Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate How to do it

Get your book published

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1715
  1. Mary Banks, senior commissioning editor
  1. BMJ Books, BMJ Publishing Group, London WC1H 9JR

    The BMJ Publishing Group is continually bombarded with book proposals, most of which are inappropriate for us and probably for any other publisher. The purpose of my article is to help potential authors prepare a book proposal, thereby increasing their chance of being published and reducing the number of non-viable suggestions received by publishers. The information is intended for those planning a book for the first time. Some of the information about book publishing is discouraging—this is not meant to deter but to forearm.

    Although getting a book accepted for publication may be difficult, it is not hopeless. The printed word is still the most powerful form of communication, and book publishing shows no sign of disappearing despite the electronic revolution. On the contrary, anecdotal evidence suggests that these two media are complementary. Thus, although publishers may be inundated with proposals for new books and seem cautious about accepting them, they are always looking for the real gems—the original ideas that will translate into bestsellers.

    Summary points

    Determination is an essential quality for any potential author

    A book proposal needs to be well crafted and researched

    Suitable publishers should be approached

    Book publishing is a business not a profession

    The book publishing industry

    Some facts about the book publishing industry may help to remove misunderstandings about publishers' motives and help potential authors plan their attack.

    >Book publishing is not a profession, it is a trade —Publishing “houses” (few, if any, still reside in those gracious houses in Bloomsbury) are in it for profit. Many book publishers are divisions of large public, often multinational, companies who are beholden to their shareholders. Book publishing may be the poor relation, turning in small profits or even large losses. Small independent publishers may seem less fettered and more likely to move swiftly on publishing decisions, but they do not have …

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