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Pro's and con's of publishing book through university press?

Averroes MD

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What are the pros and cons of publishing a book through a university press?

I know books nowadays don't earn much more than peanuts for authors but would an author make the same whether he/she went through a university press instead of a non-university affiliated press?


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I'm not sure if anyone here has actually published through a university press yet, but I'll tell you the little I know.


First, speaking strictly of hard academic writing, publishing a serious academic text is never about making money from book sales directly. It's about long term benefits, i.e. building one's reputation, being invited to speak at conferences and/or universities, and possibly winning a prize (e.g. the Grawemeyer Award is $100k). The latter two obviously come later in one's career usually. Publishing through a university press is a much more direct way of achieving these things. Going with a non-university or even worse a non-academic press can potentially pose a huge risk to one's reputation. The bottom line is that uni presses are just taken more seriously, especially if one has a very short or no publishing record.


Regarding publishing more popular texts: These are very rarely published by uni presses. I mentioned in another post that there is some debate over whether or not "popular" publishing can harm one's reputation at the beginning of a career. Religion is something that many people are interested in on a popular level (like history, politics, etc.) The difference however between those others and religion is that there is a contentious relationship between the study of religion in "secular academia" and the study of religion "from the inside" so to speak. Sometimes uni presses publish the latter, but only if it is really serious scholarship. I can't imagine a uni press publishing a pop-academia text written from an inside perspective. There are many non-university presses that publish religion texts, both pop and academic. Not all of them are be respected in the academia. Even Wipf & Stock, which publishes many academic theological texts, is not always taken seriously by the secular academy because they're seen as "too inside." The danger in our field of publishing with a non-university, and especially a non-academic press, is that, despite the actual content of the book, it may raise a question in people's minds regarding this insider-outsider distinction. Some might wonder if it is really more of a pop text than a piece of serious academic work.


This is by no means a settled issue, and I don't mean to trash someone else's experience or book even. However, having spent five years now studying theology/religion at the graduate level, this has been the common wisdom that I've heard from others.

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Thanks for your replies. I'm not in it to make money of course, but I always think considering finances--especially with student loans--is wise. Naturally, I'm already aware that writing in general does not pay much, but was just wondering. Thanks!

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