Talking to Publishers

I just started investigating publishing options for my book manuscript and got my first rejection letter. That is, I apparently hadn’t described the book very well, and the publisher rejected a manuscript I’m not in fact writing.

Said I, “The book’s about elite settlements in late-1st Millennium Scandinavia and its working title is ‘Mead-Halls of the Eastern Geats'”.

Said they, “No thanks, we mainly publish prehistoric archaeology, not Medieval history, and not much about Scandinavia”.

Replied I, “Err, actually, the 1st Millennium is Prehistory. In Scandinavia, that is. We don’t have any written sources. So my book’s an archaeological study, and relevant to that same period in your part of the world.”

Update 16 May: Come autumn, I hope to be able to submit the manuscript here for blog-based peer review.


  1. #1 ArchAsa
    May 15, 2009

    Surreal. Brian Fagan has published a book called “Writing Archaeology” where he collects his best tips and experience of dealing with publishers and making them understand why they should publish his books. He seems mildly succesful on that count, so it may be worth checking it out to see how to communicate with these strange aliens…

  2. #2 Alice Kehoe
    May 15, 2009

    Yes, now you see why the 1st millenium is the Dark Ages. I think Brian Fagan probably has an agent BUT I’ve been wholly unsuccessful in getting an agent; actual archaeologists supposedly can’t write books that can go on the trade-book market, and agents are only interested in that market. One reads about terrible novelists whose masterpieces were drastically edited by great editors, and sees bombastic egos such as James Adovasio getting novelists to co-author awful books, while sensible empiricist archaeologists go begging.

  3. #3 Martin R
    May 16, 2009

    This is a non-fic book written mainly for archaeologists, I’m afraid — pros, amateurs and students.

  4. #4 DianaGainer
    May 16, 2009

    At the risk of sounding like a sales person for Amazon’s Kindle, why not put it out for the Kindle? You just write it up the way you want it, then publish it directly, through the handy dandy electronic interface, with or without illustrations. You don’t need an agent that way. People with Kindles (like me) can read it, for a small fee, by uploading it. Nowadays, people with the iPod can also upload it and read the eensy weensy print there. Also folks with other electronic devices can access it, all for that same nominal fee. You set that nominal fee, by the way. The downside is that you do your own advertising. But you’re listed on Amazon, which sells lots of books. You can also do your own rave review, if you like. Or I will. I would very much enjoy reading about Mead Halls of those Geats, whether eastern or western. Can’t get much about them in local bookstores in Texas.

  5. #5 Martin R
    May 16, 2009

    That’s not a bad idea. But one of the reasons I’m writing a book (and not a series of papers) is that I need one to get on with my career. And I’m not sure that the Swedish university system will recognise a collection of writings self-published for the Kindle as “a book”.

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