Publishing with Chicago
The University of Chicago Press is defined by its history, range, and taste for experimentation. We publish books that ask big questions in compelling ways. Above all, we’re known for the attention and care we give everything we publish, and for working collaboratively with authors to achieve a shared vision of their books. At every stage of a project—as it moves from an idea to a proposal, a manuscript, a finished book—we work with our authors to ensure that each book reaches its full potential. We enjoy publishing across disciplines and helping to define emerging fields. We take pride in publishing rigorous works of scholarly inquiry, but we do not publish “monographs” intended only for the library market. Is our editorial program a good match for your book? Have a look at our seasonal catalogs, our acquisitions editors’ profiles, and this history of the Press to get a sense of our lists.
What to Expect When You Publish with Us
Here we’re going to sketch the main elements of our processes, but keep in mind that there can be a lot of fluidity at each stage. Every author, every editor, and every book is distinctive; one size never fits all.
First Contact and Development: Meet Your Acquisitions Editor
Your first contact at the Press is an acquisitions editor, who will determine whether your project is a fit for us. Our acquisitions editors cover particular fields and carefully curate their lists, often with the help of series editors and other advisors. They build on our strengths while looking for new avenues to explore. Most acquisitions editors are assisted by an editorial associate or assistant editor. You may not meet them immediately, but they’ll be supporting your editor’s work on your book right from the start.
We are always interested to hear from prospective authors and from literary agents, and we welcome a wide variety of book proposals. We’re open to proposals from authors at any career stage and from those outside the academic world. Our editors enjoy working with authors to shape projects at early stages, so we especially welcome proposals for works in progress. However, we’re also happy to consider complete, well-developed manuscripts.
As a first step, please browse our acquisitions editors’ profiles to see which editor might be the best match for you and to confirm that we are currently publishing in your area. Since our editors collaborate closely with one another, especially in interdisciplinary areas, please send your project to only one editor; if that editor thinks your book will be a better fit for a colleague, they will share it.
We also publish a wide variety of series, each sponsored by a particular acquisitions editor and cultivated by key scholars in the field who provide an extra level of editorial support as books develop. Check our series descriptions to find out more.
For more detailed submission guidelines, including suggestions for how to develop a book proposal, please see our submissions information page here.
If our acquisitions editor is enthusiastic about your book project, the likely next step is to send your materials out for peer review. We often review projects at an early stage, seeking preliminary readers’ reports on a proposal and sample chapter(s); in other cases, peer review may begin with a completed draft of your manuscript. We consider many factors when choosing reviewers, including area expertise, judiciousness, equity, and balance of interests. We work actively to counter bias in selecting reviewers, abiding by the AUP Best Practices for Peer Review. Once we’ve received the reports, your editor will usually ask for a response that engages with the feedback. Your acquisitions editor will be your main contact and guide during the review process, though you may also communicate with the editorial associate or assistant editor.
Editorial Committee and Faculty Board Approvals
If, after review, the acquisitions editor decides to move ahead with your project, that editor will bring it to our Editorial Committee, which includes acquisitions and marketing staff, as well as the Press’s director. Should the committee approve, a book can take one of two paths. If the book is in its early stages, we may offer a contract contingent on later review of the completed manuscript and approval by our faculty Board of Publications (an “advance contract”). Alternatively, if the manuscript is complete, the Editorial Committee may send the project directly to our faculty Board for approval, with a final contract to follow. All books published by the Press require approval by our faculty Board, which is composed of some dozen UChicago faculty from a range of disciplines.
Your Book Is Approved: What’s Next?
The contract for your book includes two especially important details: the manuscript specifications (length and number of illustrations), and the date that you will deliver the full (or fully revised) manuscript. The contract is also where you guarantee the originality of your work, as well as where we establish who controls which rights, how you will get paid, and what happens if we want to issue a new edition. Please read your contract carefully and discuss any concerns or questions you have with your acquisitions editor. Please be aware that although some aspects of the contract are negotiable, others are not. If you are represented by a literary agent, you are welcome to have the agent negotiate on your behalf.
If your book has modest sales potential or special production needs, your editor might also want to talk about subsidies (aka, subventions) at this point. The economics of scholarly publishing are perilous, and it can be extremely helpful to draw on funds that might be available from your institution or an organization with an interest in your field—you should ask around. We can strategize with you about grants that either you or we might apply for. We also have a range of small internal funds that can help defray production costs. In most cases, publication at Chicago is not contingent on subsidies.
Open Access publication, on the other hand, does depend on publication fees. If your work carries an OA requirement, please discuss this with your editor as early as possible. For information on OA at Chicago, please click here.
Revision and Final Submission
So now you have a due date! Time to get going on your revisions. Those can take many forms. Sometimes you’ll just be polishing things up. Other times, you’ll be doing further research, writing new chapters, or restructuring your argument. Your editor will help evaluate your work and guide you through whatever challenges you encounter along the way. If you received an advance contract, your revised manuscript will go back out for review.
As you are putting the finishing touches on your manuscript, you should also start preparing any other materials specified in your contract, such as photos, line art, musical examples, and tables. You may need to secure permission from appropriate rights holders for any third-party illustrative materials or text you want to use. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for the cost of permissions or any commissioned work required for these supplementary materials.
