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I'm wondering what it is like to publish a PhD thesis commercially? Has anyone done that before? What would the contract be with the publisher regarding sales profits?

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    It is recommended to not give your PhD thesis to publishers, especially who contact you by email (or spamming is a more convenient word for that.) First of all, by publishing like this your thesis, in most cases, you consent to give all rights of your thesis to them, which would be a problem in future if you want to publish some part of your thesis as a journal publication. – optimal control May 3 '16 at 8:23
  • So then how can you publish it both online and hard copy? – Ehsan May 3 '16 at 8:30
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    There are countries (e.g. Germany) that require that you publish your thesis, and in those countries there are publishers that specialize in that. You'll loose money if you do that. You can be your own publisher. You'll loose money if you do that. If you don't want any journal publications to come out of it (for some disciplines that is acceptable for others it is a huge problem), then you can try to convince a serious publisher. Do no expect to be succesful: they need to make a profit to, and a thesis doesn't sell. – Maarten Buis May 3 '16 at 8:46
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    In the fields and countries I'm familiar with, online publication is handled by the local university library (they have a repository specifically for theses, which get a stable and citable URI). Hardcover publication (beyond the small number of required copies for the examiner, the local and the national library, and hapless family and friends, which are usually printed and bound at a local copy) via a publisher is mostly seen as a vanity project and even frowned upon (in particular if the agreement prevents making the thesis available online). It is still routinely done, though. – Christian Clason May 3 '16 at 9:46
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    (cont'd) One exception is if the thesis is substantial enough to be picked up as a monograph by a respectable publisher, but this a) is very rare and b) requires significant additional work to bring it in the proper form. In principle, you could just 1. pick the right publisher, 2. find the managing editor for the right series, 3. send them your manuscript, 4. wait. Monographs even from respectable publishers rarely make the authors any money, though. – Christian Clason May 3 '16 at 9:49
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The answer to this question is very field- and country-dependent. In the sciences, a thesis is very rarely transformed into a book (except in certain locations, such as Germany), while in the humanities it is a relatively common end for high-quality theses. To a first approximation, this is because science theses are often best "republished" or "prepublished" as a set of several peer-reviewed journal papers, whereas it is more common for a humanities work to be a single large monograph not suitable for such sub-publication.

There are a large number of pseudo-scam organizations which will contact you and offer to turn your thesis into a book. Don't bother with them: they will merely waste your time and taint your reputation.

Instead, I would recommend beginning with a discussion with your advisor, who will know the common practices in your field, and may be able to help assess whether it is a good idea to publish your thesis as a book at all. You may also contact a reputable university press, who can help assess your work and guide you through the process of transforming it.

No matter what, however, don't expect to make any significant amount of money from such a venture.

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    +1 for "No matter what, however, don't expect to make any significant amount of money from such a venture." – Luigi May 3 '16 at 12:01
  • I think there's a decent amount hidden in the "relatively common end" bit of while in the humanities it is a relatively common end for high-quality theses. Almost always, this will entail substantially rewriting and adjusting for style. There may be exceptions. – virmaior May 4 '16 at 2:03
  • @virmaior Absolutely: see the link I included. – jakebeal May 4 '16 at 2:04

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