FAQ for Authors

Who We Are

What types of books does McFarland publish?

McFarland is a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books. We are especially known for covering topics of popular appeal in a serious and scholarly fashion, and for going to great lengths to manufacture our books to the highest standards and library specifications.

Do you publish fiction? Children’s books? Poetry?

With rare exceptions we do not publish fiction. We don’t do children’s books. As for poetry—technically, yes, but only in the scholarly realm, for instance medieval topics. We do not publish devotional works, cookbooks, exposés or stories of personal triumph over adversity.

Do you publish multicontributor manuscripts?

We do publish many edited collections of essays. As editor, you have many responsibilities, including corresponding with us (we are unable to correspond directly with contributors); collecting the essays and releases; ensuring consistency of quality, style, tone, and format throughout the manuscript; reading proofs and creating an index.   Consult our guidelines for editors of multicontributor manuscripts.

Will my book be in brick-and-mortar bookstores?

General chain book retailers (e.g., B&N, Books-a-Million) will carry McFarland books in their system for special order, but are unlikely to stock books in stores (the same applies to the majority of our academic publisher peers).  Independent bookshops and specialty retailers (including IndieBound bookshops, museum shops and mail-order distributors) can usually make suitable arrangements with McFarland to stock and promote books on the store shelf.

Does McFarland work with agents?

We happily work with agents, but normally also discuss editorial matters with authors directly once the project is further along. Most of our authors do not have agents.


Sending a Proposal

Whom should I contact about my proposal?

You may send your materials to any editor at McFarland. If you do not have a contact name, simply write “editorial department” on the outside of your package. Please do not send a proposal to more than one editor.

What should a proposal include?

A proposal should include a general description, an outline or descriptive table of contents, estimates of total word count and completion date, a preface or introduction, comments on how the book differs from any competing works on the same topic, a summary of what you might offer in the way of photographs or other illustrations, and if possible some samples of the manuscript (two or three chapters, plus representative pages of any special parts).

May I email my proposal?

Yes.

May I come in person to discuss my proposal?

We are always happy to meet potential authors but it would largely be a social visit as we are not able to properly evaluate a project “while you wait.” If you would like to schedule a tour of our offices, please call ahead to make an appointment.

My book has ____ pages. Is that long enough/too long?

A better gauge of length for us is word count. Most word processing software can provide a word count very easily. A manuscript typically needs a minimum of 75,000 words to be workable for us; many of our books are much longer. The word count also depends on the kind of book you are writing, so discuss length with your editor.

When should I expect to hear back from McFarland about my proposal?

We do our best to respond to authors within a month of receiving a proposal—and often much more quickly—but our correspondence load is immense and it occasionally takes longer at especially busy times or when a particular editor is out of the office. Please prompt us if more than six weeks have passed and you have not heard from one of our editors.


The McFarland Contract

When will McFarland send a contract?

If your proposed book seems overall to be a good fit for us, we will correspond with you about any particular matters that need to be discussed (sometimes we receive a proposal, or manuscript, with no discernable strings dangling). Sometimes this discussion takes a few weeks; sometimes it takes longer, depending in large part on the author’s schedule and the manuscript’s state of progress. The offer of a contract comes after we have determined that we and the author are in agreement on all major points.

What are the terms of McFarland’s contract?

Samples of our standard contracts may be viewed here:

For most manuscripts
For multicontributor essay collections and some other manuscripts

Is the contract negotiable?

The wording and terms of our contract are standard for all authors, with the exception that the royalty rate differs for certain categories of manuscripts. We have a relatively small staff and thousands of authors, and the contract is simple by design. We want to be able to answer contractual questions without having to look up each contract. A standard contract also ensures fairness to all our authors.

Does it cost anything to publish with McFarland?

No. McFarland does not take any payment or subvention from authors. You bear only the expenses of providing a complete manuscript (including any necessary illustrations and permissions).

Does McFarland offer advances?

The economic constraints of scholarly publishing make it impossible for us to offer advances.

When do you pay royalties?

The contract specifies royalties are paid annually (in the early part of the calendar year), but for many years, McFarland has also offered a second, midyear statement and payment (usually mid to late summer).


Quoting, Permissions, Photographs and Illustrations

May I quote from books/magazines/newspapers/websites/television shows/films, etc., in my book?

