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Should You Consider a University Press for Your Next Book?

For years, university presses have focused on scholarly monographs and college textbooks. But that is changing. More universities are publishing popular non-fiction and fiction, in part because there's money in it. University presses can easily turn a profit from a press run of 10,000 to 15,000 books--figures that would cause a traditional trade press to turn up its corporate nose in disgust.

That is good news for historical writers looking for new markets.

Which of the university press should one approach?

Start with the Association of American University Presses at The website includes a resources section called For Authors & Faculty. The Finding a Publisher section includes a grid which shows which publishers are interested in fiction, biography, folklore, sociology, American history and other topics. Some publishers prefer fiction that targets their region. They are less picky when it comes to nonfiction.

The worst thing you can do is send out a blind query letter--a sure path to rejection.  Instead, try to develop a relationship with an editor who buys books in your field.  For fiction or less scholarly fields such as folklore, consult the press’s website. Look for editors interested in your topic and send them a query letter and a proposal.  

For faculty, the process is easier.  Most university presses send acquiring editors to conferences sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the History Society and regional groups such as the Western History Association or the Southern History Association.  University presses often display their latest books at booths at the different conferences, and conference goers can pitch a book idea to an editor on the spot. This is of immense value to an author, and may culminate in the editor asking the author to send him a proposal.  Be sure and mention your earlier conference meeting in the subsequent query letter.  


Four Speakers Look at Writing, History and Dragons

Author Parris Afton Bonds helped launch the Romance Writers of America group in 1980. But there was nothing glamorous about her early career. She borrowed money and spent $800 in phone calls promoting her work. She wrote newspaper, magazine and TV journalists in seven states, assuring them she “was a great interview.”

The beginning writer—and mother of five boys—had some down days. If you're passionate about your work, “you will be trampled on,” she told attendees at the Historical Writers of America's second annual conference in New Mexico.
But you can get through it with a big dose of passion, persistence, and Pepto-Bismol, said Bonds, the Texas-based author of 45 historical and romance novels. Writers must share the same traits as the heroes they write about, she said. They must cultivate an indomitable spirit.

“Close your mind to discouragement,” she said. “Don't let those bastards get you down.”

Bonds, who spoke at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort near Albuquerque, was one of four keynote speakers at the Sept. 21-24 conference, which included all-day master classes in writing, a chuckwagon dinner, agent pitches and more than 30 writing and history classes.

Massachusetts author Jodi Daynard talked about her early struggles as a writer. The former Harvard writing teacher shelved three novels before she wrote The Midwife's Revolt, a book about murder, midwifery and the American Revolution. “My agent read a rough first draft and fired me,” she said. Another agent said, “There’s no market for American historical fiction.”



HWA 3rd Annual Conference
Providence, RI June 7 -10 2018 - Save the date!


 Speaker Series Interviews

Jodi Daynard
Parris Afton Bonds

Historical Genre

Fiction? Nonfiction? Both? HWA is the place for you! Our focus is on the historical writer - in all genres. Check out our Membership Benefits. As a member you  can join our blog and forums for information and discussion on everything on historical writing. No matter your interest -from writing for magazines to historical paranormal. If your setting (or your time-travel!) is at least 50 years in the past, it's considered historical.

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