Writing Successful Academic Books

by Anthony Haynes (Cambridge University Press, 2010): 192pp, £44.99 (hbk), £16.99 (pbk), ISBN 978 0521514989.

Reviewed by Barbara Horn

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Although success cannot be guaranteed, if everyone who wants to write an academic (or other non-fiction) book would read this clearly written and practical text before they begin, they, their publishers and their editors would benefit.

Explicit advice

'Part 1: Becoming an author' covers: why and what to write; the publishing world as it is now and the impact digital technology is having; getting commissioned; and understanding and negotiating contracts. There is also advice about literary agents, though none about what the average academic author might really earn.

'Part 2: Writing the text' advises on the processes of writing, from planning through presentation, including content and tone, the use of tables and figures, avoiding notes, and turning a dissertation into a monograph. Most of this information is general – there is, for example, no detail on creating tables or notes, perhaps on the mistaken assumption that all academics know how to do it – but there are books offering explicit advice in the list of references.


The SfEP membership might applaud 'Part 3: Managing the project' as it not only strives to get authors to establish writing schedules, but also explains all the people involved in the publishing process – both the SfEP and the Society of Indexers are mentioned. Each chapter ends with a summary list of points.

The appendices include guidelines for a book proposal, plus a sample of one, and a brief list of points to look for in, and questions to ask about, contracts. A few of the 'Notes' are references but most are editorial. Organised by chapter, they are not keyed into the text, so you have to notice them on the contents page if you want to read them in conjunction with the chapter. Oddly, the 'References' section is really a further reading list.

Minor quibbles

There are other minor quibbles – an error in arithmetic explaining the difference between royalties based on list price and on net receipts, a very narrow definition of the moral right of integrity – but overall it's a very useful book.

Note: The hardback price may seem quite a lot for a rather slim volume, but the prices of the paperback version (£13.99) and the Kindle (£10.74) are more reasonable.

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