The journey of my CUP book—here’s the sample book proposal I promised a long time ago

Water Dragon


In one of my earliest blogs, I promised to share the book proposal for the Cambridge University Press (CUP) book once it would be accepted. Well, I am finally there!

Early July the editor of the special series it will appear in let me know that all the reviewers were happy with the final changes made. And this week the editor at CUP and I have mapped out the conditions for the contract. It all seems to be administration work—and lots of checking page proofs—from here on.


Here’s my book proposal

In that earlier blog post, I wrote

there hardly seem examples and formats out there for things such as cover letters for an academic book, a discussion of the book’s market potential, or its prospective readers

I looked around on the internet again, and still, I cannot find many examples of book proposals. I have now uploaded the sample_book_proposal to my website, as well as the sample_cover_letter that goes with it.

This proposal was the one I have discussed with CUP at the very early stages of the book writing process. A few things have changed since, and this blog is to talk you through the journey from the first email to CUP to where I am now (waiting for the contract).


Getting in touch

I first got in touch with CUP in December 2013 to inform them about my ideas for a book titled “Innovations in environmental governance: Governing for less in Western and Eastern societies”. Back then, I approached CUP editor John Haslam out of the blue. I was hopeful about him as an editor after reading his excellent series of three blog posts on ‘How to get your book published’.

In an e-mail, I briefly explained where the book would fit CUP’s portfolio, the gap it seeks to address, and its innovativeness. Following CUP’s book-proposal guidelines the proposal included a cover letter explaining why I sought CUP as the outlet, as well as two sample chapters.



Particularly preparing the cover letter asked for a substantial amount of time. CUP expects a general outline for the book, explaining rationales such as: why you write it, what are the gaps in the markets, the development in the field, and existing books in the field. In addition, it expects a brief discussion of the contents and the market you seek to serve.

Crafting the cover letter has helped me tremendously in thinking through the structure of the then proposed book. To make sure the cover letter was concise, crisp, and sharp I have asked a number of senior Professors in my field to have a look at the cover letter. After all, the cover letter is the first impression you will leave behind.

In addition to the cover letter, CUP requires at least two sample chapters when proposing a book. These were the less complicated documents to provide. After all, I was writing the book already when proposing it to CUP. Nevertheless, I also asked some peers to have a look at these draft chapters before I sent them to CUP.



John Haslam responded to me within a day of my email. He expressed his initial interest in the book project and asked me how I wanted to proceed. That is, have the material offered reviewed, or write the full manuscript and have that reviewed.

Over the course of a few e-mails, we agreed that I would write the full manuscript first. This as I did not need a book contract at that point in time, and because it is easier for reviewers to come to a verdict on a full manuscript than a proposal. John Haslam was very helpful in explaining to me that having the full manuscript reviewed would be the safer of the two options.

Looking back, I am extremely grateful for this advice as the book that I have ultimately written presents the story I wish to tell in a different way than initially proposed. I have explained the major changes between the book-proposal and final manuscript in the different posts in different posts on this blog.



With John Haslam’s initial interest in the book project, I felt strengthened to continue the journey of writing it. Then, in June 2014, Professor Aseem Prakash—the co-author of Voluntary Programs: A Club Theory Perspective—sent me an e-mail.

He had found a published paper that is at the base of my CUP book, and that relates to his work on voluntary environmental regulations. Coincidence has it that I have spent periods of time in 2008 and 2011 visiting the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, where Professor Prakash is based.

I informed Professor Prakash about my book project. In a follow-up email, he let me know that he edits CUP’s series on Business and Public Policy. Over the course of some weeks, we discussed the content of my book proposal and explored whether it would fit with the series. Professor Prakash provided valuable input, and because John Haslam is his contact at CUP also we decided that I would communicate with both of them during the writing process.


From the final draft to contract and proofs

In September 2015, I had finally finished the full first draft of the book manuscript. CUP has done an amazing job and had the first set of reviews back to me by mid-December 2015. I have spent most of my December 2015 and January 2016 revising the book—partly whilst hiking in the Australian bush, a great experience, all the more when a water dragon showed interest in the text.

Between February and March 2016, a professional proofreader has gone through the full manuscript. I am not a native speaker (as these blog posts likely indicate) and to get the final text for the resubmission up to scratch I really needed support with language and grammar.

In July 2016, Professor Prakash let me know that the reviewers are happy with the revisions. And, as mentioned earlier, I am now waiting for the contract. From there on we will get to the proofs, and then the prints.

It has been a long journey, with quite a few ups and downs. Book writing is hard work and the journey hasn’t finished yet. I am confident, however, that from here on it will much closer to being a walk in the park than the bushwalking and mountain climbing it has been so far.

9 thoughts on “The journey of my CUP book—here’s the sample book proposal I promised a long time ago

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  1. Dear Dr. van der Heijden,

    Since I was looking for examples of book proposals online and realised that there are very few samples available, I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for putting your book proposal for CUP ‘out there’ and for sharing your experience. I found the information you provide extremely helpful and your documents helped me to get a clear idea about how I should set up my own proposal. Thank you!

    With my very best wishes,

  2. I just wanted to thank you for your generous documentation of your book publication process with CUP. It has been extremely beneficial to me. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this post of yours.
    I am a tenured faculty at an research university in the United States… One would think that I should know how to write a book proposal… But I learned a lot from your post today, in many ways a lot more than from any other advice I had received from colleagues for my first book proposal.

    Your post made me totally rethink my current, second book proposal… as well as wonder why I did not hear about all that you describe (including presentation, process, contract) …

    Makes me understand some of the responses I got for my first book proposal — positive and negative. Makes me also feel like I just stumbled upon a secret club of initiates.

    So: thank you so so very much for your generosity. Thanks also for the humility of your description. Thanks for the service you’re rendering for all of us out there, in a market that is only getting more difficult, and thus demands solid proposals.

  4. Jeroen, thank-you for the useful blog posts. They helped me when submitting my own proposal to CUP, which I am pleased to say they accepted. I believe the ease of the process was in no small part thanks to your really useful blog post and sample letters, etc.; I knew what to expect. Thank-you again.

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