Writing and Publishing

Turning a Dissertation into a Book

Ever since I finished my dissertation three years ago, my plan was to turn it into a book. Actually a dissertation is already a book. Mine weighs in at 40,000 words. What I mean is that I want to turn dissertation into a marketable book. Dissertations are not marketable. They are academic and boring. I suspect the only people who actually read dissertations are the instructors who have to and other students doing research for their dissertations.

In fact, turning my dissertation into a marketable form was one of my goals for 2013. Alas, I didn’t achieve that objective. In truth, I never started it. Other writing projects were more interesting and got in the way.

However, the project is back on. I recently generated some interest in the book version of my dissertation, and an editor asked for a proposal. Book proposals are arduous affairs—at least for me. You need to talk about platform and marketing. You need an annotated outline and you need three sample chapters. Yuck.

The outline was easy enough, but it also revealed that the order of my dissertation—as necessitated by academic requirements—would not work for a book. I would need to move sections around and merge other segments for people to actually want to read it and not give up.

For the sample chapters, I pulled out three of the more straightforward portions of my dissertation and set down to edit them. My plan was to pull out the arcane requirements, remove the formerly required repetition, simplify long sentences, and replace the big words. I often do this type of editing at work, so I thought it would be easy for my book. I was wrong.

Turning my dissertation into a book is not going to be an easy edit but a complete rewrite. It won’t be something I can crank out in a week or two. It will take months. I’m not complaining—because I desperately want a larger audience to read my ideas—but the amount of time and work required discourages me.

This points to a larger issue for me. Though I can accurately estimate the time required for smaller projects, such as blog posts, articles, short stories, and freelance assignments, I often struggle to realistically project the amount of time it will take to write books.

Though I know how many words I can write per hour, after a few weeks of staying on track, something inevitably conspires to derail me.

The book version of my dissertation is presently on hold as I await feedback from the editor. However, I may be starting another book next week. And this one will have a deadline. I hope my time estimate is realistic and feasible.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.