Guest blog by Glenna Jenkins, freelance (book) editor, active on Peerwith.
You have completed your dissertation, produced original research, and made an important contribution to your field. Now you want to turn your dissertation into a book. And why wouldn’t you after all those years of hard work?!
Turning a dissertation into an academic book means you will be taking a completely different approach to getting your message out there. When you wrote your dissertation, you no doubt had to satisfy a committee of four to six academics. Marketability did not factor in your proposal. In your book proposal, however, you will need to target a much broader readership.
A dissertation is often a complicated and esoteric scholarly work most people find difficult to read. It’s intention is to prove that you have mastered your topic and can put together and defend an original and persuasive argument. Your readership is a small, specialized group of scholars within your university department and a few other researchers in your field.
In a book, your will be telling a story about a matter that is related to the wider world and you will be inviting people to listen in on and become part of a broader conversation. Your readers will be educated people who want to know more about a particular topic or issue, what you have to say about it and why you think it is important. But as most of these readers will not be experts in this field, they will want to see arguments that make sense to them and that are logical, concrete and easy to understand.
If you were to ask members of your university faculty how they felt about reading dissertations, no doubt most would admit that they are not yearning for their work day to end so they can relax at home and delve into another dissertation. Others feel the same way. The main market for your book will consist of readers who want to be both informed and entertained in prose that consists of plain language written in imaginative ways. These readers will want to see an original approach to a topic they want to know more about, whether it be climate change or the six wives of Henry XVIII.
The amount of work this will take will depend on whether you were required to structure your dissertation within a rigid template or whether you had some degrees of freedom and, therefore, thought about writing for a broader readership at the outset. If the former is the case, then this might mean writing a completely new book that is based on your research. If the latter is the case, then this might mean eliminating sections that are not required in a book and restructuring others (omitting the abstract, literature review, methodology, and placing any references to your own research or that of other scholars in the endnotes). Whatever the case, there are many good reasons for turning your hard work into a book, such as:
- The prestige that comes from having your book published;
- Getting your ideas into the public domain, where conversations can continue to spark interest in your work;
- Being cited in other scholarly works;
- To help you stand out in the crowd: not every PhD has published a book; and
- To improve your chances of being hired for a tenure track position.
Interested in turning your dissertation into a book? Discuss this with us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact any potential book editor on Peerwith, like Glenna, through her own Peerwith.Expert page: https://peerwith.expert/glennamjenkins.