May 2012 Archives

Many businessmen and attorneys believe, some of them correctly, that their narrative might make an interesting book.  Mr. Webster has asked me to detail how academics go about getting their books published, starting with the book proposal.

We think that this may be of interest to you for several reasons.  First, since you will know nothing about my book's content,  the Philosopy of Music, you will focus only on the directions on how to get the book published.  

Second, and this is important, writing a book is more than recording your thoughts into words.  Your book must have a map, how to get to A from B and why the trip is worth taking.  The book proposal is much like a intinerary for a vacation - where we are going and why.  

Finally, I hope that some of you may find the esoteric topic of the Philosphy of Music so interesting that you send your offspring to be educated at the wonderful University of Victoria, British Columbia.  (If you have no children, perhaps a friend may be interested?)

In order to publish, you must interest a publisher with a book proposal.  I am going to reprint verbatim my book proposal, which did get published, to show you the 3 necessary elements that you must have in your proposal: Scope and Aims, Synopsis, and Readership.

Scope and Aims

From my book proposal,

"This book has a wide scope. It presents a self-contained approach to the aesthetics of music. (It does not address issues in the ontology of musical works.) The book is designed as an alternative to the dominant formalist approach to philosophy of music (associated with writers such as Malcolm Budd, Nick Zangwill, and above all Peter Kivy). It is also an alternative to the views of formalism’s fellow travelers, such as Stephen Davies. (Davies does not explicitly endorse formalism, but he is sceptical about the view that music has content.) The central claim of the book is that music is not merely appreciated as pure musical form. Rather, music is able (as non-philosophers frequently maintain) to provide psychological insight and does so by representing emotion. In short, music has content that contributes to its aesthetic value.  The book is at once cutting edge and rather traditional. "

Don't worry, you are not meant to understand the exact content.  But, the proposal provides you with a series of questions.  First, who else has talked about this?  List some authors.  What have they said?  

Instead of providing a mere counter point to the above authors, Budd et. al, I have also included at least one other author who is skeptical about the first group but will say different things than I will.  Find a group of writers, and and at least one who is providing a counter-point and triangulate your arguments within that group.

It is always nice to have a neat hook like: "this book is at once cutting edge and rather traditional."

Also important in the Scope and Aims is the technical detail, how many words.

"Although the book has a broad scope and ambitious aims, it is concisely written. The body of the text is approximately 66,000 words long. With notes, the length is approximately 71,500 words. The bibliography and preface are on top of this total. "

Next, we have to fill in the map with a Synposis.


You will write out your synposis of what each chapter is about, a paragraph per chapter. Take the first line from each paragraph and create a new paragraph.

In my case, it reads: In Chapter 1, the empirical literature is used to establish that the resemblance theory of musical expressiveness is correct.  Chapter 2 examines the question of whether music arouses emotion. In Chapter 3, I argue that music represents emotion. Chapter 4 is devoted to music with lyrics, with a particular focus on opera.  Chapter 5 also allows that listeners enjoy music as a source of sensory pleasure and as a source of pleasurable emotions.

So, in the synopsis we have a short version of what the book contains - more details on the driving map so to speak.

Finally, you will want to talk about the who should read this book and why.  


I pitched my book this way: "This book is, in the first instance, a work by a philosopher for other philosophers. It is, however, written in an accessible fashion.  Its has been read by two non-philosophers, both of whom found the book readable and who made suggestions for making it more accessible for non-philosophers. ... Given that my book is very readable, it may find an audience – I do not imagine that it will be huge – among the general educated public. Some of my previous books have enjoyed a modest sale outside of academic circles. 

You will also have a technical audience, but you will want to present evidence that the book has more than a narrow readership.

It is also pleasant to throw in a some personal background of how you come to decide to write a book.  In my case, "I first had the idea of writing Critique of Pure Music when teaching a course on philosophy of music and becoming convinced of the need for an accessible and comprehensive work that presents an anti-formalist perspective. My students encouraged me to write the book. "

You can use something similar - some project that would have worked better with your book, and evidence from those who encouraged you.

I hope that this has been helpful to you - you really can write a book, but having a concrete book proposal makes it all the more likely that you will get published.


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This page is an archive of entries from May 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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