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Study Skills

Research skills

Online course for Cambridge researchers about publishing, managing data, finding and disseminating research.

Publishing academic books

undefinedWelcome to this module on publishing your monograph, where we’ll follow the whole process, from making the initial decisions, to what to do once you have the finished book in your hands. You’ll learn:

  • key considerations when turning your thesis into a monograph
  • how to choose the best publisher for you
  • how Open Access monographs work
  • how to write a great proposal
  • what to expect from the peer review and publishing process
To complete this section, you will need:


  • Approximately 60 minutes.
  • Access to the internet. All the resources used here are available freely.
  • Some equipment for jotting down your thoughts, a pen and paper will do, or your phone or another electronic device.

Turning your thesis into a monograph

This video explores what is required if you want to turn your thesis into a monograph and some key questions to ask yourself.


Resources I mentioned:

Choosing a publisher 

Getting the right publisher is going to make a big difference in your experience of publishing a book.

This video from the University of Warwick library outlines the process of choosing a publisher in 5 steps.  

If you are unsure about whether a publisher is trustworthy and right for you, this checklist by Think.Check.Submit. will be helpful in evaluating your options. 

What about agents? 

undefinedSome academic authors have agents, though it is by no means a requirement. Having an agent is going to be more important if your book is likely to have broad appeal, while you probably don’t need an agent for a book aimed at a subset of specialists. Speak to colleagues in your field for advice on whether you should look for an agent or not.

While academic publishers are happy to consider proposals coming directly from authors, an agent can help you select the best publisher for your needs, write a good proposal, revise the work following review, and negotiate with the editor. Naturally, agents will require compensation and they are likely to only be interested in books with significant commercial potential.


If you do decide to look for an agent, make sure you find one with a good reputation and track record. Read the acknowledgements of books you admire to see if the author thanked an agent, or ask for recommendations from colleagues.

Open Access publishers

Just like with journal articles, we’re seeing a growing movement to make access to monographs free and unrestricted. Let’s make this clear straight away: Open Access publishers are NOT the same as vanity presses! Reputable Open Access publishers have rigorous peer review and quality control and offer quality products, just like legacy publishers.

The Office of Scholarly communication website contains lots of helpful information on Open Access monographs, including an overview, OA publishing options, costs, and funders’ positions.

This talk by Rupert Gatti explains in detail how your book can ‘be more’ through an Open Access publishing model. Do you agree with him that Open Access publishing can improve research methodology?

Let’s explore what an Open Access Book works. Take a look at this book published by Open Book Publishers and explore the data about how this book has been used to try to answer the following questions.

  1. How much do the digital version and the hardback version cost?
  2. What is the title of the second chapter?
  3. How many times was it downloaded from Google Books views?
  4. How many times was it downloaded in Brazil?

To find the answers, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Writing a proposal 

Each publisher has its own specific requirements for proposals, so make sure you check their website and follow their guidance closely. In general terms, however, a proposal typically includes the following:

  • Title. Keep it simple, consider what would make a reader select your book from a library catalogue or bookshelf.
  • Short summary. Concision is key here, focus on a few key points.
  • Background. Remember that the editor is not necessarily an expert in your particular field. Explain the scope and methodology and set your book into the context of the whole field. A selected bibliography may be helpful.
  • Target audience. Be realistic and specific. It may be helpful to highlight if your book could be used for a particular course, or if it is likely to attract an interdisciplinary audience.
  • Business case. Why does it make sense for the publisher to invest in your book? Why will people want to read it? Can you cite similar books that have been successful in the past?
  • Author's CV. Why are you the right person to write this book? Highlight the reasons why people will want to hear what you have to say. If based on a thesis, can you cite some praise or the number of download requests?
  • Practical considerations. Think about aspects of production that will matter to the editor. For instance, how long do you expect the completed manuscript to be? When will it be completed? Will you require many colour images? Can you suggest any reviewers?
  • Table of contents. You should have a clear idea of the overall structure of your book, though of course this may change following review.
  • Sample chapters. Opinions about how much of the manuscript should be ready before you write a proposal vary. Broadly speaking, you should have 25-75% of the book ready to go by this point

In this video, Jay Phoenix Singh shows you exactly how he composed two successful proposals.


The peer review and publishing process

So what can you expect from the whole process of publishing a monograph? This video gives you an overview of the key stages.



Here are the answers for the Open Access publishers activity. They were gathered on 18 September 2023 and may have changed slightly since.

  1. The digital copies are free, the paperback costs £19.95 and the hardback costs £34.95
  2. The second chapter is titled ‘Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality?’
  3. Google Book View had 6066 downloads (the number may have increased slightly)
  4. Brazil had 219 downloads (the number may have increased slightly)

Did you know?

You can self-report that you have completed this module to have it added to your training record. Simply visit the booking page and register.

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Image Credits: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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