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Getting a First Book Published

I regularly get emails from people who want to break into publishing for the first time, who ask me “How can I get my book published?”  As I indicated in my previous posts, almost always what they have in mind is not a work of scholarship for scholars but a trade book for a general audience.     And so here is a weird fact about me: even though I have been publishing trade books for eighteen years, I’m not completely sure of the answer.   But I know some things, and in this post I’ll indicate what those things are. I absolutely know how one gets his or her first scholarly book published.  I help my graduate students, and other scholars just starting their careers, do that all the time.  There I’m an expert.  But a first trade book?  That’s a trickier proposition.   The reason is one I’ve intimated before.  Most scholars who publish a trade book do so after they have already published serious scholarship and so are to some extent a “known quantity.”   In my [...]

Who Should Write Trade Books?

Most people who contact me about a book they would like to write – or that they have written – are not talking about a work of scholarship (though some are); they are talking about a book that they would like to publish that “reaches the masses.”  They have some ideas about early Christianity, the historical Jesus, the life and writings of Paul, the Gospels, the entire Bible, or some related topic, and they would like to publish a book to make their views known. I never encourage them. This will probably be the most intellectually snobbish post I’ve ever made on this blog, but I think maybe I should just tell it like it is.   In my view, no one should write a book if they lack the necessary expertise.   And expertise doesn’t come from wanting to have it or wishing to have it.    It comes from years of hard work – in this case, intellectual work – after being trained sufficiently to be able even to *do* the work.   I may really, deeply [...]

Being Qualified to Write a Scholarly Book

The goal of this thread is to talk about the book that I’m working on now, which I hope to have written (gods willing) by the end of this calendar year.  We’ll see.   To get to that I felt like I needed to talk about how I had changed publishers, and now that I’m talking about that, it occurs to me that I should talk about how one goes about getting a book published. One of the emails I get *all* the time is from authors who have written a book, or hope to write a book, who want to know how they can get a publisher to take a look at it.   The short answer: it ain’t easy. So first let me do this autobiographically, how I myself got into the publishing business. The first thing to stress: I had a leg up.  I had a PhD at a reputable school (Princeton Theological Seminary) and a teaching job at another one (Rutgers University).  The reality is that publishers of scholarly books look for authors [...]

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