Self-Publish or Perish: Self-Publishing Academic Work

self-publishing academic workYou’ve probably heard that old saying – publish or perish! But what does it mean? And how can self-publishing fit in?

What does “publish or perish” mean?

The coined phrase is derived from the pressure in academia to publish researched work. When you’re an academic, whether you’re a researcher or a professor, it’s pertinent to publish something to further your career. Academics should always strive to learn and to teach. Publishing written work is a good way to combine both of these: learning while you research, write, and edit, and teaching upon publication.

Publishing work is also a good way to achieve tenure, which college professors are very serious about.

What about self-publishing academic work?

Self-publishing is a great way to get researched published! Not only is self-publishing easier than trying to get published traditionally, but it also allows for more freedom of expression on the author’s part. That’s one of the most popular draws of self-publishing. For most academics, writing and publishing is the result of months or years of dedication and hard work. To remain in control of how that work is published – how the pages look, what bind type is used, etc. – is especially intriguing. Plus, it’s a way to actually get their work out there. Traditionally publishing can be slow, and the process is full of roadblocks that make it even slower. According to Inside Higher Ed, “Academics… inhabit a parallel publishing ecosystem: a constellation of university presses and journals that publish slowly, offer few economic returns, and subject all work to painstaking peer review.”  

This is not so different from other forms of publishing. One of the number one reasons aspiring and established authors turn to self-publishing is that traditional publishing almost makes it impossible to get published. Those who are published are a rarity; those who are turned away are the norm.

Self-publishing textbooks

Sometimes, when a professor has been teaching other researchers’ work for so long, they desire to write their own textbook, something that will instruct future generations derived from their work in the field. Self-publishing a textbook is a great way to achieve this. Professors can self-publish however many copies of the textbook to match however many students are taking the class. Self-publishing the work makes it look more professional, too, instead of simply offering students copies out of notebooks or Word documents. Having a book that is bound, with a beautiful cover and the author’s name on it, gives it an unrivaled air of professionalism.

In the end, the decision to self-publish ultimately belongs to the writer and the writer only. The draw is definitely significant – where else are you able to be involved every step of the way, from the writing to the editing to the design to the marketing? Self-publishing is a hands-on project, one that, if hard work is done, pays off immensely.