes does the audience need to get to understand the film? To help yourself in this process, try to define your audience who will read the book. Focus on what your audience needs: go to their conferences, talk to people, and look at recent and widely-read publications in the field.

The books that become the most valuable and influential are those that generate their own theory. Take the time to ask yourself, “What am I going to be most quoted for by other people?” Let the theoretical concepts you’re articulating come out of the actual research work and empirical data. Don’t force it! Only add what helps to make your points clearer. It’s the way in which your story and your theory go together that will make your book compelling.

As in other styles of persuasive writing (like  grant writing ), it’s a good idea to structure your book around a “hook”. This means don’t make it a predictable narrative, but instead present the narrative as a paradox, an unexpected development, or an unresolved question that merits further inquiry. This helps to get your reader emotionally invested in your prose, and provides intellectual energy that keeps the reader’s interest over the pages that follow.

There are many ways to write a dissertation. Typically, you want to provide the historical and theoretical background to your thesis, a discussion of how you got there (your methodology), followed by chapters discussing and unpacking different facets of the experience; finally, draw your conclusions. For your first book, everything is flipped. You have to demonstrate what you want to argue at the beginning. You have to commit to that core message, and let the other pieces of the investigation fall away. Most of the literature review that took a substantive place in your dissertation will now drop down into the footnotes of your book.

When putting your proposal in front of an editor, try to anticipate the objections that will be raised in the book review process, and do the minimal work necessary to allay those objections in advance. While it may sound obvious, it’s worth restating the importance of writing confidently. You are now the expert! Because of this, the flow and style of the prose should reflect your own writing voice.

Remember that reframing your dissertation as a book is a process that takes time. For people working in full-time academic positions, it typically takes three or four years to develop the book while juggling other commitments, so don’t be too hard on yourself if progress goes more slowly than you’d like.

Getting a Book Deal

If you’re considering an academic press, consider that when it comes to getting academic tenure, all publishers are not weighted equally on the job market. Bear in mind the implications of your choice of publisher on the career you want to make for yourself. Search out prestigious university publishers, or smaller publishers that specialize directly in your area of expertise.

When courting an editor, the important things to give them when making your introduction are these. First, let them know your intervention, and what’s at stake in your work. Second, communicate what stage of completion your dissertation is currently in. Third, show them a chapter-by-chapter outline. And finally, send them a writing sample. It’s also a good idea to have on hand an introduction chapter handy, as well as a chapter from the body of the book, to send to the editor.

Your cover letter to the publishing house is the equivalent of an extended “elevator pitch,” in which you discuss the topic, methods, main findings, and broader impacts of your research in a concise manner. In terms of format, your cover letter should spend two or three paragraphs describing your project and your authorial credentials. It’s important to review the submission guidelines on a publishing agent’s website first, and make sure you tailor the description of your proposed book to their requirements.

More rarely, other things you may be asked for include a biographical sketch of the author. Depending on the publisher, you may be asked to provide a marketing proposal, along with sample publicity to promote the book, and possibly a discussion of competing books.

If you are asked to select potential readers for your book, think of people whom you think it would be helpful to receive comments from in your field.

Remember that it’s ok to have presses be in competition over your book. You can even tell the editors which other presses your book is under consideration for, and this will tend to solicit these editors to give you different feedback and advice about your manuscript.

Finally, if you’re writing for a popular press, you may want to hire an agent to promote your work. Do your research beforehand to find out if getting an agent is the right choice for you. A good way to find a suitable agent is to ask for referrals from people in your professional network, or from authors and book acknowledgments that may be topical to your own research. Consider joining the website  www.publishersmarketplace.com , where you can create a web page to promote your work and network with agents and other authors (for a monthly subscription fee of $25).

Once You’ve Been Published

Leverage your book to build your brand. Solicit positive reviews on Amazon from friends, family, colleagues, and people in your social networks. Make friends with your local bookstore/s, and volunteer to sign all their copies. They’ll be grateful, and more willing to promote your work and give you free marketing in your city. There’s nothing better than word-of-mouth advertising!

Finally… start thinking about your next book.

Further References:

Germano, William. 2013.  From Dissertation to Book . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Germano, William. 2016.  Getting it Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

– Anders Wallace


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Turning Your Dissertation into a Book

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.
  • 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.

by Lorri Hagman, executive editor, University of Washington Press

The Dissertation-to-Book Workbook

The Dissertation-to-Book Workbook

Exercises for developing and revising your book manuscript.

Katelyn E. Knox and Allison Van Deventer

240 pages | 1 halftone, 176 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2023

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Reference and Bibliography

  • Table of contents
  • Author Events

Related Titles

“ The Dissertation-to-Book Workbook not only succeeds but excels in guiding scholars through this process of revision. This pragmatic workbook walks an author through clear steps to identify the organizing principle of the book, write and revise the book’s central claims, and then ensure that the chapters actually function well together before the author sends the book to a press. Since scholars often only have one opportunity to convince a press to publish their book, working through this process before sending to editors is crucial—and this is an essential guide.”

