Greetings from the UNC Press Acquisitions team! We develop and acquire the books UNC Press publishes, and this is where the publishing process starts. We hope the core steps outlined below help illuminate the path you and your project might take through our department. Because we pride ourselves on offering each author a personalized experience, every trajectory will vary a little. If you have any questions, just be in touch with the appropriate member of the acquisitions team.
Contracted authors may upload any documents requested here via our secure Author Portal. Password required.
There are many ways to get in touch with our editors. We welcome initial informal inquiries by email, regularly engage with prospective authors on social media, and are glad when you introduce yourself and your project to us at one of the many academic conferences we attend.
However, before you get in touch with us in person or electronically, we recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with the general contours of the Press’s publishing program. Each editor curates and builds a list in a number of subject areas and acquires books for designated series. Learn about who does what through the Meet Our Editorial Staff page. By directing your work to the editor whose acquiring interests are best aligned with your book’s subject, you can ensure that your submission will land in the right hands from the start.
After determining the best editor to approach, email is the best way to reach out. Send a message introducing yourself and your project, and be prepared to offer a book proposal or materials from your manuscript. The editorial team will be in touch as soon as possible, generally within a matter of a week or two.
Before we see your manuscript, first we’ll typically want to review a proposal for your project. Sometimes a proposal is the first time we hear about a great project. Sometimes a proposal comes after an author has already been in conversation with an editor. Either way, the proposal is the first formal written document that can be shared for discussion and review by our acquisitions editors. For details on how to prepare your proposal, see the Submitting Proposals section on our For Prospective Authors page. We welcome agented submissions for general interest and crossover books.
Author and Manuscript Inquiry Form
If invited to submit a partial or complete manuscript for review, your editor may ask you to complete an Author and Manuscript Inquiry Form (AMI), which provides us with pertinent information about yourself and your work. Please take the time to fill out this form carefully and completely as it plays an important role in our review process.
Submitting Your Manuscript
In general, you should only submit your full manuscript to the Press after an editor has invited it for review. Our editorial team will first complete an in-office review, meant to determine the work’s general suitability for our list and readiness for peer review. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. You should always feel free to ask your editor for an estimated schedule for this part of the process. Thereafter, your editor may decline further consideration, invite you to revise and resubmit the manuscript, or send the work to peer reviewers.
We expect every manuscript will improve through revision and editing as a part of the review process, but we expect generally clean copy with minimal typos, spelling errors, or other infelicities. Any citations (eg. notes and bibliography) should be complete. If you expect to include illustrations in your book, preliminary copies and captions are welcome but not required, and we do not expect you to have high-resolution reproductions or permissions at this early stage of review. Submit the manuscript in one digital file (MS Word strongly preferred), with a title page, table of contents, and clear chapter headings. Please consecutively paginate the manuscript and prepare it in a standard 12-point font, double-spaced for easy reading. For other general formatting advice, please consult the UNC Press Manuscript Formatting Guide below.
The Guide is geared specifically to your FINAL manuscript that will be transmitted for copyediting after peer review and final approval by our Board of Governors. Manuscripts submitted for peer review are not required to follow all the standards below. Nevertheless, because formatting and file naming can involve many small details, we urge you to begin this work as soon as possible.
Manuscripts invited for review will receive our careful attention. If the in-office review process confirms an editor’s interest and the manuscript’s readiness, the next step involves formal peer review. Peer review is a hallmark of university press publishing. To learn more about the peer review process, we strongly encourage authors to familiarize themselves with the Association of University Presses’ Best Practices for Peer Review. This document offers a detailed overview of how university press acquisitions editors typically approach the peer review process. There are variations from publisher to publisher, however; when in doubt, ask your editor.
The Board of Governors of UNC Press, which authorizes all publications, requires that every manuscript recommended to it by the Press have the written support of at least two outside peer reviewers. Their reports are made on a confidential basis, and copies are sent to the author. As our reviewers are generally distinguished and experienced authors and commit their time and perspective as a service to the scholarly publishing community, this part of the evaluation process can be time-consuming. We do our best to provide authors with thoughtful and useful responses to their manuscripts within a reasonable amount of time, and we keep authors informed throughout.
