For academics in search of a public audience

I often get requests for advice from academics who are writing a book for a university press but who want the book to reach a broader non-academic audience. Despite getting useful scholarly critiques from anonymous reader reports, these academics want someone to help them with the style and structure of the book. They want to write a book that will crossover, that will speak not only to their peers in the field but also to readers outside their field, ideally outside the academy. They just don’t know how to do it; they need help figuring out how.

While most academic presses don’t have such editors, there is something called a development editor who can do exactly that kind of work for you. The legal scholar Sam Erman recently wrote about working with a development editor on his latest book, and it sounds as if the process was extremely productive, utterly transforming the book.

I know such an editor who I highly recommend to all of you. His name is John Pallattella. John was for many years the literary editor of The Nation, where I worked with him on multiple essays—on everything from Hannah Arendt to conservatives in the 1960s and 1970s to the politics of freedom in the United States (some of these essays eventually became chapters in The Reactionary Mind; John also worked closely with me on revising that book for its second edition). I wrote about the experience of working with John as an editor here.

John is now working as a development editor, and whether your concerns are how to translate the abstruse findings of your discipline to the common reader or how to craft a strong opening chapter that will grab the reader’s attention or structuring the book into different chapters and pieces, John has the kind of eye—and equally important, ear (John is also a poet who who’s attuned to the music of a sentence)—you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in talking to John about this kind of work, he can be reached at

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