How to Turn Your Ph.D. Dissertation into a Book

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You worked so hard on your Ph.D. dissertation that you want it to have a life outside your university library and academic journals. An excellent way to achieve that is by turning it into a book. 

Writing any book takes significant time and effort. Whether you decide to pitch yours as an academic or general interest book, you can’t just send your dissertation to an agent or a publisher and expect them to see the potential—you have to make them believe it with a compelling full-length manuscript. 

If you’ve already written the first draft of your book and want an expert to eliminate any grammar and style issues before you submit your manuscript to an agent or a publisher, check out our combined proofreading and editing service for academic texts. If you’re working with a niche topic that requires specialist knowledge, just let us know—we have editors with expertise in numerous fields. In case you’re just getting started, here are a few tips to help you successfully turn your Ph.D. dissertation into a book. 

1. Structure and outline your book 

Creating an outline of your dissertation’s contents is an essential first step in adapting it into a full-length book. In fact, drafting a solid outline is a good idea when you’re writing any type of book. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you have enough material for an entire book, and if not, whether you can feasibly supplement and expand what you currently have. If the answer is no, then maybe you should think about turning your thesis into a journal article first and grow it from there. You may be able to convert future papers or a collection of papers into a book.

If you do have enough material for a book, you need to decide whether you want to focus on specific aspects of your thesis or expand on it as a whole. These creative choices will determine the tone and themes of your book, so consider them carefully and study all your options. The level of detail will partially depend on how familiar your target audience already is with your field.

On that note, you have to think about your target audience. Who is your ideal reader? Will your topic appeal to a large audience, or is it more of a niche subject? If you’re aiming for a broader reach, how can you adapt your tone, style, and language to satisfy your readers? Do you need to expand your topic to help sell it to your audience or to flesh it out into a full-length book? These are the types of questions an agent or a publisher will ask, so it’s best to have a clear idea of what you’re aiming for before you start writing. 

An outline will reveal not only how much rearranging and rewriting you need to do but also what is missing from your research. It’s normal to have to move sections around, drop ideas, or expand on your findings, and outlining your book is the perfect way to figure out what to keep and what to let go. If you jump right into writing your book, you’ll just set yourself up for much more substantial revisions down the road. 

2. Do additional research

If your outline reveals gaps in your research, filling them should be your next step. You may also need to dig deeper into certain aspects of your topic to generate more content for your book. 

Don’t start writing before you’ve gathered all the information you need—you can’t know what your new research will bring up, and unexpected results could precipitate in-depth revisions of your content. Whatever new research you conduct, you should position it within your outline so you can see exactly how it will mesh with the rest of your book. 

Additional research also presents a great opportunity to find quotes and citations you can include in your book to add weight to your conclusions and provide context for your thesis. Regardless of what your dissertation is about or how deep it delves, there are always ways to add credibility and value, and this is the right time to think about that.

3. Flesh out your dissertation

Converting your dissertation into a full-length book won’t be a straightforward process. First, you’ll have to flesh it out. Armed with your outline and additional research, you can start adapting it. From this point on, your original thesis will serve as a roadmap, an index packed with all the information you need to move forward. This stage may be more labor-intensive than you expect because you won’t just be copy-pasting the material. Remember that you’re not publishing your dissertation as a book—you’re converting it into a book. 

The academic writing style is far too stiff for most books, especially if you’re targeting a general audience, so you’ll want to adapt your tone and language to make your book more engaging to read than your dissertation. Your book should be imbued with your personality, your voice should be sharp and original, and the prose should be compelling and easy to follow. Therefore, make sure you focus on readability when converting your academic work, but don’t fixate on making the writing perfect—first drafts are never perfect. Just get it all out on the page—you’ll revise it later.

4. Pick a title for your book 

You’ve probably been brainstorming titles ever since the thought of converting your dissertation into a book popped into your head. Now is the time to make some choices. You might decide to use the title of your original paper, but keep in mind that a book, especially one intended to appeal to a broader audience, needs a catchy title. Academic titles tend to follow certain patterns that aren’t necessarily appropriate for general-purpose books, so make sure you choose something that not only reflects the content of your book but also intrigues the reader and makes them want to find out more. The same goes for your book chapters if you decide to title rather than number them. 

If you’re planning to release your book through a traditional publisher, it’s worth noting that the publisher may choose the title for you. Even if you’re not happy with it, you’ll have signed over many of your creative rights as part of your publishing deal, so you most likely won’t have a say in this. Still, you should have a title or two ready—the publisher may just go with one of your suggestions.

5. Revise and edit your book 

Once your first draft is complete, it’s time to start revising and editing your manuscript. Although we do suggest doing at least one round of self-editing, there’s no substitute for hiring a professional editor and proofreader—they will help not only with grammar, spelling, and punctuation but also with structure and formatting. Even if you’re a fantastic writer, professional editing services are indispensable since it’s almost impossible to effectively edit your own work. You’re just too familiar with it, and your brain will skate over silly typos because you know what you intended to have there.

Converting your dissertation into a full-length book is not an easy task—it will require time, focus, and a lot of work. When done successfully, it can open many doors and propel your career to new heights. If you’re ready to start working with professional editors, fill out this quick form to get an instant quote and determine the most appropriate service for your project. 

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