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What is the book proposal accelerator and why is it called that?

The Manuscript Works book proposal accelerator is an online program that guides academic authors step-by-step through the process of crafting a scholarly book proposal. The name of the program is a loose reference to the concept of a tech accelerator that provides mentorship and a cohort of peers in order to help individuals develop a pitchable final product (with thanks to my colleague Heath Sledge for the suggestion). But it’s also about accelerating your book proposal development process so that, in the space of several weeks, you finish a presentable-if-not-perfect draft that you feel confident talking to acquiring editors about.


What will the accelerator be like?

During the live weeks of the accelerator, I will provide you with tips and templates to guide you through drafting and polishing all the components of your book proposal. Threads in the group platform will enable you to share your work with other participants and me for direct feedback. Four times throughout the accelerator I’ll host live Q&A sessions via video conference where you can ask any specific questions you may have about your proposal or the academic book publishing process. For the January 2020 session, the live Q&As will be held on Fridays (1/10, 1/17, 1/24, and 1/30) from 12–1pm Eastern. At least one of the Q&As will feature a guest acquisitions editor from a university press. I will also be accessible to answer direct questions throughout the accelerator through the group platform.

Any work you do on your proposal draft will be self-paced, though the structure of the accelerator is designed to get you to a complete draft as painlessly as possible if you keep up with the step-by-step tasks. I will not be able to provide private evaluations of your materials as part of the accelerator, but my goal is to provide the tools you need to draft and revise your own proposal with confidence. Accelerator participants will go onto my priority client list if they choose to follow up the accelerator with a private book proposal evaluation and will receive a discount on my Quick Proposal Eval service.

At the end of the course you will receive a compiled document with the entire set of lessons and tips, plus a checklist to assist you in making sure you’ve covered all the bases with your completed proposal.


What aspects of the book proposal will the Accelerator modules cover?

We’ll cover everything you need to put together a complete book proposal document, including how to:

  • identify appropriate target presses

  • give publishers what they want to see in scholarly book proposals

  • articulate your primary and secondary readerships

  • showcase your core argument and contribution

  • assemble a compelling project description

  • expose the structure of your narrative with effective chapter summaries

  • invite readers in with accessible book and chapter titles

  • select and discuss competing titles

  • present contextual information such as manuscript specs and status, author bio, and previous publications

  • calibrate style and voice to your audiences

  • make your pitch to acquisitions editors

  • navigate the acquisitions and review process in scholarly publishing


Who is the accelerator for?

The accelerator is intended for authors who are preparing to publish a book with a scholarly press in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. You do not need to have your entire book manuscript completed, but you should be able to provide an overview of the project and its component chapters before we begin. You do not need to be a first-time author; several participants in the pilot session of the accelerator were working on second or third books. You may even find the accelerator useful as a way to conceptualize your next book before you write it!

The accelerator is an affordable alternative to an individual book proposal evaluation with me, plus its structure is designed to guide you through the process of drafting the document (almost) from scratch. This makes it good for people who want some structured help but aren’t ready to splash out on an individual evaluation. The accelerator is also ideal for authors who have been sitting on a proposal draft for months or years and need some motivation to get the damn thing done and off their desk.


What materials are needed to start the accelerator?

You should prepare for the course by drafting a 500–1000-word overview description of your book project and brief (~1-paragraph) descriptions of each chapter you plan to include in your book. When you enroll in the course I will provide you with some guidance and a list of resources that you can consult as you prepare these materials. Some of these resources will be books that you may wish to purchase for yourself to consult throughout the accelerator.


What are the dates for the upcoming session?

The January 2020 session will run from January 3 through January 31. If your new year’s resolution is to finish your book proposal, this is the session for you.


How much does it cost to participate in the accelerator?

The cost for the January 2020 session is $325.

For the cost of enrollment, you get:

  • a structured environment that will guide you to a complete proposal draft in 4 weeks

  • templates and sample language for scholarly book proposals in the humanistic social sciences

  • insider tips for leveling up your book proposal draft so it will connect with acquiring editors, peer reviewers, and editorial boards

  • live Q&A with me and other participants to get interactive feedback and ask the questions you don’t want to put in writing

  • the support of peers who are in the same boat as you

  • a reference document with a checklist and all the lessons and tips from the course

  • a general sense of confidence in your project and your pitch

  • the accountability that comes from knowing you spent a decent amount of money and had better produce something to show for it ☺

Payment can be made via electronic bank transfer (Zelle), physical check, Venmo, or PayPal (so you can put it on your credit card).


Am I guaranteed a book contract after completing the accelerator and following your advice?

No, of course not. Many factors go into a successful book proposal, not least of which are the fit between your project and your target press and the current marketability of your topic and approach. Some factors are simply beyond anyone’s control. Furthermore, general advice will only take you so far, because there are exceptions to every “rule.” What the accelerator will do is give you straight talk about norms in academic publishing and enough perspective to know that you’re not completely botching the process before you even begin. It will also provide the structure to help you finish a draft of your book proposal within 4 weeks.


Ok, I’m sold. How do I enroll in the accelerator?

Complete the questionnaire below and click Submit. You’ll then receive instructions for payment via your preferred payment method (receipts suitable for institutional reimbursement will be provided on request). After I receive your payment, I will send you a brief packet to assist you in preparing your materials for the start of the accelerator. Before the accelerator begins, I will invite you to the online platform where I will post each week’s lesson and tips and where you can interact with the other participants if you choose. If you don’t hear from me within one week of completing the form, please follow up directly to make sure nothing went amiss.

Any other questions? Email me at or ask me on Twitter @lportwoodstacer.

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