You may quote from all these sources, as long as you properly cite them and you observe customary fair use limits. Keep a word count of your total quotations from each source that you quote significantly, and run it by us. Short works such as newspaper articles may be quoted only very briefly; you must avoid quoting a significant portion of any source unless you have written permission.

May I quote poetry or song lyrics?

You should avoid quoting song lyrics unless you have written permission from the rights holders (warning: talk to us first if you can) or you can demonstrate that the work is in the public domain. Poetry also requires great caution, but it is usually reasonable to quote briefly from a long poem and very briefly from a shorter one.

What kinds of things do I need to pursue permission for?

Since every project is different, it’s best to ask an editor about your specific needs. Generally, items that require permission are: published material quoted at length, borrowed illustrations, forewords, interviews that are quoted extensively (more than one or two sentences). If your project involves a significant amount of materials in these categories, please discuss it with us as early as possible.

My manuscript includes chapters that have been previously published. Is that acceptable?

We strongly prefer manuscripts made up entirely of new text. Libraries, our main customers, resist purchasing books that include material they may already own (through their periodicals collections, for example). We want our books to have as many advantages in the marketplace as we can give them. Please ask an editor about your particular situation.

Are photos from the Internet in the public domain?

Photographs posted on the Internet are not automatically in the public domain. You will need to research copyrights to ensure they can be used without permission. Keep in mind, too, that most photographs from the Internet are not of sufficient resolution to reproduce well in print, however sharp they appear on screen.


Documentation and Format

How do I prepare my notes?

Documentation is vital in the scholarly market. If you don’t have source notes for your quoted matter and factual statements, we strongly recommend you add them. For most purposes we prefer endnotes (end-of-book) to footnotes (page bottoms). Also, start a new numerical sequence for each chapter. Use any good standard system of documentation (Chicago, MLA, Turabian, etc.) and be consistent. A standard style guide can answer specific questions you have about how notes should be presented.

Do I need a bibliography?

For our market, nearly every book needs a bibliography. It serves as an indication to readers that the book they hold is a work of serious scholarship based on a broad understanding of the topic, while also providing a starting point for further reading. Follow a consistent style and include all the sources you directly consulted for the book, even if you did not cite the source in the notes. A standard style guide can answer specific questions about how a bibliography should be presented.

Can I use sources from the Internet?

In this age of instant digital access, it is very tempting to rely on the Internet for information. However, not all information found on the web is trustworthy, and an overreliance on online sources will make readers question whether your book was properly researched. In general we recommend minimizing the use of the web for research—especially such general sources as Wikipedia and IMDb. If you do find useful information on the Internet, we recommend finding a printed source to back up your findings.

Does McFarland have a company style sheet?

Recognizing that books have individual personalities, we do not try to impose a single style across all our publications. We do ask that authors follow mainstream, sophisticated style practices consistently.


Sending Your Manuscript

Is the deadline on my contract flexible?

Your deadline is nearly always flexible and controlled by you—but you do need to let us know if you need more time. In all but the most unusual circumstances we will extend your deadline. Don’t worry about missing a deadline by just a few days—no need to pay for overnight shipping, for example.

I have almost everything ready, but I’m waiting on a few final things.  Should I send the manuscript now?

No. Please wait until you can send an absolutely complete manuscript.  We can’t begin any work here until all pieces are in place.

What should be in my manuscript package?

The manuscript package should contain absolutely everything making up the manuscript:

(1) the final and complete hard copy, including a title page, a table of contents, your dedication (if any), the foreword (if any), your preface and or introduction, the main text, any appendices, the notes, and the bibliography—all pages double-spaced and numbered continuously, printed on one side of the paper;

(2) an electronic copy of the manuscript that matches the printout exactly;

(3) photocopies or printouts of all illustrations, numbered in sequence and sent along with a matching caption/credit list; these are needed for placement and identification purposes;

(4) all original photographs, maps, drawings or other illustrations we will need to scan at our end;

(5) all necessary permissions (for e.g. illustrations, a foreword, substantial quotes, interviews); if you are the editor of a multicontributor manuscript, you must include a release from each contributor stating that you own his/her essay;

(6) the checklist for manuscript delivery;

(7) a cover letter with comments on anything we may need to know, plus your full thoughts about a title.

What kind of computer software do you use?