Rebecca K. Marchiel, University of Mississippi

“Based on their years of helping academics revise their dissertations into books, Knox and Van Deventer have distilled their incredible depth of knowledge into a beautifully thought-out book that takes you step by step through the process of revising your dissertation. Too many writing books give vague advice without any practical guidance. This is not that book. From advice on crafting your book’s arc and organizing principle to drafting your book questions and producing chapter answers, this book takes all the guessing out of one of the most stressful tasks academics face. This is the best book I have seen on the topic.”

Wendy Belcher, author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks

Table of Contents

On revision.

William Germano

Behind the Book

Chris Mackenzie Jones

The Business of Being a Writer

Jane Friedman

Getting It Published, Third Edition

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How to Convert Your Dissertation into a Book

converting dissertation to book

27th July 2014

You Can’t Submit Your Dissertation for Publication “As Is”

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converting dissertation to book


Workshop: Transform Your Dissertation into a Book

Sponsored by aiis, aibs, aips and aisls.

AIIS holds an annual dissertation to book workshop at the Madison South Asia Conference every October. The workshop is intended to assist recent PhDs convert their doctoral dissertations into publishable monographs.  More detailed information on the workshop schedule is available below.

This workshop aims to help a select number of recent PhDs re-vision their doctoral dissertations as books.

The list of books published by past workshop participants is available here

converting dissertation to book

View/download this flyer as a PDF

Applications to participate are due by July 31, 2023, emailed to Sarah Lamb at this dedicated email address: [email protected] .  The workshop will begin at 7 pm Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, 2023, and all participants are expected to be present at this time. The workshop concludes Wednesday evening, October 18, 2023 with a group dinner.

For selection : Please submit your proposal by email (to [email protected] ) by July 31, 2023 as an attachment, containing ONE pdf file combining:

  • Cover page with your name, book or dissertation title, and table of contents for the proposal
  • Dissertation abstract
  • Dissertation (or working book-in-progress) table of contents
  • Draft book prospectus: See guidelines from a press website, such as: 
  • California: https://www.ucpress.edu/resources/book-proposal-guidelines  
  • Rutgers: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/manuscript-submissions  
  • Stanford: https://www.sup.org/authors/  
  • SUNY:  http://www.sunypress.edu/l-45-submissions-guidelines.aspx  
  • One sample chapter from the dissertation or book-in-progress: Likely choose a body chapter that showcases the work’s focus, style, and content

Senior Faculty Mentors: Faculty from a range of disciplines and areas of expertise will serve as mentors. In 2023, the senior faculty mentors will include: Sarah Lamb (convener; Anthropology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Brandeis University), Ulka Anjaria (English, Brandeis University), Shalini R. Ayyagari (Music, University of Pittsburgh),   Nitin Govil (Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California), Radhika Govindrajan (Anthropology, University of Washington), Douglas Haynes (History, Dartmouth College), Kajri Jain (Art History, University of Toronto), Lamia Karim (Anthropology, University of Oregon),  and Anand Yang (History, University of Washington)

Schedule: All meetings will take place at the Madison Concourse Hotel

  • Tuesday evening, October 17, 7:00 to 8:30 pm: Secrets of Publishing: Introductions and Q&A regarding publishing, next steps, etc. Several faculty mentors with experience in recruiting manuscripts for presses and in publishing their own books will participate. Tea, coffee, cheese & crackers, and cookies will be served.
  • Wednesday morning, October 18, 8:30 am to 12:15 pm (with a coffee break from 10:15-10:30 am): We will divide into three groups of 8 authors and 2-3 mentors. Each project will be discussed for 23-25 minutes. In advance, everyone will read all of the materials for their group. For each 23-25-minute segment, one participant will make a 3-5-minute presentation on someone else’s project, and then the other participants will join in to discuss the project— except the project’s author, who is not allowed to speak. The author of the project under discussion can only listen, take notes, and record if desired, how their project is being understood, misunderstood, stretched, queried, critiqued, and praised by knowledgeable peers with closely related interests but working in varying theoretical perspectives, disciplines, settings, and time periods.
  • Lunch break (on one’s own): 12:15 to 1:45 pm
  • Wednesday afternoon, 1:45 to 5:30 pm (with a coffee break from 3:30-3:45): Each author is given a 25-minute time slot to respond to the more important queries, issues, and suggestions raised in the morning, and, most important, to seek feedback or further discussion of areas of their project with which they recognize they are having difficulty.
  • Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm: AIIS will host all participants at a group dinner at the Maharani Indian Restaurant , 380 W. Washington Street (several blocks from the Concourse Hotel) (final restaurant choice to be confirmed)

Conversations can carry over into Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the South Asia Conference!

Make a Gift

For questions about gifts to AIIS, please contact [email protected] .

Contact AIIS

USA Email: [email protected] USA Phone: (773) 702-8638

India Email: [email protected] India Phone: 91-124-238 1424 or 91-124-238 1359

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  1. Converting your PhD Thesis into a Book in Five Steps

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  2. Turning Your Dissertation into a Book

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  1. Thesis Book Formatting Tutorial Video

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  1. Turning your PhD into a successful book

    Converting the entire PhD thesis into a book requires that your thesis covers a topic of interest to a large enough audience of scholars. Whereas a thesis starts with a question, a book begins with an answer and communicates its importance in the wider research landscape, tracing its evolution and impact.

