Sunday, March 4, 2012

How I Published Three Books in One Year

Have you ever looked at someone’s CV and asked yourself how in the world they were able to publish more than one book in a year or several articles in one year? I have. I often have asked myself “How did they do it?” or “What’s their secret?” when looking at someone’s impressive CV.

I never thought that I would actually publish three books in one year, but I did. And, in this post, I will tell you how I did it. The truth is: there is no secret. Publishing often takes a long time, yet sometimes happens quickly. This, in turn, means that, sometimes, you will see a cluster of publications on a person’s CV.

First, let me clarify what I mean by the statement that I published three books in one year. I don’t mean that I wrote three books in one year. I just mean that I had three books released in the space of twelve months. In March 2011, the University Press of Florida released Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru. In September 2011, Paradigm Publishers released Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America. In February 2012, Routledge published Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States.

Here’s how it happened: Book #1: Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru.

I defended my dissertation in May of 2005, and immediately began to revise my dissertation with an eye towards turning it into a book. I wrote a new chapter in the Spring of 2006, and another new chapter in the Fall. In January 2007, I submitted a proposal to several presses. To my delight, one editor was interested, and asked for four chapters. I got busy and sent those to her the following month. She was remarkably efficient, and got reviews by the May 2007. One of the reviewers thought the manuscript had promise. The other disagreed. The editor told me that I could submit the complete manuscript after a major revision.

I then spent the summer in Peru collecting more data for the book. I did some more historical work and ethnography and came back from the summer to the University of Illinois at Chicago where I had a post-doctoral fellowship. I dug in and began to revise the manuscript. By February 2008, I had a revised manuscript. I thought it was much better, and decided to submit it to what I considered my dream press. The editor expressed interest and sent the full manuscript out for review. A full year later, in February 2009, she had the reviews in hand. One was positive and hopeful about the book. The other two disagreed. The editor decided, based on the reviews, not to move forward. I was devastated, but determined to publish this book. I revised it yet again, aiming to develop a consistent argument and theoretical line that carried through the text. In May 2009, I sent it to a third press.

This press, the University Press of Florida, was efficient, and had reviews in by November 2009. The two reviews were positive, and the revisions they suggested were minor. Finally! I made those revisions, and submitted the final draft for publication in March 2010. A year later, in March 2011, the book appeared in print.

Now, we get to book #2: Immigration Nation.

You might have noticed in the story above that there were long stretches of time when Book #1 was under review. The first time was in the Spring of 2007. At that time, the book was incomplete, so I continued to work on the chapters. But, I also spent some time on my new project on immigration policy. The second time was between February 2008 and February 2009: a whole year. In addition, I was on fellowship between February and August 2008, and had lots of time to write. It was during this time that I drafted what would become the core of Immigration Nation. In the Fall of 2008, I spoke to a few publishers about Immigration Nation, and wrote a proposal. One of the publishers I talked to expressed interest and I shared a few sample chapters with her. However, the book wasn’t finished, and she was dragging her feet. In the summer of 2009, after submitting Yo Soy Negro to Florida, I resolved to finish Immigration Nation.

In August 2009, I had drafted several chapters of Immigration Nation, and sent those to Paradigm Publishers. They were very interested, and gave me an advance contract. They sent the chapters out for review, and I worked on finishing the remainder of the book. Paradigm sent the reviews back to me in February 2010, and I was able to work on the revisions, as I had just sent Yo Soy Negro back to Florida for copyediting. I sent the revised manuscript to Paradigm in April 2010. The editor got back to me with further suggestions for revision, and I worked on those until November 2010, when Immigration Nation finally was ready to move into production. Getting it into production in November 2010 enabled Immigration Nation to appear in print in September 2011.

And, then there was book #3: Due Process Denied.

Once Yo Soy Negro and Immigration Nation were in production, they weren’t completely out of my hands, as I had to complete the copy edits and page proofs. However, those tasks were fairly minor compared to actually writing the books. In the Fall of 2010, a series editor at Routledge approached me and asked if I would like to write a short book on deportations. I said that I would, and agreed to a May 2011 deadline. In February 2011, I decided that I would focus the short book (25,000 words) on the lack of due process in detention and deportation proceedings, a theme I mention in Immigration Nation, but do not develop fully. I worked furiously on the draft, and was able to meet the May 2011 deadline, more or less. The book went out for review. The reviewer was positive, and only suggested minor changes. I revised the book and sent it back to the publisher in the Fall of 2011. The production process was super-quick, and the book appeared in print in February 2012.

So, that’s the story. It took years for me to publish my first book, a fairly normal time for the second, and an abnormally short time for the third, in large part because it is a very short book. I was able to publish the first two in fairly close succession because of the long review process for the first.

Perhaps I do have two secrets to publishing three books in one year: 1) write every day so that you have lots of material to work with and 2) keep submitting your work until it gets published.


  1. I love how you were persistent with the first book. It's a reminder that if at first you don't succeed, etc. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Congratulations on your achievements. Your advice is sound, if aspiring authors will heed it.

  3. Thanks, Chi... It is easier to write about it now that the wounds have healed ;)

  4. This is a terrific story - thanks for sharing it. I love your column, and how you emphasize persistence and consistency. I read your blog every week. Have you considered a Facebook page? (My apologies if you already have one and I missed it.)

  5. This is very helpful as I struggle through my first years of publishing! Thanks for sharing and making the confusing ebb and flow much clearer for us.

  6. I also would like to thank you for sharing your timelines with all of these projects. It shows that persistence pays off.

  7. Dear Dr. Golash-Boza,

    Thanks for sharing this. I have a question about how far along research should be before submitting a contract as I have heard different things from professors. I have heard some claim that you shouldn't start unless you have a contract and other say that the work should be well along. From what you write above, it seems you have followed that latter track, but I wonder if you have any ideas about submitting proposals for early-stage work.


  8. Tucker04: I hadn't really considered a FB page for the blog, but it's an idea to consider. Thanks!

    To the previous anonymous commenter, I think that you should not contact a publisher for your first book until you have a definitive date for finishing the manuscript.

    The only exception is if you really need some proof to show your department of interest from a press. Or, if you are writing a textbook, in which case you shouldn't start without a contract.

    In most fields, you will not get a contract from a university press for a first book unless your book is well along or you have a particularly fabulous dissertation. And, most people should be aiming for a university press for the first book. Again, there are exception.

    Wow, that's a long response. Perhaps this merits a post...

  9. Also loved this post. I think it's especially helpful to know that a book can be rejected a few times or hit a few dead ends, for all sorts of reasons, and ultimately be published, within a reasonable time span. Sending out the first MS is such a daunting task anyway that the fear of rejection can be a bit crippling, even if one has learned to deal with that with journal articles.

  10. i: that is very true. I had received many, many rejections of articles and the rejection of the book manuscript was much more painful. For those of us who plan to rest our tenure case primarily on a book manuscript, it is hard for it not to be the be-all, end-all. But, still getting it rejected in Year 3 is a whole lot better than in Year 5 or 6!

  11. Thanks for the quick response to my question. It was helpful.

  12. Well, there are also fewer options for book publishers (especially in my small field). Take into account methodological preferences, and it's not always just a matter of going for a less prestigious press...

    But at some point you have to try, I guess, and there really is nothing to be gained in aiming for absolute perfection and then having the book rejected in year 6 because the readers don't recognize its absolute perfection!