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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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As I tweeted yesterday, @dhlbrown was attending a workshop on which I participated last year at the University of Sussex on getting published in Academia. He very kindly tweeted his notes and I recommend you go follow him but thought it was worth collating the information in one place, which also gave me an opportunity to dig out my notes from last year's session. Items in quotation marks are the tweets that Doug sent out, whereas all other text is my commentary/notes.

Cambridge University Press
Image by inkelv1122 under a CC-BY-NC license.

Should my thesis be published as a book?

"Learnt at workshop on getting published post-PhD:Turning thesis into book can delay next project which could be better conceived as a book."

This is true, but having a book published is far more likely to get you a job from which you can undertake that next project.

"Typical monograph print run 1990: c.2,000. Now: c.200."

Yes, afraid fame isn't coming from this route!

"If you want to reach the general market, get an agent and a non-academic publisher, and expect no success."

"Don't want yr monograph to read like thesis. But don't make yr thesis read like a monograph - it'll be referred!"

I've had conflicting advice on this; a colleague who has published widely with CUP advised me to be less footnotey so that my thesis would require little editing to be a book. I'm not sure this is the case. The thesis is designed to be an examined piece of research showing your ability to substantiate claims through concentrated research, it's less about communication which is the point of publishing.

On Interdisciplinarity

"If interdisciplinary research, market for monograph likely to be subject matter not methodology."

"Interdisciplinarity virtue for PhDs but not for monographs. Publishers don't have expert readers; librarians think it's marginal to subject."

This is a particularly interesting one. We're so used to thinking that interdisciplinarity is cutting-edge and the way to go, but publishers want to SELL and that means they need generic markers; has to be situated in a discipline.

Pitching to academic publishers

"Practise selling benefits of your work to friends who know nothing about the field. Don't just describe content: Why is it indispensable?"

"Some e-catalogues drop everything in the book title after a colon, so put key words first. Be literal, not obscure or elliptical."

The title is one of the most important aspects:

Situate the subject clearly, don't use idiom.
Think macro, not micro.
Avoid cryptic allusions, quotations, jargon, word-play and playful academic stuff.
Make it snappy.
Give a strong positive message (active verbs implying movement etc.)

"Check publishers' guidelines for submission. Getting it wrong is an easy way to be ignored."

"You already know the market for your book. You're part of the market. Worst case: You are the market."

"Trying to sell your book to a publisher? Why did you buy the books *you* bought?"

"Write plenty before sending proposal to publisher. There'll be no interest if you've got nothing to back it up."

"Choosing a publisher? Look in your own bibliography."

This is very true, although I wonder whether there reaches a point of exhaustion -- do they want *ANOTHER* book on topic X?

"Don't submit to >1 publisher at once. But give time limit: "If I don't hear from you in 3 months I'll try others.""

"Apparently publishers get proposals with nothing under "Conclusion" heading - that's the most important bit!"

"Think research too specialised for publisher? Add comparisons. Extend geography & chronology. Make paradigmatic."

Article or monograph?

"Maybe article more appropriate to material than monograph - but what if your discipline expects monographs?"

"Article might have higher readership than monograph though. Want readers or respect? (Both possible I hope)"

I'd say that this is the entire chicken and egg problem for early career researchers; the latter is needed while the former is wanted!

Open Access

My final criticism, looking back through my notes, was the lack of focus on Open Access. Perhaps this has changed this year, but there seemed to be a great deal of scepticism towards the movement, probably coming about from the threat it poses to the traditional publication model. I will, therefore, add my own final comments here: Open Access IS peer reviewed, there are many Open Access journals carrying Impact Factor and, if you want to be read, this could do a hell of a lot more for you than a limited run of a traditional print publication. Obviously, it's not an alternative solution to the monograph at the moment, but it's certainly a viable alternative to print journals.