Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting publishing. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.
I have a scholarly monograph I wish to submit to an academic press, in the hopes that it will be bought by toilers and workers everywhere. Yet when I tell people of my plans they look confused or their eyes glaze over. Clearly I’m in danger of making the kind of bone-headed mistake that will vex an editor and diminish my chances. Help! Signed, Tenureless in Tashkent
Tenureless: Thank you for writing. Note first that one should only use monograph when talking to one’s colleagues or to an acquisitions editor. Why? The word monograph, though an accurate description of a specific kind of written work, is easily mistaken by the layman for (1) an order of egg-laying mammals native to Australia and New Guinea; (2) a primitive record-playing device only capable of emitting the sound of a single instrument or, as we used to say in the USSR, a modern record-playing device; (3) a geometric drawing toy with plastic rings that never seems to work properly. Thus, the confused expressions you’re seeing may be because the listener is trying to work out why you now own a platypus. That said, research shows the word monograph also belongs to a still-unclassified suite of terms—colloquially termed Casus ennui by linguists and educators—that for unknown reasons make a majority of humans want to put a fork in their eye. Steer clear of the word outside of professional circles and you should be fine.
At present, my book is making its way through the marketing department at a university press. I have given it the tentative but straightforward title, Feminist Nose-Flutists of the Pir Panjal. Yet the marketers have pressured me to make the work more “accessible,” starting with the title. Their suggestion: Harlequin Hotties of the Himalayas. I resist, for obvious reasons. Can you provide me with fodder for a convincing counter-argument? Signed, Ethnoconfuseiologist
Ethno: Thank you for writing. You are encountering a phenomenon brought about by the noble clash of scholarly ideals against the always-ravenous hunger of the Capitalist System. The answer to your conundrum lies in your expectations for your book. Do you wish to reach just the small circle of experts in your field? Or do you dream of injecting the exotic musics of nose-flutists into the mainstream? I advise attempting to find a middle ground with your publisher. For example, using Feminist Nose-Flutists of the Pir Panjal as the sub-title, while conceding to Market Forces with an accessible main title that uses evocative but proven nouns like “blood,” “sexuality,” “explosion,” “cats,” or “ungodly amounts of money.” Good luck.