Home » Non-US, Self-Publishing, Self-Publishing Warnings » 20 things you need to know before you self-publish

20 things you need to know before you self-publish

15 January 2012

From The Guardian:

[W]e now round up the top 20 things you need to know for academic self-publishing success.

. . . .

There is no lack of intellectual integrity in open access or self-publishing: The perceived lack of elite positioning in self-publishing is rapidly changing. My biggest argument for self-publishing and for open access in the academic community, is this: Would you rather wait two years for your work to appear in a learned journal locked behind a firewall and read by few, or would you like to get your fantastic arguments out to the public in a month and accessible to many? I’m on the editorial board of Learned Publishing and we’ve published papers that demonstrate that impact has far more to do with access than with peer review.

Before self-publishing, establish what is meant by ‘editing’: I think of there being two principal forms of editing: substantive editing and copy editing. Unlike copy editing, substantive editing looks at the whole manuscript and judges the entire work: Is the argument cohesive? Does the story flow? Is anything missing? What should be dropped? Copy editing is line-by-line, word by word.

Accept the ramifications of self-publishing then get stuck in: What I’ve called ‘the stigma of self-publishing’ has broader ramifications for the academic, because publishing is very much about advancing one’s career. So, assuming that the academic has come to terms with the issues that affect self-publishing, they should start where every other author starts: Engage with your community of self-publishers authors, do lots of reading.

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Self-publishing can get your work to market quickly, giving yourself more time to promote yourself as an academic, using your publication as a tool: Ebooks give you instant global reach, people thousands of miles away can be reading your findings within minutes of them being published. There are many aspects that contribute to self-publishing successfully, but in the case of academic publishing, it is vitally important to have the manuscript copy-edited and proofread, not by colleagues, friends or family but by a professional. This is your career on the line and if the manuscript is riddled with tiny errors or inaccuracies, it will reflect really badly on you.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Non-US, Self-Publishing, Self-Publishing Warnings

9 Comments to “20 things you need to know before you self-publish”

  1. I’m glad to see this taking hold. It counteracts a development of the mid-Twentieth Century that was very bad for science.

    “Science” as defined by the founders of the Royal Society is a process. Its basis is that credentials have nothing to do with whether you’re correct or not; only the data and analysis make a difference. Put it all out there, in toto and without reservation. If your analysis and data are correct, they’ll stand up to any attack. If they aren’t, they won’t — because they shouldn’t. (This is the basis of Global Warming “denialism”. The leading lights of “climate science” refuse to expose their data and analysis, in at least one case “…because you’ll just try to find something wrong with it.” Trying to find something wrong with it is what science is all about!)

    With the flood of new experiments and theories in the early Twentieth Century came a problem: publishing was a bottleneck. There were only so many journals that could publish only so much, and they were getting overwhelmed. To cope with that, they introduced “peer review”, which is not (despite preconceptions) a check for correctness. It’s what engineers call an “air check”, designed to weed out the obvious nutcases and charlatans.

    Peer review was subject to abuse and gaming, and those duly occurred. Worst, though, was its re-introduction of credentialism. The Royal Society was trying to cope with the problem that the Duke was likely to claim to be (and be seen as) correct because he was the Duke, where the groundskeeper had no such credential, which is why they set the system up the way they did. Today, peer review has led to the assumption that the person with a PhD has the last word on the subject because of the sheepskin. It’s true enough that that’s the way to bet — but it’s the wrong criterion for science. Only the data and analysis matter, not the degree.

    If self-publishing can break through that barrier, it will be a good thing for everyone except the charlatans hiding behind “scientific” credentials, and the rest of us can rejoice in their misfortune.


  2. I’m conflicted by this development.

    Peer review is more than just gate-keepers making sure only qualified papers make it to publication for a particular journal. Moreso than not, peer review makes papers significantly better. This occurs through inights the peer-reviewers have about the subject matter that the original authors hadn’t considered, which can then be incorporated.

    I’d just fear that, without some form of rigorous review by subject-matter experts, including some who are not colleagues of the authors, the quality of papers will suffer.

    Having said this, I’m all for breaking the chokehold that big publishers have on science publishing. It’s an ingenious business plan, really. They don’t have to pay the content providers (the authors) or the content editors (peer reviewers) a dime for the content. The journal editors work mostly for prestige aside from their day jobs as researchers, and might get a small amount of money in return. Then the publishers turn around and charge libraries ridiculous amounts of money for subscriptions. Costs for a single, one-time download of a paper are commonly $30 to $45. This, of course, makes access difficult, especially in a time of shrinking budgets.

    • As I described, or perhaps only implied, above, the notion that peer review insures quality is not just wrong, it’s wrongheaded. Peer review was originally intended as the scientific equivalent of slush pile reading — the reviewers screened out the obvious nonsense, which cut down on the burden of the journals and their publishers. The papers the reviewers let through were not certified “correct” (which can’t be done without replicating the research, something a reviewer has neither time nor resources to do). It was merely a certification that this was something worth the time of other researchers to investigate, to confirm or deny.

      Over time, the system has changed, not in good ways. Peer review, today, mostly affirms that the paper’s authors conform to the conventional wisdom of the field, or (in a fortunately few cases) that they’re buddies, mentors, or students of the reviewers. It’s still used as a screening process for journal publication, with the result that most science (and virtually all “social science”) is stultified, stuck on a “consensus” that may be as valid as spontaneous generation (which was the consensus of science before the invention of microscopes). Note that this does not say the consensus isn’t valid; it says nobody knows whether it’s valid or not, because all challengers are rejected as “nonsense”.

      Self-publication of scientific papers will allow real review by people who want to check the investigators’ work. That’s science. Peer review is not. Its originators knew that, but considered it a necessary evil to support a reasonable level of publication. Now that it isn’t necessary, the “evil” part overrides.


  3. This really excites me, because I have always thought self-publishing is ideal for academia, but that because of the credentials issue, it would be the last area to make the leap, if ever.

    I think they key is that people are realizing that self-publishing is NOT the end of peer review. The peer review will just happen later in the process.

  4. .

    “Substantive” vs “copy” editing… Maybe more clear to define the different level of focus like that between “Strategic” Editing and “Tactical” Editing — or are my Corporate work life, my MBA, and my military studies lending that perception to me?

    What is more clear when engaging an Editor?


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