Revising Your Dissertation for Publication

Turning your dissertation into a book can require extensive revisions to the manuscript. It’s best to make as many changes as you can before submitting it to a press. Although you may get back useful reader reports and a request to “revise and resubmit,” you may also be turned down and thus lose your chance to send the manuscript back to that press.

So, here’s some advice for turning your dissertation into a publishable book:

  • In addition to completing at least one more significant copyediting readthrough, you will want to make sure that your “book” is argument driven. Often dissertations have excessive presentation of evidence, much of which can be whittled down to make for a more concise, reader-friendly (and often shorter) manuscript.
  • A book is not written for a committee, it is written for a larger audience that may not have the same specific knowledge of the topic that your committee had.
  • As you approach this more developmental editing side of the work, you must think about what you are contributing to the field. Academic presses want their books to represent unique and significant scholarship. So, your book’s contribution to the discipline should be stated clearly in the introduction, which means having a concisely mapped presentation of your approach to the subject and less literature review.
  • All chapters should be integrated and work toward a central thesis. Dissertations can take a long time to write, so make sure the initial thread follows through all of your chapters.
  • Finally, writing with authority and with a clear authorial voice will differentiate your book from overly dry work that stays on message and extensively documents — at the expense of compelling the reader with a clearly directed scholarly position.