We work on both Macs and PCs, so disks from either are acceptable. Save your files in word processing software (Word and WordPerfect are the most popular), not a layout program such as PageMaker or Quark. If you are using Works, please save your files in rich text format (rtf).

Please use Times New Roman, 11 or 12 points, throughout the manuscript. If you did not originally create the manuscript using this font and utilize any foreign characters or diacritical marks, please carefully review your paper manuscript to ensure these characters printed correctly. If any did not, please flag these pages for production, and write the correct character in clearly.

Do I need to send a hard copy?

Yes. Although we also need an electronic copy of your manuscript, for editing purposes we must have a double-spaced, page-numbered, unbound printout that matches the files exactly. (There are very limited exceptions. If your manuscript is extremely large or you have reason to suspect we will not need a hard copy, please ask an editor prior to delivery.) Do not email your manuscript; instead, send a disk or flash drive with the printout.

Whom should I contact with questions about the manuscript I’m about to deliver?

Any editor can answer your questions. Feel free to contact the editor you have been working with most recently but, really, our efforts toward efficiency over the years have resulted in editor interchangeability. (We share all correspondence weekly, believe it or not.)

To whom should I send my manuscript?

You may address your package to the editor with whom you have been working or you may put “Editorial Department” on the package. It will get to the right person.

Whom should I follow up with about my delivered manuscript?

Please allow two to three weeks before contacting us. An editor will be assigned to check in your manuscript when it arrives, and we will write you (usually by regular mail) as soon as we have completed the initial inspection.


Parts of the Book

What does McFarland consider essential components of a book?

Nearly every McFarland book needs a preface, an introduction, notes, a bibliography and an index. Other components that are common, but optional depending on the nature of the book, are acknowledgments, a foreword (written by a third party) and appendices.

Does my book need a Preface?

Almost every McFarland book needs a preface, which is distinct from an introduction (see question following). It serves to answer a reader’s questions about the book itself: what it covers, what it doesn’t, why the subject is important, how you did your research, how the book is organized, etc. It is also an important reassurance to readers and reviewers that they hold a work of mainstream scholarship.

Does my book need an Introduction?

Unlike a preface, a book’s introduction summarizes the book’s subject. So, yes, most books benefit from the inclusion of an introduction. Otherwise, the reader has to go from the book’s title to the first paragraph of Chapter 1 and that might not, mentally, be a perfectly smooth trip.

I have someone in mind to write a foreword. How does that work?

Many of our books have forewords, although—please understand—they rarely affect sales. You are welcome to include one, with the proper permission, if a person sufficiently well known in the field is willing to write it.

Does my book need an index?

More than 99 percent of McFarland books need indexes. It essentially turns an ordinary book into a kind of reference book, greatly enhancing its usefulness; indexes are pretty much demanded by libraries, our main customers.

Who creates my index?

Our authors compile the indexes for their books. It’s done during the proofreading process (after we have typeset the book). Every book has its own indexing needs, so consult with an editor or see our indexing guide for assistance.

Who determines the book’s title?

When you send your manuscript, please include a title or, even better, several possible titles. We will use your input in setting the title; often the author’s suggested wording becomes the official title. There are definitely some special considerations now and then that authors understandably overlook. If we feel a significantly different title is necessary, we will discuss it with you. We try to finalize the wording soon after the manuscript arrives.


Documentation and Style

How do I prepare my notes?

Documentation is vital in the scholarly market. If you don’t have source notes for your quoted matter and factual statements, we strongly recommend you add them. For most purposes we prefer endnotes (end-of-book) to footnotes (page bottoms). Also, start a new numerical sequence for each chapter. Use any good standard system of documentation (Chicago, MLA, Turabian, etc.) and be consistent. A standard style guide can answer specific questions you have about how notes should be presented.

Do I need a bibliography?

For our market, nearly every book needs a bibliography. It serves as an indication to readers that the book they hold is a work of serious scholarship based on a broad understanding of the topic, while also providing a starting point for further reading. Follow a consistent style and include all the sources you directly consulted for the book, even if you did not cite the source in the notes. A standard style guide can answer specific questions about how a bibliography should be presented.

Does McFarland have a company style sheet?

Recognizing that books have individual personalities, we do not try to impose a single style across all our publications. We do ask that authors follow mainstream, sophisticated style practices consistently.


Permissions

What kinds of things do I need to pursue permission for?