To guide you through this stage, we provide detailed instructions on
You will work closely with your editorial associate or assistant editor on final submission of these materials. At this stage, you should also inform us of any specific requests you have for copyediting or design, and if there are aspects of the manuscript that will require special attention. We will also want to know your suggestions for the cover and any critical scheduling details, such as an upcoming review for tenure or promotion.
Once your manuscript, art, and permissions are finalized, your editorial associate or assistant editor will pass everything along to your production team. We call this moment “transmittal.” Typically, two weeks after transmittal, all the Press staffers involved with your book (about a dozen people) will meet to launch the book, reviewing the schedule, marketing, design, metadata, and other details. This is also when your book’s title and pricing are finalized. Your editor will follow up after that with many details for you about the process to come.
Production: Meet Your Production Editor
At this point, your acquisitions team will take a step back. Your production editor will be your point of contact as your book is copyedited, designed, typeset, and proofread.
The production editor will oversee the copyediting (or, in some cases, they might serve as the copy editor themselves). Your copy editor will go through your manuscript carefully, correcting grammar, style, and typos; they will ask you a variety of questions, but they do not typically do the kind of conceptual work you may have done with your acquisitions editor. You will have two or three weeks to review the copyeditor’s work and to further refine your manuscript, but this is your last opportunity to make substantive changes.
Design and Typesetting
Meanwhile, your designer is working on the cover and interior design. We have our own staff of talented, professional designers, who work closely with marketing and acquisitions staff, and we pride ourselves on our distinctive book designs. Your editor welcomes your suggestions for the design before transmittal and will share them for consideration with the designer and the rest of the Press. We will send you the design before making it official. Once the cover is finalized and appears on your book’s page on our website, please feel free to circulate it widely!
Proofs and Indexing
The last stage of production before your book is printed and sent out into the world is proofreading and indexing. We will send you page proofs, which you will proofread for typos and other minor errors.
This is also when you will prepare the index. If you are new to indexing, never fear: your production editor will send you detailed instructions. If you prefer to hire a freelancer to prepare the index for you, your production editor can provide you with names of some of our regulars if you let us know in advance.
Beyond Production: Meet Your Promotions Manager
Back when your book was transmitted, your acquisitions editor introduced you to the book’s promotions manager. We are unusual in having promotions managers dedicated to specific subject areas and experienced in positioning books within and across related fields.
Marketing and Publicity
Your promotions manager will send you a detailed questionnaire that you should fill out carefully and completely, covering subjects like awards, conferences, review copies, and more.
Typically, your promotions manager will promote your book to a wide range of journals and other media, ensure that it is displayed at relevant conferences, assist in planning events, and otherwise coordinate our promotional efforts. At publication, they will provide you with a list of all the review copies that they have sent out so far and sketch the plan for further promotion from there. Please keep your promotions manager in the loop about all your publicity activities!
When the book is published, we can do a lot to make readers aware of it, but you will always be its best ambassador. (Who knows your book better than you do? Nobody!) We’ll help you capitalize on your professional and personal networks to get word of your book out—why do all this work and then be shy about the result? What we all want more than anything is for your book to be purchased, read, and talked about, even argued over. It may take time for a book to have its full impact, but we support our titles year after year. If you’d like a more detailed overview of how our marketing department works with you and ideas for self-promotion, please click here.
Translation and Subsidiary Rights
At Chicago, we have a global network of publishing partners. These include potential licensees, including foreign publishers. Well before your book is released, our international and subsidiary rights team is thinking about licensing opportunities.
Translations: Our international rights team has licensed thousands of translations in more than 40 languages to publishers in China, France, Spain, and Turkey, to name just a few. They typically pitch our books to foreign-language publishers at major publishing gatherings like the London Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Beijing Book Fair, and the Guadalajara International Book Fair. But if you already have a contact at a foreign publisher, we can work with them, too.
Subsidiary Rights: In addition to translations, we have a team working on subsidiary and other licensing opportunities for your book, such as audiobooks, film, television, and even the stage. We’ll let you know, of course, if a publisher expresses interest in licensing your book, but we typically handle all the complexities for you.
Your Book Is Published: What’s Next?
Distribution, Print, and Digital
All of our books are published simultaneously in print and digitally. Digital distribution includes e-books in a variety of formats, using a number of pathways. Many university and college libraries now favor digital editions, which they buy either directly from us or as part of a package, such as those offered through University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO). Chicago has been a pioneer of digital books; we published our first e-book in 1993, and our experience with multiple e-book platforms greatly increases the accessibility of our catalog. Our warehousing and fulfillment is provided by the Chicago Distribution Center, a division of the Press and a respected distribution business serving over a hundred other publishers, including more than 35 other North American university presses.
As the largest American university press, we are the only one to maintain an in-house domestic sales staff, rather than relying entirely on commissioned sales representatives. Our reps directly pitch your book to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the major wholesalers, as well as to independent bookstores nationwide. Our sales network also extends globally, with partnerships that place our books in stores and libraries across the world.
The Long Game
Once you publish with us, we will always think of you as a Chicago author and will likely keep your book in print indefinitely. We keep a close watch on sales and inventory, and will reprint your book whenever necessary and feasible. If your work takes on particular prominence and there have been important new developments in your field, we might ask you about publishing a new edition. If you have questions, or if fresh opportunities to promote your work arise, we’ll always want to hear from you. This is from the outset, you will recall, a partnership—and one we are eager to begin. Our acquisitions editors look forward to hearing from you!