Publishing your PhD thesis as a book

During our latest Doctoral Discussion, we mentioned the possibility and process of publishing your thesis as a book, thereby increasing the visibility of your work. To follow up on this, we’ve collated some advice on the topic.

Publishing your PhD as a book

First of all, making your PhD thesis into a book requires retrospective editing to make it clear and readable. A thesis commonly follows a recommended format, which allows you to structure your work coherently, helping to make your reasoning, methodology and findings clear to examiners. However, this format probably needs shaking up in order to make sure your transformed thesis-book reads well and resonates with your target audience. For example, you might need to add chapters, update data and references, remove methodological detail, and so on.

Your target audience

Who are you publishing this for? One of the first steps in publishing your thesis is to figure out who will read the finished work. For example, it could be for an academic audience, redesigned as a resource for undergraduates, or structured as an informative text for amateur enthusiasts in your field. You need to think carefully about your audience. Here’s more on how this will shape your editing process in a great Dumb Little Man blog.




Finding a publisher

Again, this depends on your target audience, and will follow the form of your thesis’ metamorphosis. It might be worth speaking to your supervisor to see if they can recommend an appropriate outlet for your subject area. From there, you could consider who publishes work in your field, make a short list of publishers that you referenced in your thesis as a starting point and go from there. Other options are to look for advice from people who’ve successfully published their thesis, for example, friends, fellow researchers, Google, the Twittersphere, and so on. Then it’s a matter of approaching the shortlisted Publishers, perhaps by sending an excerpt or example chapter, along with an explanation of why you think they should publish your work.

Self-publication is also an option; although this route is often more expensive, there is the possibility to bypass the editorial process and to have complete freedom in your content. Of course, your own editing and re-editing process becomes even more important, as you will be responsible for ensuring that the book is coherent, factually and grammatically correct, and relevant to the intended readers. If the book is intended for an academic audience of peers in your field, it is worth considering the benefits of peer review, and whether you want to ensure your work has undergone a similar process before self-publication.




What makes a good book?

In a previous Research Hive seminar, Mila Steele, Senior Commissioning Editor for Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at SAGE Publications, came to speak about the transformation from thesis to book. You can listen to her presentation and view her slides here, for professional advice and guidance on what makes a good book.

From thesis to book in one year: a Sussex experience

To sum all this together, here is a great two-part guest post in which you can read how Dr Anna Arrowsmith published her thesis as a book, in Part One (which includes finding potential academic publishers, rejection & acceptance, working on the book outline, independent review and negotiating a contract) and Part Two (including editing, negotiating with her publisher, indexing, and designing a symbolic cactus-based cover image…).



As always, let us know any queries or comments here, on Twitter or via email:





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