journal   >   20220608  

Can My Book Be Published?

published 2022-06-08

A friend recently finished his Ph.D dissertation. He sent me the following questions, and my wife encouraged me to share my response.

I was wondering whether my dissertation can be published. Do you think any publishing house will be interested?

Regarding your first question: Yes, your dissertation can be published.

As to your second question, I don't know if any publishing houses would be interested, because that question is unique for every publisher. They judge every manuscript or book proposal they receive by one question: Do we think enough people will buy this book to make a profit? Each publisher has a different sense of who their buyers are, and so their answer to this question will be unique.

Since I have never been in the position of making these decisions as a publisher or editor, nor of trying to pitch books to publishers as an agent, that's about all I can say about that.

However, there is a different way to frame this: (1) Who would be interested in reading this book, and (2) how can it be made attractive to those readers?

If you can imagine the "ideal reader," who would they be? What are their interests, their background? What about this topic would be of interest to them?

Then, how can your work be shaped to be as interesting as possible to those readers? For example, if the readers are "devoted Evangelical Christians in the U.S.," that is a very different answer from, "spiritually interested Hindus in India." And completely different again from "scholars in the fields of Old Testament and comparative religions."

How you answer the first question will affect everything about the second question.

Once those two questions are answered, then you can ask, Which publishers best serve my target audience? How can I get my book in their hands to review?

If this sounds like an exhausting process, you are right: It is, and yet it doesn't discourage several hundred thousand books from being published every year. Yours can be one of them.

You will notice that I have not said anything about the quality of your writing and thinking. Most authors want a publisher or readers to validate their work as "worthy" of being published. I think that's the wrong mindset. You are the one who will decide whether your work ought to be published.