The review process represents an investment of intellectual concern, time, and money. When we engage outside readers for peer review, we prefer to be the only press considering your manuscript. We are willing, however, to consider simultaneous submissions on a case-by-case basis.
Because UNC Press publishes general interest books as well as scholarly works, we adapt our peer review processes regularly to suit the needs of every manuscript; a manuscript by a journalist or other writer outside the academy will have different kinds of “peers” than a work produced for readers in a scholarly community. The experienced team of editors at the Press is ready to help authors experience a peer review process that is ideally suited to a book and its aims.
Receiving and Accepting a Contract
A contract creates the binding legal commitments necessary for you as an author and UNC Press as publisher to produce your book. Before offering a contract, the Press will have completed an internal review of a work’s editorial merits (often complemented by external peer review) as well as an evaluation of a preliminary financial plan for the book’s publication. The Press’s director, acquisitions team, marketing team, and other key staff participate in the decision-making process.
All books published under the UNC Press imprint must receive approval from the Press’s Board of Governors before publication, but the Press offers contracts to authors both before and after Board approval. Contracts offered before approval are known as “advance” contracts, and they are fully equivalent to a “standard” (i.e. post-Board approval) contract.
Most of a book’s contract consists of boilerplate legal guarantees meant to establish the roles of the author and the Press and to protect the interests of both parties. This language is largely non-negotiable, but your editor will be prepared to answer questions about the terms and to clarify which terms may be open to negotiation.
Submitting a Revised Manuscript
After an initial round of in-office evaluation and external peer review, it is common that outside readers and/or your editor will ask for substantial revision that could entail changes to the content and structure of the manuscript as well as its presentation/style. In such a case, you and your editor will agree on a deadline to submit a revised manuscript that can be evaluated again before determining whether it is ready for final approval by the Press’s Board of Governors. We expect a revised manuscript will have a higher level of polish, and because it may closely resemble the final manuscript submitted for copyediting (after Board approval is secure), we encourage you to attend more carefully to formatting and presentation before submission. In particular, if you expect the final manuscript to include illustrations, appendixes, etc., please plan to submit these materials in preliminary form so that Press staff can work with you on final details of evaluation and preparation. (For art guidance, see the Acquiring Art section below.) It is common for some preparation to remain, but ideally remaining tasks can be completed in the same time frame that outside readers are finishing their review and your editor is preparing to present the work to the Board of Governors. This advance preparation will help smooth the process of delivering your final manuscript for copyediting.
Our UNC Press Manuscript Formatting Guide provides authors with basic guidelines for manuscript preparation and a general outline of the editorial process that lies ahead. While every book is different and no guide can cover every situation, following the Manuscript Formatting Guide will expedite the copyediting and production of your book.
If you plan to include art in your book—photos, maps, tables, and/or graphs—you’ll need to read and follow our Digital Art Guidelines, below. Many first-time authors aren’t familiar with the requirements for high-resolution art files or the intricacies of map creation, and misunderstandings can cause disappointment, or even delays to your book’s schedule. Communicating early and often with your acquisitions team about your art program and its specific needs is the best way to ensure a smooth process and a well-illustrated book that will be attractive in all its print and e-book formats.
Generally speaking, authors are responsible for the time and any cost associated with securing illustrations in production-ready form.
In a digital world, keeping guidelines up-to-date can often be a challenge. If you have any questions about the Digital Art Guidelines, or if you want to confirm that the information here is current, questions should be directed to email@example.com.
Maps are some of the trickiest pieces of art to prepare for publication, and it’s crucial that you talk to your editor early and often about your map program. There are two approaches to map creation, but regardless of which option you choose, keep in mind that map costs are the author’s responsibility, and all maps must adhere to the Digital Art Guidelines, linked to above.
Option 1. You can work with a cartographer who creates a map to Press specifications. If you choose this option, it is crucial that the mapmaker get in touch with our Production team before beginning the work to ensure they understand our technical and other guidelines.
Option 2. UNC Press can create the map from materials that you provide. First, supply a base map that shows all the information you want included on the map. In addition, you will need to prepare a text (Word doc) file with all of the labels that are to be included on the map, broken down into categories (eg., cities, states, rivers, attractions).
