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Book Publication Dilemma

I am looking to publish a book on mathematics next year. It is around 450 pages and the material in it somewhat advanced, but very applicable to hobbyists (eg. a physics student or engineering student may find the material intriguing). Choosing a publisher has been somewhat of a headache for me. I have done a fair amount of research on some of the larger publishers like Springer but am unsure if it is even worth publishing academically. In my research I have often seen that the self publication route, on Amazon, has been worthwhile under the stipulation that the publisher knows how to advertise the book; advertisement should not be an issue; the problem I have seen with Springer and the other academic publishers is that they tend to charge more per book than Amazon where you are allowed to edit the price of your work. I am not so worried about how much I make from it, but rather-so how many people read it; with a larger price point, I feel less people would read the book.

Also -- the time frame. I need the entire publication process to be less than or equal to 8 months. Is academic publishing (on Springer) even possible for the size of my book and time frame? Would it be more worthwhile [have a larger audience] for me to publish academically or through Amazon?

Here is a question similar to this one; it addresses the same topic but does not speak on specific publishers like Springer.

Thank you!

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    I need the entire publication process to be less than or equal to 8 months. - Why? And if you want more people to read it, why not make it a free online book and post it on the arXiv and open textbook repositories? – Kimball Jul 11 at 20:13
  • Not to trivialize your question but what good does it do you to know why I need the book published within 8 months? And publishing a book on arXiv does not seem satisfactory to me. – user143 Jul 11 at 20:37
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    Also, if you have an 8-month limit on all the prep for the book, even if you feel it's already ready... it'll probably be impossible. All my own book-writing has run overtime by a year or two, even when I've thought it was completely ready-to-go... – paul garrett Jul 11 at 20:47
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    You might have unrealistic expectations for the potential market of your book. Based on your description, if you approach a publisher like Springer, you might sell a couple hundred copies at ~$100/each and earn a couple thousand dollars in royalties. If you self-publish at $0/each, you might sell a couple thousand copies. Of course lower prices will also lead to more copies sold, but the amount gain is usually quite little. – Allure Jul 11 at 21:25
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    @user143 One, because an 8-month deadline sounds like a rush. But also to figure out what kinds of solutions will work for you. E.g., does it have to be published and appear as "for sale" with 8 months for some tenure requirement or something like that? Or to fulfill some personal goal you set for yourself? – Kimball Jul 11 at 21:30
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The problem with self publishing with Amazon or otherwise is that no one will be able to find your book unless there are some special circumstances. I've done this as well as published with large publishers, including Springer.

If you are incredibly well known in your field and have a valuable web presence and anyone who might want to find your book can find you, then it can work and you can get a lot of sales and retain more of the revenue. But otherwise the book will just get lost in the millions of others. Publishers actually, take some effort to advertise and promote the books they publish, but it is much harder for you to do so, since people know about Springer, but maybe not about Joe Doakes and what he does.

For text-book material, the big companies will travel to book exhibits at conferences that educators might attend and give their (your) materials some visibility. They might also help you attend and meet some of your potential audience. But for professional works there is less opportunity for that.

The down side of the big publishers is that they can be abusive in some ways and I found that their promotions of books was very time limited. Two years. If you had a popular book they will want a new edition in two years. If it isn't popular, then it will just disappear.

But one valuable service of the big publishers is that they can help you a lot with copyediting and such. It is very hard, I find to edit one's own work. When you read, what you "see" is what you thought you wrote, not what you actually wrote. You can pay people for this, but they need to be math "aware" for it to work out.

A minor issue, perhaps, depending on your material, is that the big outfits are likely to use better materials, such as acid-free paper, than what the in-house Amazon system does. The same is true for the quality of bindings.


I'm working a bit on a math book myself. But it is a labor of love, when I can find the energy. But I expect exactly zero sales. Mathematicians are a weird lot, I guess.

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  • Thank you; your response was what I was looking for. Suppose I did go the peer review route. How long do you think it would take to publish the book? – user143 Jul 11 at 19:33
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    That depends a lot on you. If your ideas are sound then it might go quite quickly. But if some reviewer wants to see a lot of changes then longer - a year - more. One of my books took endless rounds of revision but wound up pretty much where I started. Respond quickly to any suggested revisions (whether you change anything or not) and it will be quicker. And for books, the editor is looking more at profits than anything else, I fear. – Buffy Jul 11 at 19:39
  • When you say profits, how might that influence their decision on the editorial process? Is it more common to omit things from the book or to add to something? – user143 Jul 11 at 19:41
  • I don't think that the editorial process will step on you too much. The reviewers are honest, but may have different ideas. But the editor (acquisitions editor, not copy editor) has to balance effort-cost against potential sales. If you want a full color book, good luck to you. – Buffy Jul 11 at 19:47
  • I found that their promotions of books was very time limited - beyond two years, absent a big event (e.g. author wins Nobel prize), promoting a book simply doesn't lead to many sales. New editions of popular books are effectively free money since they're practically guaranteed to sell at least decently; unpopular books are unprofitable (they might even lose money) so disappearing is normal. – Allure Jul 11 at 21:15

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