I have been considering publishing the book I am writing with Springer; specifically under the series Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics (or any related series). I believe the contents of the book would be a great addition to the related content published by Springer and I also believe it would be popular amongst both mathematicians and physicists. The issue [I believe I face] is that I lack a degree. The contents of the book do not necessarily warrant a degree, for the book is mostly on special functions and their employment. I should also mention that the book is about 90% complete (perhaps this increases my chances of publication?).

This page is what I am most concerned about. I fail to be able to fill out the "Affiliation" and "Personal website" sections, for I have neither; i.e., I lack a degree and a website. Now for the question:

Will lacking a degree in mathematics or physics prevent my book from being published?

And a follow up:

Would "hobbyist" be an appropriate title for the section labeled "Title"?

I am asking such questions to gauge whether or not I should even submit my proposal. Thank you!

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    No idea for the main question, but for your follow-up I would suggest "Independent Scholar".
    – user116675
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 16:40
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    Do not expect to earn money this way. Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 3:30
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    "Affiliation" is not about having a degree, it is about having a job. This is where you fill out your employer. And the "Title/Profession" part is where you fill out what you do at that employer. The form does not ask about a degree at all. Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 7:49
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    A bit tangential, but I think it's worth reading Robert Ghrist's explanation of why he (a tenured professor at a major research university) self-published his book. Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 19:41

5 Answers 5


Whether Springer or any other publisher wants to publish any given book is entirely up to them. I'm sure that plenty of books are published by people without degrees.

But note that first you need to attract an "acquisitions editor" who makes a preliminary determination whether it is worth their time to work with you. Convince them that you have the necessary background and writing skill: perhaps with a sample chapter. One determination is whether the material "fits" into what they think of as good things to be associated with.

Once you get into the system, your manuscript will almost certainly be sent to a few "reviewers" who will make comments on what you write and make a recommendation to the editor. If their judgments are favorable, then you will probably get published. But expect several rounds of review and re-edit before you get to the production phase.

As to your personal title, you can simply say independent researcher, which is probably better than hobbyist, assuming that you need any "title" at all.

But before you bother to submit anything, spend some time trying to understand the sorts of things they like to publish in your field.

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    you can simply say independent researcher you mean assuming that that’s a true fact, right? OP did not say anything about being a researcher.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 4:52
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    @DanRomik, when I read independent researcher it could be anything from a full-time researcher outside of a university to someone doing it part-time beside "normal" work. I don't expect them to stand in a laboratory all day and earn their main income by that. I think the expectations behind that formulation might differ, but I would suppose that it describes his role/position as close as possible.
    – Cribber
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 7:49
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    @Cribber I believe Dan's point is that OP didn't specify that they are a researecher at all, whether full-time or part-time.
    – JBentley
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 9:43
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    Hmmm, @DanRomik, why do you think that a person who reads and thinks and writes mathematics (and physics) isn't a researcher? Is there a special handshake?
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 13:56
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    @Buffy someone who is writing a math textbook isn’t by definition a researcher, and even someone who “reads and thinks and writes mathematics” isn’t automatically a researcher (that definition would make all students of math anywhere researchers, and strip the word of any useful meaning). To be a researcher you have to at least dabble in research. There isn’t a special handshake, and anyone can be a researcher if they want to, but nonetheless not everyone is, and I wouldn’t advise OP to represent himself as one if he isn’t.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 15:26

As someone who has served as referee for math textbook proposals for reputed academic publishers, I can tell you that if your proposal were sent to me, I could not care less about whether you have a degree or what your title is. I would care about the content of your proposal and whether it convinced me that you can write a high quality, correct, and interesting book that serves a need for students and researchers of mathematics.

However. You should have no illusions that convincing me of such a thing is an easy standard to meet. It’s not. It wouldn’t be easy even for a professional mathematician with many publications under their belt, and I would expect that it would be doubly difficult for someone who doesn’t have formal training in mathematics at a level equivalent to at least a PhD, let alone an undergraduate degree.

But as I said, the lack of a degree by itself would not be a problem for me.