Since every project is different, it’s best to ask an editor about your specific needs. Generally, items that require permission are: published material quoted at length, borrowed illustrations, forewords, interviews that are quoted extensively (more than one or two sentences). If your project involves a significant amount of materials in these categories, please discuss it with us as early as possible.

May I quote from books/magazines/newspapers/websites/television shows/films, etc., in my book?

You may quote from all these sources, as long as you properly cite them and you observe customary fair use limits. Keep a word count of your total quotations from each source that you quote significantly. Short works such as newspaper articles may be quoted only very briefly; you must avoid quoting a significant portion of any source unless you have written permission.

May I quote poetry or song lyrics?

You should avoid quoting song lyrics unless you have written permission from the rights holders (warning: talk to us first if you can) or you can demonstrate that the work is in the public domain. Poetry also requires great caution, but it is usually reasonable to quote briefly from a long poem and very briefly from a shorter one.

Does McFarland have a permission form I can use?

Because circumstances vary widely, we do not have a standard permission form. If the rights holder is a corporate entity or institution, it will likely have its own form. We need worldwide rights with no limits on term or print run and no restrictions as to how the photo may be published (many of our books, for example, wind up being offered also as e-books). If you are borrowing from an individual, an informal agreement is fine—ideally, they sign a paper saying, “Jane Doe has my permission to use the photograph I provided for her book and I expect no remuneration from the publisher.” You will want to have the permission grantor’s name clearly printed, a signature and date. This process is different for other items—forewords, interviews, maps, and essays in multicontributor manuscripts—where you must be assigned ownership.


Photographs and Illustrations

How do I deal with my photographs and illustrations when I send in my manuscript?

Number all illustrations in a single sequence (01–20, for example), even if they are a mix of physical and electronic images. If you are sending glossy photographs, write the numbers on the back of the photographs in grease pencil or a type of pen that cannot smear or transfer to the front of the next photograph. Name any electronic image files according to their photo numbers plus your last name (01Jones, 02Jones, etc.—the zero precedes the first nine numbers so the computer can properly place them in a list). We also need place-holder copies of the illustrations to go in the manuscript; these can be photocopies of the physical photographs or printouts of the scans. These copies should be given the same numbering as the originals. If you have a large number of permissions accompanying the photographs, please mark the permission forms with the corresponding illustration numbers. A separate caption list is also needed.

Does McFarland prefer original photographs or electronic image files?

We can handle illustrations in either form, or a mix of both. Digital images must meet certain specifications (see next question). Our scanning equipment allows us to scan slides as well as originals up to 11 by 17 inches. We are always happy to check a few sample scans in advance to see if they can be used. For best quality, we ultimately prefer originals—but only because we are expert scanners.

How do I handle my electronic images?

Please name your image files with the illustration number followed by your last name (01Jones, 02Jones, etc.). For quality reasons, we prefer TIFF files to JPEGs. These should be 300 dpi and at least five inches across if possible. Original size is best. Please do not send extra scans on your disk; send only the ones that we are to use. Additionally, don’t send your electronic image files in more than one format; we only need one (TIFFs are preferred). Do not embed images in the manuscript; we need them saved separately.

Are photos from the Internet in the public domain?

Photographs posted on the Internet are not automatically in the public domain. You will need to research copyrights to ensure they can be used without permission. Keep in mind, too, that most photographs from the Internet are not of sufficient resolution to reproduce well in print, however sharp they appear on screen.

What kinds of maps do you need?

Maps can be problematic, so it is best for us to see samples of what you are considering using. Simple maps are best, with clear lines and large type. No color and no more than one shade of gray should be used. Probably the most common problem is that many authors devise maps that physically are larger than a book page. When it is reduced to fit the actual page, the placements etc. are too small to read. Clearly, all elements of any map must remain easily readable when the map is fitted to the book’s print block, which is usually no larger than about 5 by 8 inches. Try reducing your maps to this size on a photocopier to see how they look.

How do I prepare my caption list?

We require a caption for every illustration. Please prepare a numbered list in which each caption includes the illustration number, caption, any needed credit line, and a placement instruction (which needs to be a manuscript page number near which the illustration should be placed—not a general remark about where it might go!). Our readers like full, descriptive captions. Especially important is to identify or account for all people shown in a photograph (if a photograph shows five people, for example, don’t write the caption as if it showed only four) and to be clear about their positions within the photo (e.g., “to his left” is completely ambiguous—the reader’s left [left] or “his” left [right]). The credit line should match exactly what is on the permission form.

