Free Advice from Aunt B.

And it’s really good advice, too: how to write an academic book that folks might actually want to read.

Though she doesn’t quite say so, many of the points she makes–particularly that, with respect to outside sources, “[e]ither they prove you right or you prove them wrong or they don’t get to be in your book,” and, with respect to audience, that you shouldn’t “write for the four people who know more about your subject than you do. They aren’t going to buy your book. Write for the five thousand people who are smart and curious but don’t know as much about your subject as they should”–are precisely the differences between a dissertation and a book.

The first trick, I think, in revising your dissertation into a book is to take all of that stuff–the outside sources who are there only to prove that you’ve consulted them; the references designed to demonstrate to the four people who are reading your dissertation that you really do know your field–and stick it in the footnotes. It’s not part of the flow of your argument, so into the backmatter it goes.

The second trick, however, is to eliminate the half of your footnotes that really aren’t that important, after all.

Are there other tricks and tips you’d care to share?

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