Ten tips for publishing from the thesis

Last week’s publishing workshop was really interesting and raised some key points about publishing from the thesis that I thought I’d share with those of you who couldn’t make the session. There were five presentations – three from current members of research staff who have experience of publishing from the thesis, one from a Commissioning Editor from Manchester University Press, and one from the JRUL. The presentations covered publishing in journals, peer review, turning the thesis into a book and Open Access publishing. In this post I’m just going to recount some of the key points (in no particular order) that I thought were useful (and/or surprising) to people who are embarking on publishing their work.

1. If you’re planning to publish your thesis – as journal articles or a book (or both) – it might help to think of the thesis as a [series of] publication[s]. This might involve writing for a wider audience than you would if you were just writing a thesis, and planning chapters as if they were articles or book chapters. This can make the whole process of modifying the thesis for publication more straightforward and therefore much quicker.

2. Your book can’t have the same title as your thesis, so if you have a great, snappy title you might want to save that for your first book.

3. Some book publisher’s contracts contain a clause which gives them first option on any future publications. Sign it, and you’re potentially committing yourself to the one publisher for the whole of your professional life. So read contracts carefully.

4. People who work as peer reviewers for journals do so on a voluntary basis, so it’s no wonder that peer review can take so long – they have to fit it in alongside all of their other day-to-day tasks. Be patient.

5. You shouldn’t submit your journal article to more than one publication at a time, but you can send your book proposal to more than one publisher at a time.

6. Not all book publishers will pay all of the costs associated with publishing your book. For instance, some publishers will expect you to pay for copyediting, and you will be expected to pay for indexing if you’re not prepared to do it yourself (costs of indexing are about £400-£500 for a typical monograph).

7. Any articles submitted for the next REF will have to be Open Access, so if you’re planning an academic career and don’t know much about it, it’s worth taking a look at the library’s guide at: http://www.openaccess.manchester.ac.uk/ If you’re self-funded or don’t have money in your scholarship to pay for Open Access, the library can help you out.

8. There is useful advice on writing journal articles on-line. Just type “how to transform PhD into journal articles” into Google or see “From Dissertation to Journal Article: A Useful Method for Planning and Writing Any Manuscript” and http://www.phd2published.com/

9. When responding to comments from peer reviewers, it may be useful to compile a list of their comments and work through them methodically. This approach can make the process of dealing with reviewers’ comments less daunting. You don’t have to make all of the changes suggested if you genuinely disagree with the comments – you will have to say why you haven’t made the changes, though.

10. Many journals have an ‘embargo period’ on the research that they publish, meaning that it cannot be made Open Access for a set period of time. Many also don’t allow you to make the published version of your paper Open Access – instead you would be expected to use a version incorporating amendments made in response to peer review (i.e. the final accepted version) but not necessarily incorporating changes made by the publisher prior to final publication (like formatting, layout and pagination changes).

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