As an author, or as editor of a collective work, your contract with UNC Press places responsibility on you for obtaining the necessary permissions for publication. You may need to seek permission for use of any material in your book—text or image—to which you do not hold the rights and that is protected under copyright law.
The permissions process can take some time, especially if you are planning to include a lot of artwork in your book, or if your book includes substantial extracts from previously published works. Because all rights information must be checked by Press staff before copyediting can begin, any necessary permissions paperwork must be submitted with your final manuscript. We encourage you to start the process early to avoid causing delays to your book’s publication schedule. We also suggest that you run permission forms from outside entities by your acquisitions team.
The UNC Press Guide to Securing Art and Text Permissions, below, will help you understand and navigate the permissions process. We also strongly encourage authors to consider Fair Use Doctrine as it applies to the use of copyrighted material.
Board of Governors Approval
The final step in the peer review approval process is presentation of your project to the Press’s Board of Governors, a body comprised of faculty and others charged with the authority and responsibility to make the requisite, formal decision to publish a work under the Press’s imprint. The Board meets on a regular basis throughout the year, and a docket containing the manuscript’s complete peer review history is presented by the editor to the Board in preparation for the Board’s decision. Once the decision to publish has been made by the Board, a project under “advance contract” can move forward to the final manuscript submission stage. For projects with a “standard contract,” a contract will be drawn up and signed by the author and the Press. After that contract is in full effect, final manuscript submission can proceed.
Learn more about our Board of Governors.
Partnerships & Subventions
A university press is a not-for-profit business, and for most scholarly books, the cost of publication is greater than what is returned through sales. The Press maintains an endowment that helps to offset the difference between publication costs and sales revenue. We also welcome opportunities to work with university departments, centers, and institutes and other grantmaking partners who support publication by subsidizing publisher costs.
Authors based in the academy may also have access to dedicated funds from their college or university, often called subvention, to support faculty publications. We encourage authors to investigate possible subvention sources; deans or department heads, especially at research universities, may have access to these funds. We are happy to provide support for these inquiries and regularly provide supporting letters or budget documentation.
The decision to publish a book is not dependent on subvention but rather on the editorial merit of the work and its likely impact. We do not accept subventions directly from an author.
Learn more about other types of fundraising we do to support our books.
Marketing Author Questionnaire
The Marketing Author Questionnaire (AQ) will be sent to you just after your project is approved by the Board of Governors. This will assure that we can consider your suggestions in advance of our launch meeting with the editorial and production departments where we discuss the plans for your book.
The Marketing AQ will ask you to provide critical information necessary for the promotion of your book. Things like keywords for metadata and search engine discoverability, key features of your book, competitive titles, and more. We’ll also ask you for:
- A description of the readership and audience profile: is your book intended for general readers, scholars and researchers, students, or for course adoption? In many cases, the answer will be all or most of the above;
- Any publicity or reviewer contacts you might have, and a list of the relevant journals and publications where review copies should be sent;
- Any local contacts as well: your local booksellers, libraries, publications, etc.;
- A list of the book awards you’d like us to pursue, as well as the academic and other conferences you attend and where your book should be displayed;
- and much more.
All of this info is important for us to have in advance as we prepare to launch your book and start putting together all the elements of your book’s marketing plan.
Although the form may appear daunting in its length, it is very important that you provide us with as much detailed information as possible. We will carefully consider all of your suggestions as we put together an effective marketing plan for your book.
If your book is being published in a paperback edition and has class adoption potential, please pay particular attention to those items on the AQ.
Editorial Manuscript Appraisal
Once your acquiring editor has confirmed a date for the submission of the final manuscript for copyediting, a project editor from the Press’s manuscript editorial team will prepare and send via email an editorial checklist of necessary corrections/adjustments you must make to the manuscript before you submit the final version for copyediting. The changes called for at this time are usually of a general or mechanical nature; finer points are addressed later, in the detailed work of copyediting.