Will lacking a degree in mathematics or physics prevent my book from being published?

It won't outright prevent your book from being published, but it will be a disadvantage. This stems from two things:

  1. Without a degree, unless you can demonstrate exceptional achievement, you are less of an authority.
  2. Without a degree, like it or not, your books will simply sell less. By extension, that means they're less profitable.

One can complain about these being unfair, of course, but the fact remains that given two books on chess theory, one written by a former world champion and the other written by an amateur nobody has heard of, it's practically guaranteed that the first book will sell much better regardless of content.

That said, not having a degree does not disqualify your book from being published. That still comes down to the publisher. Things they might take into account include "can I expect this book to sell regardless?", or "how much will it cost us to publish this manuscript", or even "do I need to maintain good relations with this author?" (if you can potentially publish more projects with them).

Since your manuscript is already mostly written, you have nothing to lose by contacting Springer. I would suggest doing it. Sample chapters accelerate the pace at which they can come to a decision as well.

Would "hobbyist" be an appropriate title for the section labeled "Title"?

No, use Mr., Mrs., or Ms. as applicable (along with your profession).

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    "Without a degree, like it or not, your books will simply sell less." Implausible. Most purchases by academic libraries are (or were, before they stopped buying anything) standing orders of all books in a certain category. Individual buyers are unlikely to check the author bio before ordering. Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 7:40
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    @AnonymousPhysicist ?!? I cannot imagine any library having a contract with Springer or anyone to buy one of each book they publish. 90% of them would vanish in the archive without ever being read. And individuals buy upon recommendation. The author affiliation and bio is certainly part of that.
    – Karl
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 9:04
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    "90% of them would vanish in the archive without ever being read." @Karl What makes you think that does not happen? Some libraries have a lot of books. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 9:10
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    I did not claim they buy every book published. Just the books within a certain category. Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 9:11
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    @ Allure: Perhaps it varies between fields. At least in my field (pure maths), my understanding from the librarians I’ve talked to agrees with @AnonymousPhysicist: A large proportion of acquisitions are books in specific “series” (e.g. Springer’s Lecture Notes in Mathematics, or the AMS Monographs series), and libraries subscribe to these series like they would subscribe to a journal. These series are highly selective; the publishers’ incentive not to inflate them with junk is because that would damage their reputation and libraries would stop subscribing.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 19:05

It depends what you mean by "publishing". If you want to make it publicly available, and touch as much people as possible with your book, publishing it by Springer is not always the best way to go.

As a personal experience, I'm writing a math book while having no affiliation. The "originality" is to be completely free (the LaTeX sources are licensed as GNU-FDL).

Once a year I make a summary of the news about the project on a well known french open source oriented website. This is sufficient to touch almost 100% of my potential lectors.

This way I do have some feedback and people is writing emails pointing some errors/typos/recommendations.

In some sense, if you publish your book by a commercial editor, you basically trash your work since it will loose the rights to keep the book available to the community after the editor decides to not print it anymore.

An other interesting point in publishing "the open source way" is that you keep your liberty of writing what you want with your own style. My book contains illustrations from xkcd which would be impossible to use in a commercial product.

  • It's not impossible to use xkcd in a commercial product - Randal Monroe seems relatively relaxed about (limited) use in books: xkcd.com/license.html. Good luck with your book - hope it goes well. Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 1:53

Will lacking a degree in mathematics or physics prevent my book from being published?

No, but it would help if you show your work to established academics. If they like it, they may kindly say so to their Springer contact. (Almost every established academic has a Springer contact. They approach us as soon as they see we have not half-bad set of lecture notes online.) And then you are in.

Would "hobbyist" be an appropriate title for the section labeled "Title"?

No! You might as well write crackpot. Somebody else suggested independent researcher. I think that is a wonderful term in itself, but unfortunately it is tainted by the fact that this is how crackpots often refer to themselves. This is one instance where I would recommend a white lie, and say that you are working toward a BSc or MSc or PhD, whatever is appropriate in your position. (In fact, do put an application to a suitable school or college in the mail right now, so it is technically not even a lie.)

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