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    There are many reasons why this might be a good idea. In some fields, a published scholarly book is a preferred method for presenting a comprehensive view of pivotal research. A book gives you the space to discuss details, complications, connections, and ramifications in a way that is not possible in a journal article.

  4. How to Turn Your Doctoral Dissertation Into a Book

    Turning your dissertation into a published book can give your career a serious boost. Nothing says "expert in a field" like having published a book. So how do you go from doctoral dissertation to book? You can start laying the groundwork before you've even enrolled in a PhD program. Here are some tips. Consider earning your PhD degree online.

  5. My Top Five Tips for Turning Your Dissertation Into a Book-A Special

    The dissertation serves you only insofar as you can quickly transform it into the commodities that bring value on the market—peer reviewed articles (preferably published before you defend and start the job search), high profile grants that funded the research, high profile conferences in which you present the research publicly, and finally, the ...

  6. How to Turn your Dissertation into a Book

    1. Find Your Match The process of revising a dissertation goes hand-in-hand with the search for the right publishing house. The question what kind of book you want or need will influence your choice. Vice versa, the publisher shapes what kind of book you will be rewarded with.

  7. Why you shouldn't immediately try to convert your dissertation into a

    Career Advice August 05, 2019 Give It a Rest Finished your dissertation and ready to write your book? Not so fast, warns Laura Portwood-Stacer. By Laura Portwood-Stacer Istockphoto.com/erhui1979 Finishing your dissertation is a huge milestone. It's the moment when you truly have no more revisions to make and are really, finally done.

  8. Turning Your PhD Thesis Into a Book: A Publisher's Top Tips

    1. A Statement of Aims. Briefly and concisely state the main themes and objectives of the proposed book: 1-2. Provide a concise (150-200 words) and compelling abstract for the book. 2. A Detailed Synopsis, Including Chapter Summaries. Proposed table of contents with chapter titles and subheads. List chapter headings and provide at least one ...

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    Building the Foundation It's important for people to know who you are as an author for your book to have success. Try to publish a few articles based on chapters of your dissertation in journals that are relevant to the topic and area you've been researching.

  10. Turning Your Dissertation into a Book

    Turning Your Dissertation into a Book 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. Timeline Allow plenty of time!

  11. How Do I Turn My Dissertation into a Book? 8 Things to Consider!

    In the dissertation these served to prove that you had read and engaged with the important literature. In a book, readers assume you have done that so primarily engage with the literature that is central to your argument. As I revised my book I wrote the working argument for each chapter on a Post-It note and stuck it on the wall near my desk.

  12. Convert your thesis into a book

    A full conversion - from thesis to book. This is a good option should your thesis be on a topic that would have wide appeal to an academic audience. A key consideration here is that the structure of a thesis is massively different to a book. Rather than starting with a hypothesis, a book should showcase a considered argument and its narrative ...

  13. Steps for Making Your Dissertation into a Book

    Change your voice to convert your dissertation into a book, which can be a first-person account of the entire story. Write with greater personal involvement and express yourself. Book writing allows you to express yourself in ways that are not always politically correct. 10. Include cross-disciplinary and inter-related research.

  14. The Dissertation-to-Book Workbook

    This workbook by Katelyn E. Knox and Allison Van Deventer, creators of the successful online Dissertation-to-Book Boot Camp, offers a series of manageable, concrete steps with exercises to help you revise your academic manuscript into publishable book form.

  15. Should You Turn Your Dissertation Into a Book?

    By Rebecca Colesworthy November 6, 2023 David Plunkert for The Chronicle For many early career scholars in the humanities and social sciences, it's just a given: You turn your dissertation into a...

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    The quickest strategy for converting (or "flipping") a dissertation or thesis into one or more publishable articles is to use a multiple-paper format when initially writing the dissertation or thesis. This involves structuring the dissertation or thesis used to fulfill the requirements for a degree as a series of shorter papers that are ...

  18. How to Convert Your Dissertation into a Book

    Our services range from basic editing and consultation to comprehensive rewriting and ghostwriting services. Please feel free to call or email us at any time for a free consultation and an instant price quote. Call 857-600-2241. Email: [email protected].

  19. Q: Is it okay to turn research articles into a book?

    1 Answer to this question. Answer: All the options you are considering, including a couple more we will suggest, are fine to do, because your understanding of how you should go about them is fine: you are basing newer writings on your dissertation rather than aiming to publish them as is. So long as you follow this principle, you should quite ...

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    I need to convert my PhD dissertation into a book. The dissertation had the following chapters: introduction, theoretical and literature review, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion.

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    A first step, as noted above, is to identify the presuppositions or ideas from other chapters you and your committee members bring to this one. A second is to identify the elements of the chapter that tie it to the rest of the dissertation. These elements may be extended passages or allusions to what comes before or after, or, indeed, things ...

  22. Workshop: Transform Your Dissertation into a Book

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