Publishing Your Dissertation

When and How (Much)

At the faculty lunch room (which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s still pretty nice), years after the fact many of my colleagues continue to talk about what they wish that had done publication-wise after finishing their dissertations.

There are basically two schools of thought:

A. The Piecemeal (a.k.a. Maximum-Quantity-of-Articles) Approach

Publish as many chapters as you can before signing a contract to publish the whole, because you are not allowed to excerpt chapters once the full manuscript is under contract. This has the benefit of maximizing how much you can beef up your C.V. on the basis of that one document. Plus nothing counts toward tenure until you’re hired in a tenure-track job, so if you have confidence that you can get such a position without the full MS being published, then it might make sense to wait.

B. The Giant Step (a.k.a. Book-Sooner-Is-Better) Approach

Assume that this is the MS that will get you the job you want, that you’ll need ample new material to get tenure anyway, and that you will be able to produce such material expeditiously.

I subscribe to the latter. There are a number of reasons for this:
1. I have published and may continue to publish a few articles that are derivative of my dissertation research. I have done little new research for these, but I have used different methodologies of analysis to argue different theses and reach different conclusions. For example, in my dissertation and the monograph based on it, I examine the role of nationalist ideology and gender in the penitential theology of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, but I did not explore the interrelationship between gender and nationalism in the sisterhood until a subsequent article.

2. My dissertation works as a cohesive whole and I don’t think that any of the chapters work especially well as stand-alone pieces.

3. The job market is terrible. Your best chance is to make a name for yourself with your dissertation-based monograph ASAP and plan on doing sufficient new research and publishing once you get hired in a TT job. Anyway, you’ll get a better job with a published dissertation than without one.


General Advice

1. Figure out which presses will be the best fit, given your topic.

2. Figure out which presses are tier 1, tier 2, etc. (which you probably already know), both in general and given your sub-field.

3. Go for your first choice.

4. Expect rejection. If they’re not interested in your proposal, then I’d move on to your next choice, etc. If they like your proposal but reject your MS, hey, at least you got some free feedback and probably have a chance to resubmit.

5. Be patient. You’re probably looking at a multi-year process.

6. Embrace revision.

7. Resubmit.

8. Expect the process to take a while — hopefully not as long as it took me — but know that, once you get to that stage, you’re really at the mercy of the anonymous readers.

9. Re-resubmit if necessary.

10. At all costs, avoid vanity presses that publish dissertations as-is. A good way to tell: look at how much they charge for the finished books. The prices are always high. Anyone who emails you out-of-the-blue wanting to publish your MS should be suspect.

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