This past year, we began the initial research and discovery phase of developing our FirstGen Scholars Program, an initiative to support and improve the publishing experience for authors who are the first in their family to go to college. We wanted to hear directly from scholars about their book publishing experiences (with any press) and use these insights to build our program. Our first step was to launch our FirstGen Scholars Book Publishing survey, which asked both first-generation and non first-generation scholars about key challenges and the most helpful resources for book publishing.

So what did we learn?

Our survey of approximately 600 scholars, about 400 of whom identified as first-generation, revealed some key challenges and opportunities. And while certain areas — such as knowing how to approach an editor or just finding time to publish — were labeled difficult by most, some differences did emerge between first-gen and non first-gen respondents.

Here are some of our key findings.

  1. First-generation scholars struggle with knowing where to start.  Over 70% of first-gen scholars said knowing where to start the book publishing process was either very difficult or difficult, compared to 50% for non-first gen scholars.
  2. First-gen scholars find knowing how and when to approach an editor very challenging. Close to 80% of first-gen scholars said this step was very difficult, compared to about 55% of non first-gen scholars. (If you’d like to learn more about our editors and how to connect, check out our Editor Spotlight Series.)
  3. Book proposals are another common challenge. Close to 50% of first-gen scholars said this task was difficult or very difficult. (You can find our UC Press guidelines and tips on book proposals here).
  4. Across the board, authors like working with their editor. “Working with my editor” was rated one of the easiest aspects of the publishing process by both groups. About 55% of first-gen scholars and and 65% of non first-gen scholars rated this aspect easy or very easy.
  5. Mentors who had been through the process before were the most commonly cited resource. About 60% of both groups said mentors were a key support for publishing, the most highly rated across options listed.
  6. Resources on publishing are hard to come by for scholars. Many respondents from both groups reported either not using or not having access to resources on publishing through academic societies, online, or via presentations by a publisher.
  7. Everyone struggles with finding time to publish. About 70% of both groups said it was difficult to find time to publish.
  8. Most authors aren’t sure how best to promote their book. About 75% of both groups said this part was very difficult or difficult, although a higher percentage (45%) of first-gen scholars rated this aspect very difficult.

We want to thank everyone who participated in this survey. We really appreciate the time and effort you took to share your experience with us. We’ll be sharing more learnings, including insights from the follow-up interviews we conducted, in the coming months. If you’d like to receive regular updates about our findings and our FirstGen program, you can sign-up for our email list.

In the meantime, here are a few resources that might be worth checking out: