PhD → book

I'm very pleased to be able to say that I have signed a book contract with Ashgate Publishing. This contract has two key components: firstly, that I will revise my PhD thesis for publication as a book; and secondly, that Ashgate will publish said book so that people can read it. A thesis is not a book: there's much which needs be changed to make the text accessible to an wider audience. And apart from updating and revising the text, I may be making some structural changes and/or introducing some new material. It will probably be published in 2013 (apocalypse permitting, of course). Ashgate have a great record in academic history (soon to be enhanced by the publication of Gavin Robinson's book) so this is a Very Good Thing.

I don't anticipate that my blogging will fall off dramatically (at least until the deadline looms!), so I hope that you all will continue to stop by!

Edit: I should have at least mentioned the book's proposed title: The Next War in the Air: Britain's Fear of the Bomber, 1908-1941.

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20 thoughts on “PhD → book

  1. wfiske

    I hope you set some limitation on the price of the volume in your contract. Some of Ashgate books are reasonable, but many are notoriously over-priced. For example, thecheapest title displayed on the Ashgate history home page is 54 GBP. As a result, many libraries no longer purchase Ashgate books, and your work will be unavailable to many scholarly readers.

  2. By the way, wfiske, as a (non-academic) publisher and previously a long-term bookseller of academic and non academic texts, I'd be very surprised if Brett has any meaningful, direct say in the pricing of his book. The book's price is the function of a calculation driven primarily by potential / actual sales and cost of production, then multiplied by mark-ups and profit margins for the publisher and retailer. Anyone warming up a complaint on the profit grabbing publishers and book retailers would be advised to have a look at the margins in the business; among the lowest in the commercial sector.

    I'd agree it would be great if (academic) libraries were able to buy more, cheaper academic books, but it's a wider issue than just book prices, and has been getting tougher for decades for all the players in that field. We should be greatful there are still options for academic publishing beyond the mass adoption textbooks.

    And the final point is that once published by a credible publisher, there are at a minimum copies given as required to the national deposit libraries; so the book is available - just not perhaps as widely as we might like. I'm not expecting Brett's Australia-wide book signing tour anytime soon, but you never know!

  3. Post author

    Cheers for the good wishes (and I like the moniker, Harold!)

    wfiske:

    No, I did not negotiate anything to do with the price, and it seems like an odd thing to suggest, especially given that I am a first-time author with no track record of selling anything. As JDK says, there are many factors which go into setting book prices, and I know precisely nothing about any of them: that's the publisher's job, not mine.

    I won't deny that Ashgate's books are expensive, and I hope they will put mine down the more affordable end of the spectrum. There's also the possibility of an e-book version down the line, which would be cheaper. But to be blunt, this is not just about making my research accessible. It's also about getting me a job. I'm two years out from my PhD and have had no luck at all in the academic job market: having 'book (forthcoming)' on my CV might help me make the cut somewhere. (More likely, of coure, it won't.) That's not to say I chose just anyone to publish my book: they have a strong academic reputation, I know their books to be high-quality physical products, and I've heard nothing but praise for their efficiency and helpfulness in the commissioning and editorial phases, which so far has been the case for me. So I'm looking forward to working with Ashgate to produce the best book that I can. Whether anyone actually reads it is another matter... but then that's always the case.

  4. As Brett's pointed out, he's not in a position of leverage with regards to the price of his book. As someone who was in a similar situation with his first book (I shudder to look at its cost at the moment), you kind of have to grin and bear it.

    (The way it was explained was that the publisher could guarantee sales to circa-250 libraries around the world and had to set the price to make a profit based on those sales. FWIW.)

  5. Dan

    Congratulations Brett. I don't think any author - academic or not - gets a say in the price. Just watch out for who has to pay the permissions for images: it took me two years to earn back the money I spent on getting pictures for The Great War, Myth and Memory. I do think there's a scandal about academic journals on their current model being run by profit making businesses, but that's another long comments thread.

  6. WFiske

    Contracts are supposed to be negotiations, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Still, I went too far in suggesting that you could have controlled the price of the book. There would have been no harm in asking, however, that you hoped that Ashgate make the volume affordable. They might say "no," and you might decide to publish with them anyway for the professional reasons you outline in your response. But the 250 libraries around the world that would purchase history monographs that Silbey cited have become more like 100, and if excellent publishers like Ashgate and Brill continue to charge prices far beyond that of other academic and trade publishers, even that number will drop.

    Nonetheless, I hope the book does everything for you that you want it to and that it is a big success.

  7. Contracts are supposed to be negotiations, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

    Sure, but frankly (and I speak for myself here, not Brett) the value to me of getting the book published (ie tenure and advancement) are worth infinitely more than haggling over the price.

  8. Congrats, Brett!

    Obviously the solution to the price problem is to go on and and have a brilliant career, publishing crossover, bestselling works that will encourage your publisher to bring out a cheap second edition.

  9. Obviously I wouldn't want this to get dragged into book development generalisations, but as it may be a useful point to make, an author's direct influence on a book's cost is subject to open negotiations as to content scope - a longer manuscript with a good deal of additional material and demands (colour illustration, for instance) will cost more; something leaner with wider readership will cost less and be likely to sell more at a lower retail price.

    As to Erik's incisive cut to the chase, I'll be the first in line to cheer on 'Brett the tellydon'.

  10. It's sometimes possible to get at the price issue indirectly by, for example, getting the publisher to commit to a cheaper paperback release after hardback sales are exhausted. But I'm afraid the reality of academic publishing today is that it is largely take-it-or-leave-it.

    (Dan is right too - always see if they'll pay for the illustrations).

  11. Christopher

    Paperback issues tend to depend on the success of the hardback, particularly how quickly it sells. Brett did well to get his first book but wouldn't be expected to be involved in the price setting or even price evaluation.

  12. Post author

    Cheers again for the further well-wishes. On the matter of price-setting, I guess another indirect way to influence it is when discussing the possible market. But in the end that's still the publisher's call.

    Dan:

    Thanks; I'll have to keep an eye on the illustrations! And yes, academic journal publishing is a whole other story. And not a happy one.

    Erik:

    Well, obviously that's the plan...

  13. Neil Datson

    Slightly belated congratulations.

    As regards the cover price, well . . . I only hope I can afford it!

  14. Pingback:

  15. Belated congratulations Brett. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on the process. I have some interesting stories about academic publishing.

    Does this mean I have to buy another book?

  16. Post author

    Thanks, Ross, and yes it does mean that, I'm afraid. I like your new gravatar, BTW, though I understand it's a criminal offence to impersonate an Air Chief Marshal!

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