Where will my illustrations be placed in the book?

We suggest that illustrations be placed throughout the book, near the most relevant text. We rarely gather photographs into a special section, for various reasons. But we need you to make the initial placement decision. Your caption list should indicate the manuscript page number where you propose each illustration should go.


After You Deliver Your Manuscript

Will my book be assigned to a particular editor? How closely will I work with the editor?

Our editors work as a team, so it is likely you will work with several or even many of us throughout the process. As a department, we ten or so editors keep track of the progress of each project by reading each other’s correspondence weekly.

What happens after my manuscript is delivered?

An experienced editor will give your manuscript a relatively brief inspection soon after it arrives, checking for any missing pieces or unforeseen issues with the overall length or the book’s organization, the quality of illustrations, and any other matters that need discussion. You will hear from us then to confirm receipt. Once any problems or loose ends—if any!—have been addressed, the manuscript will proceed through the editing phase. This may last for a few months, during which time you may not hear from us often. Be assured, though, that things are happening behind the scenes. Near the end of the editing process, you may hear from us with questions that may have arisen. Then the manuscript goes through the design phase, when occasionally yet another question or two arises, and then into production (page by page typesetting). The next big step happens when you receive notification that your page proofs are available for proofreading and indexing. After we carry out your proofreading corrections and edit and typeset the index, we give the entire book a close final look before it goes to press.

How heavily will my manuscript be edited?

The answer varies according to the needs of the manuscript. Not every manuscript needs a line-by-line edit, but all will receive editorial attention. Most editing is rather light as we strive to maintain the author’s voice. It involves checking for errors in facts, spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as any problems of organization or presentation.

Will my book be hardcover or softcover?

This decision is typically made after the complete manuscript arrives and is based on our judgment of what format (and price!) will produce the best sales result.  A majority of our new books are produced in softcover; some are originally offered in hardcover and later in softcover.  We do not offer books simultaneously in both forms.

Will my book be available as an ebook?

McFarland publishes new books simultaneously in both print and electronic editions whenever possible.  The most common obstacle to our offering a book in electronic form is permissions specifying “print only”—so please try very hard to avoid such restrictions in any permissions you need for your book.

Can I suggest ideas for my cover?

Yes.  You may suggest ideas when you deliver the manuscript (see Preparing Your Manuscript), and we will be happy to consider them.

When will my manuscript be published?

Once we receive a complete manuscript (with all items in place), publication takes an average of nine to fifteen months (but sometimes we’re much faster). You will hear from us periodically with questions or comments, but don’t be surprised if there are silences of several weeks between communications. We are busily working behind the scenes.

When will I get proofs?

It is difficult to estimate the schedule much in advance, as there are so many variables (some authorial), but generally, you will receive notification that proofs are available several weeks after your edited manuscript goes through the design phase and is passed to the production department. This is typically several months after delivery of the complete manuscript.


After Publication

Whom should I contact about my marketing ideas, book signings, etc.?

Consult the sales & marketing area of  our Author Resource Center.

How does McFarland market books?

McFarland promotes its books to all appropriate markets (library, higher ed, retail, specialty, and direct-to-consumer) through our business relationships with booksellers, our sophisticated metadata routines, direct mail/online/print advertising, conferences and trade shows, and course adoptions. Much of our activities promote groups of books, subject lines and the company brand, though we do undertake some level of single-title promotion for each individual book, as well. Please see our sales & marketing page for more information.

Should I supply pre-publication endorsements (blurbs) from third parties?

Blurbs are brief pre-publication endorsements from well-known authors or experts in your field (different from book reviews published by media after a book is released). You are under no obligation to collect blurbs; in fact we do not especially encourage them. Although they can lend a degree of prestige, working as part of an overall effort to influence perception of your book, in our market they don’t appreciably affect sales. If you are interested in blurbs, it is best to undertake this process early.  Before you secure any, consult our blurb instructions.  Contact Kristal Hamby at [email protected] if you have questions.

Can I reprint portions of my manuscript in a magazine or journal, or on a website?

You cannot reprint your book, or a portion of your book, without permission from McFarland while the book is in print. Please contact Lois Grubb in our business office for information on permission to reprint. We tend to be sympathetic and generous to our authors.