While I don’t typically pay a lot of attention to academic publishing, I recently ran across a very interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on (mostly) young academics taking advantage of the new opportunities afforded to them by recent developments in self-publishing.
The piece focuses on Clay Spinuzzi, a professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas at Austin, who decided to self-publish his third book Topsight: A Guide to Studying, Diagnosing, and Fixing Information Flow in Organizations. The article goes on to point out that there are a lot of common sense reasons for the decision.
By spending just “a couple of thousand dollars in freelance graphic design and copy-editing Spinuzzi will make back his financial investment after they sell 300 copies” because of the super high rate of royalties Amazon guarantees (about $7 a digital copy). Selling 1,500 copies will net Spinuzzi $10,000, the article points out. If he sold 15,000, a rare but not entirely inconceivable number, he could walk away with more than $100,000.
These numbers are interesting, and Amazon’s royalty arrangement could pay off big given the right product, and this is where I think the story is interesting. Spinuzzi says he doesn’t consider independent publishing a replacement for the traditional academic press. In fact, his next book will be published by one. Instead, he sees digital self-publication as “part of a larger ecosystem” and “a natural outgrowth of other unvetted work,” such as scholarly blogging and social media.
Room for growth in Academic publishing
Digital publishing allows him a level of freedom (and a margin of profit) traditional academic publishing can’t, but it is also helping to create a new and, finally, viable type of writing. It’s allowing authors like Spinuzzi to write a rigorous, researched books that have a popular appeal but carry academia’s mark of approval.
As we’ve seen with high-profile Kickstarter campaigns over the last few months, studios and publishers are often conservative in their appraisal of a work’s appeal, and it’s probably just a matter of time before an author sees similar success (David Mamet is giving it an early shot according to The New York Times). Third-way options like self-publishing could be just the ticket to help promote and distribute this new and refreshing work.
Glasstree academic publishing
Lulu has kept a very close eye on the changes in academic publishing in the past years. In particular, we’ve seen more researchers who feel the same as Spinuzzi—that an alternative exists to supplement traditional publishing.
Rather than wait for another, less experienced or capable publisher to craft a platform, Lulu has taken on the challenge! The labor of many designers and developers has led to Glasstree Academic Publishing. Offering a range of academic specific publishing sizes and binding types, Glasstree caters to the professor, student, and researcher.
We also offer Open Access and other featurs relevant to academics who need to publish their work.
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Max R writes for the Lulu Blog