Submit Final Manuscript
When you send the final version of the manuscript for copyediting, you will also be sending us all of the manuscript’s illustrations, permissions, and digital files. You can send the final materials to us through an online file-sharing system (like Google Drive or Dropbox) or on an external drive (like a USB); you can also send the manuscript file(s) via email, but we ask that you send all illustration files through an online file-sharing system or an external drive to prevent image compression. We cannot begin copyediting until all final files (manuscript and illustrations) and permissions are in hand. In order to ensure as smooth a path as possible into copyediting, it is important to attend to all matters addressed in the editorial appraisal that comes from your book’s project editor, and you should also refer to the UNC Press Manuscript Formatting Guide for our in-house style and formatting preferences.
Transmittal to Copyediting
After you submit your final manuscript, art, and permissions to your editor, our team makes sure all the elements are in place before we transmit the manuscript out of Acquisitions and over to our Manuscript Editorial team. We’ll be in touch with you about anything that might be missing or unclear; we’ll also ask you to share your communication and schedule details for the next year. Because missing pieces can significantly delay your book’s publication schedule, please respond to email queries about your final materials as soon as possible. All final files (text, art, permissions) must be in place before your manuscript can move ahead to the copyediting phase.
Title and Cover Decisions
As we prepare to transmit your manuscript for copyediting (see above) and to move forward with marketing and promotion of the finished book, your editor will guide a process of consultation about your book’s confirmed title and its jacket/cover design. Because the Press’s marketing team is responsible for guiding your book into the hands of its various audiences and customers, the marketing team plays an essential role in these decisions. Generally speaking, your book’s title (and any subtitle) must be finalized before copyediting can begin, so starting these conversations in advance with your editor is always welcome. As for the book’s jacket/cover design, your editor will welcome general or specific ideas you may have, including an image or images our marketing and design team can consider, strong preferences about color or typography, or designs of other books that may appeal to you. Our award-winning team of professional book designers will then create your book’s jacket/cover, and after a design has been reviewed and approved by Press staff, we will share it with you.
Twice a year, the Marketing department hosts a series of launch meetings in which the Acquisitions, Manuscript Editorial, Design, and Marketing teams meet to discuss each manuscript making its way through editorial and production. We’ve got everyone at the table at the same time to discuss the production and marketing strategies for each individual book that will hit the market in a specific publishing season. In January, we discuss books that will publish the following Fall; in July, we discuss the following Spring’s books.
In order for us to make the best use of this important all-hands-on-deck opportunity, the Marketing department will send you a Marketing Author Questionnaire (AQ) just after your book is approved by the Board of Governors. This is the tool with which we can include your ideas, resources, contacts, and suggestions as part of our launch conversation.
It’s important for the Marketing department to have your feedback in hand before this meeting so they can come to the discussion prepared with informed strategies for how best to reach the audience for your book. As soon as the meeting is over, execution begins!
Cataloging and Data
UNC Press publishes several book catalogs every year. In order to have a successful catalog, we need excellent descriptive copy—often called book or catalog copy— to introduce readers, scholars, and booksellers to your work. In addition to print catalogs, this copy is used online on Amazon and the Press’s website, and on the book itself. We take care to collaborate with authors to create this copy. Your first opportunity to offer a draft of your book’s descriptive copy is in the Marketing Author Questionnaire (AQ). The AQ offers a few good rules and concepts to take into account as you draft your copy. Your editor will use this AQ draft in fashioning the final draft of the descriptive copy. You will have the opportunity to edit and/or approve your editor’s draft of the copy, as well as the tagline for the book. A tagline is a short phrase, normally five to ten words, that introduces readers to the general concept of the book and is included in print catalogs. The copy is then, along with blurbs and the tagline, sent to our manuscript editorial department for copyediting.
Abstracts & Keywords
UNC Press actively sells our authors’ books in digital formats through a number of prominent library-facing aggregations, including Books@JSTOR, Project Muse, and Oxford UP’s University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO). We provide to these platforms additional, extended metadata that will improve the discoverability of your work. To that end, about six months after your book’s publication, we’ll ask you to create these abstracts and select keywords for the book as a whole, as well as for each individual chapter. But no need to worry about this too far in advance—we’ll contact you when it’s time to create the metadata, and we do our best to give you several weeks’ time to finish the task.