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Book Submissions

Here we cover some common questions about the initial submission process, from developing your proposal through peer review. For a larger overview of the publishing process at Chicago, please take a look at this page. If your book is under contract and you are getting ready to submit final materials, please consult our manuscript, art, and permissions guidelines.

Before You Submit

Q. Is Chicago currently publishing in my area?

A. Check out our acquisitions editors’ profiles. You can also search our catalog by subject to see what we’ve published recently. (Be sure to uncheck the box next to “Distributed Presses.”) If you are interested in publishing with one of our distribution clients, please contact that press directly.

Q. Do I need an introduction to get an editor's attention?

A. No! We’re happy to hear from you directly. That said, it’s also nice to know if you have ties to someone who has published their own book here.

Q. When should I first contact an editor?

A. Editors want to hear from you when you can give them a detailed picture of what your book is about, why it will be interesting, who will want to read it, and why Chicago would be a good home for it. (If it’s still just an idea or a sketch, it’s probably too soon unless you already have a working relationship with the editor.) In most cases, you should have at least a book proposal drafted.

Q. What if it seems like more than one editor might be interested in my book?

A. Write to the editor who you feel is closest to your work’s subject area, but do ask if another editor might be better suited to it. Do not write to more than one editor—that can only create confusion!

Q. Do I have to submit to a series?

A. No. Most of our books are not published in series. Do take a look at our list of series, though, since you might find a good match there. (Again, be sure to uncheck the box next to “Distributed Presses.”)

Q. What makes for a good book proposal?

A. There is no strict format for a book proposal, but a good one will typically include:

  • A brief overview of the work and its main argument. Show us what makes your work distinctive, groundbreaking, revelatory, necessary, or field-changing. The style of your prose should match the style you envision for the manuscript itself.
  • An annotated table of contents with brief descriptions of each chapter. Show us how the argument builds and what the manuscript does overall.
  • Your sense of which audiences will be most excited by your work and why. Be realistic! Some books can indeed attract a broad range of readers, but much scholarly work is targeted toward particular fields and practitioners. Even within the academy, some work will be well suited to the undergraduate classroom, but much of it is going to better contribute to graduate seminars or higher-level conversations.
  • A discussion of what existing books you see as comparable, especially those published within the last few years. If you’re writing something scholarly, discuss other scholarly books; if you are writing for a general audience, focus on trade books.
  • The projected length (in words, not pages) of the text, notes, and bibliography, if you plan to include one; the projected number of illustrations; and—if you don’t already have a complete manuscript—a sense of when you will have a full draft.
  • A brief biography of you. What makes you the best person to write this story, and what can you bring to it that other authors might not?

Individual editors might ask for additional materials. There is no required length for a proposal, but they typically run 5–15 single-spaced pages. For more specific guidance on crafting a proposal, we recommend chapter 5 of William Germano’s Getting It Published.

Q. Why is it important to discuss comparable titles in my proposal?

A. Comparable titles tell us a great deal about how you see your work within the larger world of scholarly or trade books. Editors will have thoughts on this as well, but your perspective here helps us understand what debates you see yourself contributing to, which scholarly fields your book is most deeply rooted in, and the kinds of audiences you hope to reach. Including books that Chicago has published also shows why your work might be an especially good fit here.

Q. Can I send my proposal to other publishers at the same time?

A. Yes, but if you are sending your proposal to multiple presses, please mention that in your cover letter. If the editor is interested in your work, you can discuss with them whether to offer exclusive review and for how long.

Q. One of my chapters was or will be published as a journal article or in an edited collection; do you care?

A. You should let us know, but in most cases it’s not a problem. If we do agree to publish your book, you will need to look into permission to reuse the material and make sure it is properly attributed. We can advise you on the specifics of this.

Q. Do you publish Open Access?

A. We are happy to consider Open Access publication on a case-by-case basis. Further information can be found here.

Q. Do you publish fiction or contemporary poetry? What about reprints or revised editions of older books?

A. We do not publish original fiction. We do occasionally reissue classic novels, and we have published fiction in translation. For poetry, our Phoenix Poets series is open to submissions each October. We do consider new editions of books if paperback and ebook rights are available. If you have suggestions, please contact our reprints editor, David B. Olsen (

Q. Will you distribute a book that my institution is publishing?

A. We’re unlikely to distribute a solo title, but if you are a press interested in becoming a distribution client, please contact our marketing director, Levi Stahl (

What and How to Submit

Q. How should I submit my materials?

A. Please submit your materials to the appropriate acquisitions editor via email. Please do not send us a hard copy of your submission.

Q. If my full manuscript is prepared, do I still need to send a proposal? Can't I just send the manuscript?

A. Some editors like to see a proposal along with the full manuscript, as the proposal can offer a concise overview of your project’s aims, its fit within the literature, and potential audiences. You can ask the appropriate acquisitions editor what they would prefer.

Q. Should I send my manuscript as one file or as multiple files?

A. One combined file is generally preferred, but separate chapters are fine as well.

Q. Should I send images in a single PDF or in the text itself?

A. You may embed images in the text with your initial submission, as long as the document is not so large as to be cumbersome to email or edit. If it is, a separate PDF of images is also fine. Again, you can always ask the editor what they prefer. (Later in the process, you’ll need to submit images according to our guidelines here. Please note that we generally will not create new artwork or make significant modifications to image files.)

Q. Do I need a sample chapter?

A. It helps to provide at least one sample chapter with your proposal, though it is not required with an initial submission. If an editor is interested in your project, they will likely ask for more material.

Q. Should I format my notes as footnotes or endnotes?

A. For the initial submission, either is fine. We prefer endnotes in our published books, but it is sometimes easier for peer reviewers to assess text with footnotes.

After You Submit

Q. After I submit my proposal, what are the next steps? When should I expect to hear back?

A. Editors’ response times vary, but we try to offer at least an initial response within three to four weeks. We have to be very selective about projects, and there are many considerations that go into our decision process. Even if we decline to go further with you, another press could well be interested.

Q. If you do start peer review on my project, what can I expect? How long does it take?

A. We use single-blind peer review for both proposals and completed manuscripts: the readers know who you are, but we won’t reveal their identities to you. Your materials will be reviewed by at least two readers at each round of peer review. To learn more about how university presses approach peer review, see the AUPresses best practices.

The timeline for each round of peer review varies widely; your editor will discuss the details with you. If you have specific time constraints or concerns, please let your editor know.

Q. Do I need to suggest peer reviewers?

A. We welcome your suggestions for possible readers before peer review begins, though your editor may choose different readers than the ones you suggested. When suggesting readers, please note any existing personal or professional relationships. You should also let us know if, for whatever reason, we should avoid someone as a potential reader.

Q. How long does the rest of the publishing process take?

A. The timeline varies. For an overview, see this page.

Q. What if I have a question that hasn’t been answered here or anywhere else on this site?

A. Ask an acquisitions editor! We’re always happy to help.


Prospective authors are encouraged to consult:

Getting It Published, 3rd Edition

Getting It Published, 3rd Edition

A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books

William P. Germano

April 2016

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