helenlt on August 16th, 2013
Every so often, we get a a run of queries on a particular topic. Recently, we’ve had a few post-graduate students and alumni contact us regarding publishing offers for their thesis. Changes in technology have made it cheaper and easier for books to be published, either in print or electronic format. As a result, many smaller or niche publishers are being launched, and there are now publishing companies that specialize in publishing theses. These companies use online databases such as the Library’s digital repository to identify research higher degree theses. They contact the author to solicit thesis manuscripts for publication. Students and alumni usually want to know if the offer is legitimate and if they can publish their thesis.
The second part of that question is the easier part to answer, so I’ll start there. As the author of the thesis, you will own copyright in your thesis. Unless you signed a research or funding agreement that might affect how copyright is managed, you will have the right to publish your thesis. If you have previously published some of your thesis, for example as a journal article, make sure you check any publishing agreement that you signed in case there are restrictions on publishing your thesis elsewhere.
Now for the tricky part – is the offer to publish my thesis legitimate? Often this type of publishing is referred to as “vanity publishing” because there is not always the same level of quality control as for a traditional academic publisher or any process of peer review and anyone can be published regardless of the quality of the work. In some cases, the author may be required to pay a publishing fee to cover the cost of publishing their own work as the publishers want to keep publishing costs as low as possible.
If you are thinking of accepting the offer to publish, google the publishing company to see what kind of publisher they are and what their reputation is. They should have a website which list their publications so you can get an idea of the type and quality of material they are publishing. You can also try searching the library catalogue (keyword search – publisher name) to see how many of their works the library holds. If they are a major and reputable publisher, the library should hold a wide range of their works. A google search may also link to reviews of the companies, so you can find out about other authors’ experiences.
If the publisher have not already sent you an author agreement or a publishing agreement – request one. If there is no author agreement, proceed with caution. Make sure that you read the author agreement carefully and that you understand the terms. I would be cautious with any agreement that requires you to pay money towards the cost of publishing and that also requires you to assign copyright to the publisher. If the publisher does require a transfer of copyright, check to see what, if any, rights the publishers grants back to you. If you are unsure about the author agreement, you should get independent legal advice.
Other Universities have also fielded questions on this topic from their students and alumni, so for more information, you can see:
- UQ Library on vanity publishing
- QUT’s Information sheet
- Swinburne’s FAQ about LAP Publishing and VDM Verlag