Articles tagged "academic books"

Self-publishing gaining ground in the academics

[Graphic: Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle of Higher Education]

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 300 copies are sold” due to 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 really 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.In other words, 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 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 publisher’s 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 type of new and refreshing work.

Marketing a Professional, Technical, or Academic Book

A majority of the blog posts thus far have been more geared toward authors publishing work for the general fiction reader. But what if you’ve written an academic, professional, or technical book that doesn’t have the far-reaching market of a novel? Should you follow the marketing guidelines put forth thus far?

Well, yes and no.

Building a community through social media is important no matter who you’re writing for. However, there are certain aspects niche marketers need to pay more attention to, such as:

Planning your book’s release: Trade books can be released at any point of the year because there is always a willing market of readers. Professional, academic, and technical books are another story altogether. You wouldn’t release a manual for the iPhone4S a month before the iPhone5 is scheduled to come out, nor would you release an SAT guide in May, right after a majority of high school juniors in the country have taken the test. So, before you decide on a release date, research sales spikes for your topic to determine the best season and month for publication.

Finding your niche: This should be a goal for all writers, but it’s especially important for those who write about more obscure or challenging concepts. The good news is that, given the narrow breadth of your topic, you have a smaller community to break into — and thus more of a chance of being noticed. So even before you finish your book,