Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Publishing a medical book

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7503.s231 (Published 04 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:s231
  1. Una Coales, general practitioner and RSM author
  1. London SW9 ufcmd{at}aol.com

I am a general practitioner and author of eight medical revision books. Here are my tips.

Do

  • Brainstorm to select a book you can sell. If you have membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS), write on the MRCS exam, or a medical student revision book in surgery

  • Select a publisher who specialises in your interest. RSM Press publishes 30-40 books a year. Elsevier (Butterworth-Heinemann) are much larger and cover the US market for medical books

  • Type an “elegant” book proposal. Explain why your product will sell

  • Enclose the first 40 pages of your manuscript. This will then be sent to an independent reviewer to determine whether it will sell, unless the publisher is already in the market for your proposed book

  • Invest in a digital camera to take clinical photos of radiographs, electrocardiograms, and scans

  • Ensure your book will sell at least 5000 copies to get a decent return

  • Get the publisher to take you out for a very expensive lunch to discuss your book, contract, and royalties

  • Know your rights. You should either get an agent or ask for 10% of the book's retail price. This is standard

  • Expect to collect up to £2000 ($3800; €2900) a year for each title you pen. Books retail for an average of £20 each and sales average 1000 copies a year.

  • Give a realistic time scale for completion of your manuscript, as the contract may be void after the agreed date

  • Type your book in Microsoft Word because you can then email your manuscript when completed

Don't

  • Hand write any letter to a publisher. Doctors have atrocious handwriting

  • Push a book that will not sell ■

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