Book Publishing (UCL Doctoral School)

Book Publishing workshops | Professor Joe Cain for UCL Doctoral School

These workshops focuses on academic book publishing. It is intended specifically for doctoral students considering how they might reshape their thesis into a book. What are the key questions you should be asking? What are the main steps involved? What are some important mistakes to avoid? We examine book publishing from the perspectives of both publisher and author. We discuss initial publishing strategies, differences in content and structure, questions you might ask when deciding on a publisher, and issues involving authors as their book manuscripts reach completion.

Professor Joe Cain teaches this series of workshops at UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) for UCL Doctoral School.

Reading Book on Bookshelf in Library

Book Publishing 1: Understand the Process

This workshop is the first in the “Book publishing” series. No advanced preparation required.

Intended Audience

  • year 3 postgraduate research students

Course Content

This workshop is divided into four segments. Each segment involves a mixture of participation and discussion, investigation, and presentation. We’ll use peer-to-peer guidance and we’ll incorporate real-life materials currently online from publishers.

Part 1: Why and what? Early career researchers should develop a publishing strategy that maximises their career goals. These decisions help define the scope and purpose of a new book concept. We provide tools for thinking through this strategic planning, and we present tools to help translate this strategic planning into action. We’ll explore the contemporary range of publishing options and publishers. How do professional researchers interpret the publishing industry? How do authors gain access to it?

Part 2: Content and structure. A thesis is not a book. What’s the difference? We explore this question by exploring voice, structure, argument, scope, and audience. Participants will have the opportunity to consider reformulations of their thesis and to pitch those reformulations to peers.

Part 3: Placement. How does an author choose a publisher? What do publishers want from prospective authors? How does the relationship between publisher and author proceed? We’ll introduce the “book proposal” as a tool used by publishers to understand an author’s proposed project, and we’ll considering strategies for maximizing the impact of a proposal.

Part 4: Finishing. Book publishing involves more than thesis writing. What more? From peer review to indexing, from author rights to contracts, we will examine key subjects associated with book completion and the processes involved in putting books to work towards an author’s publishing strategy. Authors familiar with the wider frame of the writing life stand on firmer ground in this highly competitive business.


This workshop aims to introduce students to book publishing from the perspective of a doctoral student in possession of a complete (or nearly complete) thesis seeking to convert it into an academic book. The workshop will cover:

  • Building a publishing strategy for the early career researcher stage in your career
  • Initial decisions when planning a book, such a identifying key publishers
  • Adapting content and structure for a **book** rather than for a **thesis**
  • Issues a book author should be familiar with as their book project progresses, such as how to differentiate audiences and markets, author rights, and ways to increase the reach of your writing


By the end of this workshop, students should be able to:

  • Identify key differences between the typical doctoral thesis and the typical academic book
  • Describe key decisions involved when selecting a publisher for their work and present a publishing strategy for themselves
  • Describe the main steps involved in transitioning from thesis to book, both in terms of content and structure, and in terms of audience and reach
  • Describe downstream issues associated with the completion of their work, such as author rights and how to add further value to their writing

What do participants say?

Comments from participants in the module during previous sessions. 

  • very useful 
  • The material of the class and the presenter could offer a real insight into the world of publishing and their priorities. It is really helpful to be able to reflect on your research from another perspective. 
  • A very informative and eye-opening course. I recommend it to all 3rd year PhD students who wish to pursue an academic career. 
  • Useful workshop and information 
  • This course is informative, practical and beautifully delivered by Joe Cain. The content is broad-ranging yet specific to the needs of PhD students (particularly post-upgrade). Joe really spoke to the room, kept everyone involved and was very flexible in how he delivered the course, adapting content on the spot as a result of common questions from participants. Loved it! 
  • If you are thinking about publishing your thesis as a book, this course is the first step and a good overview of some of the things you should consider. 
  • Excellent course that will help you understand book publishing and helps you find out how writing a book could (not) benefit you. 
  • Useful introduction to book publication. 

Evaluation data from Book publishing 1 workshop, 2017-18 session

Reading Book on Bookshelf in Library

Book Publishing 2: Mastering the Book Proposal

Authors normally first approach book publishers using a “book proposal”. This workshop focuses on the book proposal as an instrument for conveying to a publisher your book’s core importance, both as an original contribution of knowledge and as a marketable product. What are the key elements of a book proposal? How can a proposal be improved? What are common mistakes? Participants – you – come to this workshop with a draft book proposal related to their thesis, and in a combination of seminar sessions and peer-assistance sessions, we’ll work towards improvements and, maybe, create material you could submit with confidence. This workshop is the second in the “Book publishing” series. It will be an intensive workshop focused on what you bring on the day. Advanced preparation is required; see joining instructions. “Book publishing 1” is a prerequisite.

Intended audience

  • year 3 postgraduate research students who have completed “Book publishing 1” workshop

Course content

This workshop focuses on the book proposal as an instrument for proposing a project to a publisher. This workshop is meant to be an intensive writing, thinking, and interactive experience. The focus will be on writing participants currently have underway. In “Book publishing 1” attention was directed towards the book proposal, but there was insufficient time to develop proposals and not all participants sought to work intensely on a proposal of their own. For those who have book publishing ambitions of their own, this workshop takes them forward. In “Book publishing 2” students will be asked to draft a book proposal prior to the workshop. That draft will be developed further during the workshop, with peer-assistance and close tutor support. The overall aim is to move participants towards development of more specific and more effective proposals ready for submission.


This workshop aims to develop book proposals, which are the primary tool for proposing a project to a publisher. The workshop will cover:

  • elements of a typical book proposal (we’ll use the proposal required by UCL Press)
  • strategies for effective development of a proposal
  • strategies for improving proposals students have already developed
  • concentrated attention on the proposals participants bring to the workshop


By the end of this workshop, students should be able to:

  • identity strengths and weaknesses of a novel book proposal
  • identify strengths and weaknesses of their own book proposal
  • describe the proposal review process in general
  • identify some of the key elements in a proposal as viewed by a typical publisher

What do participants say?

Comments from participants in the module during previous sessions. 

  • A really helpful course for getting thinking about publishing, and the kinds of issues you need to be aware of when coming up with your own publishing strategy. 
  • This is an excellent course, ideal for third year students and those in the writing-up phase. It will help inform not only your potential plans to convert your thesis into a book, but also your broader publication strategy for your research. 
  • Amazing course and great tutor. Very engaging and informative. 

Evaluation data from Book publishing 2 workshop, 2017-18 session