What does someone earn by writing a scientific book (apart from money)? When somebody uses his/her time to write a scientific book, and I am referring to the top publishers. What does the author earn? For instance somebody writes a book for partial differential equations, what does the author earn by publishing his/her book? He becomes famous? what?

  • "Books" cover a lot of things. Textbooks? "The Oxford Handbook of ...", pop sci books like Pinker churns out? Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 2:09
  • I explained which books I am referring to....
    – mike
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 5:12
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    @just_learning Clearly, your explanation was insufficient. Stating that you did explain it (personally I’m having a hard time locating this explanation) isn’t going to help Azor understand your question. Of course it is in your best interest to have others understand your question because only people who understand it can answer it.
    – 11684
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 7:41
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    Note that a lot of books occur as side effects. I'm giving a course on PDEs, I need some lecture notes, over time I polish them & add exercises - now the resources exist why keep them just to myself? Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 8:13
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    The academic environment has metrics and promotions like everywhere else, and writing a book is effectively a longer version of writing a paper: it's something that can be cited when you're trying to advance your career.
    – pjc50
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


You learn something about your field by writing a book, just because you have to think about it in a certain way. There is also some personal satisfaction.

But, most, probably the vast majority, of books won't make you famous. Most books have a short lifespan and publishers stop advertising them if sales are low. So, they disappear, but for the occasional sale at Amazon, say. There are exceptions. But the top publishers have a lot of churn. And, for textbooks, if successful, expect that the publisher will want new editions every couple of years.

Books by already famous people tend to do better, of course, but that doesn't make you famous.

People write books as a service to students and people in the field, though they may not recognize that as their motivation.

And even the money is poor for most books, since sales tend to be both small and short-lived. A few of my books have done pretty well over time, but some are very obscure.

There have been far more math books published than there have been famous mathematicians. And not all of those mathematicians got famous through books.

  • Bourbaki did not publish a lot of theorems but got quite famous through his books :p
    – Plop
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 8:46
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    @Plop, ah, good ol' Nick. I knew him as a youngster.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 10:26

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