Frequently Asked Questions

Many authors have similar concerns about publishing their work but do not always know what to ask when talking with a potential publisher. Please refer to the list below for help in understanding the publication process.

Process and Procedure

It is essential that you research potential publishers before sending out your inquiries. Look at your bookshelves and visit bookstores. Are there any presses that predominate? Which press has published your colleagues’ or mentors’ work? Have you established any initial relationships with potential editors at professional conferences? Arrange a wish list of presses that publish in your area and send them an initial query. Keep in mind that presses tend to specialize in certain disciplines and can do very little with projects that are clearly outside the realm of their publishing program.

When to submit your materials depends on your current goals. Some authors want to send a one-page letter of inquiry well before the manuscript is completed, simply to gauge interest in the project before continuing work on it. Others may want to wait until the full manuscript is done or almost done so that they can be ready to send the manuscript soon after being invited to do so. From an editor’s standpoint, both approaches are acceptable, but you should always specify in your letter or proposal when you expect to finish the manuscript.

Editors receive a large amount of mail, and they also travel frequently on business. Therefore, it can often take up to two months to receive a response from an editor after you have sent your proposal. Keep in mind, also, that many presses, including the University of New Mexico Press, will not respond to unsolicited queries unless they are interested in the project.

Many presses have written guidelines for proposal submissions, and you can ask your potential editor for those instructions. Most of these documents will suggest providing the following materials: a one-page cover letter outlining the main thesis of the book and its importance in the field, three to five pages of details about the project (including complimentary or competing titles), an annotated table of contents, the probable length of manuscript and its completion date, a copy of your CV, and a representative writing sample. The proposal should be as long as it takes to cover all of this information thoroughly.

For information about the University of New Mexico Press's submission guidelines, please visit the Prospective Authors page.

There are several steps that must be completed in order to publish a book at a scholarly press. At most university presses, including the University of New Mexico Press, the basic process is as follows:

1. Submit a letter of inquiry or a proposal
2. Send a complete manuscript, which will then be reviewed internally by your editor and externally by peers in the field of your manuscript
3. Respond to the reviews while your editor presents the project to the press’s editorial committee for consideration
4. Negotiate the publishing contract
5. Prepare a final manuscript for editing and production according to the press’s formatting guidelines

While we encourage authors to send out preliminary inquiries to several potential publishers, it is common courtesy to send your complete manuscript to only one press. Once you send the full manuscript to the editor, the press will start a formal review that necessitates expending monetary resources on your project. That said, it is fair to ask for a review schedule from your editor prior to submitting the manuscript, at which point you can determine if the press’s timetable meets your needs or expectations.

The length of time for a manuscript to be reviewed can vary from press to press, and as mentioned above, it is appropriate for you to ask your editor how long the review stage will take. At the University of New Mexico Press, we generally ask our external reviewers to submit an evaluation about two months after they receive the manuscript. It may take longer than that if your manuscript is very long or complicated, or if it is a time of year when scholars are commonly busy or not in the office, such as around finals or over the holidays or the summer months. Also, do not be alarmed if your readers are late. Many evaluations arrive later than anticipated. Rest assured that your editor is doing all he or she can to get the reports to you as quickly as possible.

If the external reviews are supportive, your editor will submit the manuscript to his or her editorial committee for formal publication approval. If the reviewers feel the manuscript needs significant additional work, your editor may ask you to revise and resubmit the manuscript for further internal and external review.

For a first book, this is most often done after the press’s editorial committee has approved publication. In some cases, conditional contracts are signed prior to completion of the manuscript, but this is not typical for most new authors.

At the University of New Mexico Press, we generally estimate that it will take between eighteen months and two years from the time you submit the full manuscript for external review to the time the printed book will be ready. This time frame includes the review and editorial-committee approval process, your own necessary preparations for the final draft of the manuscript, the editing and design/production of the manuscript, and the printing of the final book.

Have a conversation with your editor early on to decide what type of feedback system works best for you and will also be acceptable to your publisher. The publishing process goes much more smoothly if all the parties are working efficiently together to compose and refine the work. If the manuscript is almost completed, your editor may ask you to send the entire manuscript for review and will wait until the peer evaluations are in hand before composing his or her own critique of the manuscript. If you are in the early stages of writing, your editor may ask you to submit materials throughout the writing process, perhaps a chapter or two a month, or your editor might ask you to make revisions to your completed manuscript prior to it being externally reviewed.

Some—but not all—projects do benefit from the inclusion of photographs or drawn artwork to support the chapter prose, but it is important to remember that illustrations should have a tangible purpose for their inclusion. These elements should provide the reader with pertinent information that your written content is unable to satisfactorily relate alone. Try to select vivid, relevant images and artwork that are professionally produced and will be clearly legible when reproduced in the finished book.

Most publishers, including the University of New Mexico Press, have their own specific house formatting style that they ask authors to follow, so inquire about the availability of a document that explains these guidelines. The instructions will also typically contain detailed information about how to provide illustrations (in format and resolution) that will reproduce well in the book. The most important consideration—for both text and illustrations—is to be consistent throughout, and the simpler the formatting methods employed, the better.

For the University of New Mexico Press’s manuscript and art submission guidelines, please visit the Contracted Authors page.

Ask if the press has a preferred endnote (or footnote) format—typically this information will be included in the formal manuscript preparation instructions that publishers provide to authors. For instance, the University of New Mexico Press prefers the Chicago Manual of Style format, but if there is a particular citation format preferred by the intended audience for your work, the press will allow you to follow that approach as long as you use it consistently throughout the manuscript. Formal, comprehensive bibliographies are mandatory elements for academic projects but can often be modified to something briefer and more accessible for works intended for broad, non-specialist audiences.

The average length for a typical project is under one hundred thousand words, or roughly three hundred entirely double-spaced manuscript pages in Times New Roman, 12-point font, including the notes and bibliography. Of course, certain topics and types of books will require a longer treatment, and many manuscripts are far shorter than that. You should discuss the length of your manuscript with your editor if you fear it is too long.

While submitting a manuscript that is shorter than agreed to in your contract will not typically pose a problem for your publisher, turning in more material than the press expects is a serious concern. Remember that your publisher has set their production budget and schedule based on the length of the work as discussed, and anything that substantially alters those plans could be disastrous. Always let your editor know right away when you suspect that the work is longer than anticipated.

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