Choosing the Right Publisher for Your Work | Lex Academic Blog

In academic writing, the stakes are high. A perfectly pitched journal article can make a career or solidify a reputation. The life cycle of a book, from the germ of an idea to the physical copy or e-book being purchased by a reader is, in most cases, a long one, often taking over a year in total. Unless you are exceptionally lucky, the process of publishing your work can be challenging, emotional, and fraught with tough decisions. In light of this, it is really important to place your work in the best possible hands. Having the support of a publisher who understands your career goals and ambitions (and who knows how to get your work in the hands of people who will get the most out of it and are in a position to get it seen by others) is invaluable. But with so many options, from boutique companies who have subject expertise to global publishers with huge reach, how do you narrow down your options to find your perfect publishing partner?

Look at your bookshelves and bookmarks

As researchers, we are so trained to look at the finest detail and complex information that sometimes we can overlook the framework underpinning our sources. Make time to take stock of material that has been the most inspiring and pivotal to your own work. Is there a particular book series that appeals to how you process information? Do you find yourself drawn to the approach of a journal and regularly monitor their output? It may sound obvious, but starting with what you already use and appreciate is a heartening way to start this process: you’re already even subconsciously familiar with the interests, peculiarities, and methods of these publishers.

Do your research

Getting into the mindset of a commissioning editor can be an invaluable exercise. Even with household-name publishing companies, it can be worthwhile browsing their catalogue. Take note of the following: what have they published recently? Towards which subjects and disciplines are they leaning? Are the titles familiar to you? You might also want to consider whether you will be pitching something that is too much of a competitor to one of their current titles. If one of their titles is in your field, do you have a sufficiently distinctive angle? From these initial impressions, you can infer the following: is it in the publisher’s financial or reputational interest to publish your work? This is the key question.

Use your network

As an industry, publishing can feel hard to navigate and easy to glamorize. But the key to demystifying the process of getting your work seen is to think in very practical terms. Publishers are providing a service, and publishing is ultimately a business. You are investing your intellectual property, time, and energy into them as much as they are investing in you. When you are looking for any kind of service, whether it’s a plumber, architect, or website builder, your first instinct is to ask the people around you for recommendations. If you’re an academic, then it’s likely you have an existing network of people who are at the same stage as you, or who have published before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust for an honest opinion of publishers they have experience with, or even put out a call on social media.

Make a compelling case for your work

Enlist the help of a company like Lex Academic to put together a watertight proposal and sample that will go a long way in placing your work with the right team. By eliminating the worry of residual errors, polishing your language and syntax, and having the benefit of the expert eyes of disciplinary peers with their own publishing track record, you can be assured of the best possible start to your publishing journey. At Lex, we have helped countless authors find their most rewarding publishing partnership through a striking and rigorous proposal. We can also ensure that your proposal pack has all the information required and conforms exactly to the publisher’s guidelines, leaving you free to concentrate on the more creative and stimulating elements of the application. For more pointers on tailoring your proposal when you get to that stage, read our article on Decoding a Book Proposal Form, and learn the 5 Things Publishers Look For in Book Proposals

Approach editors in an informal capacity

Many strong and long-lasting working relationships within academic publishing begin with a speculative email. Most editors will be happy to engage with potential clients in discussion about what they look for in new projects, updates to new editions, and underexplored subject areas; it is their job to seek out new content and discover talented writers and editors. Another way to cultivate these relationships to get a sense of what a more enduring professional alliance would be like, if you have the time and the capacity, is to offer to peer-review proposals, articles, manuscripts, or editions that are due for an update. This can be hugely rewarding in and of itself, but it can also put you on the radar of a commissioning department and give you an insight into what they are looking for.