University presses welcome book proposals from recent PhDs, postdocs, adjuncts, and emeritus professors, as well as nonteaching and independent scholars, journalists, activists, and policymakers or government officials. Acquisitions editors are aware that trained scholars may not find academic positions or may choose not to work in higher education but nonetheless remain engaged in scholarly research. In addition, scholarly publishers also publish books in many fields for which an academic teaching position, or academic training, is not necessarily a benchmark, such as literary nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, architecture, and photography. Some of the books university presses publish by authors without university positions are aimed at an educated general readership, such as books on local history, quite a few of which are authored by non-academics with a passion for archival research, or books about public policy that might be written by current or past government officials. For publishers, if the topic aligns with their lists and the project successfully passes peer review, the author’s employment may not be relevant.
That being said, proposals from those who don’t have positions at a university or college, or those with contingent or staff positions at a university or college, may face greater scrutiny than proposals from tenure-track scholars. To editors, a tenure-track appointment implies that a scholar has been (recently) vetted, that their research is of interest to others in their field, and that they have the support—and incentive—necessary to complete their book project. While it is on presses and other academic institutions to work against the bias implicit in this line of thinking, nontenure-track scholars can help themselves by writing a strong proposal. This proposal should clearly demonstrate how your project engages with the latest scholarship in your field and be specific and realistic about who will be interested in your book. You should also clearly outline that you have the means to complete the research and writing, if they aren’t already complete, in the absence of university resources.
—Michigan State University Press, February 2021