"A book is what happens later, once you’ve grown past the dissertation,” said Dominic Boyer, a Cornell University Press series editor, “when one argument rises out of the analytics and becomes something on which you can build an intellectual agenda. Books are driven by arguments, not by constellations of analytics. But the only way to get to a good argument is to experiment and fail a lot in the dissertation and post-dissertation process” (as cited in Hughes, 2018).
Before we discuss the steps of transforming your thesis to a book, there are some things to consider beforehand to ascertain whether going down that route is your best option. Since PhD work is often specific in scope, there are different factors to consider before publication. Depending on the scope of your topic, you may want to look into just using a few parts of your dissertation in a book, or you may want to collaborate with other researchers in the field to contribute to a collection of research in that field or topic. If your aim is to publish your PhD work into a full-length book, however, then there are different considerations to have in mind. These are things that a potential publisher would also be looking at, with the main aim to connect the author’s work with their readers. The relationship between writers and authors and the connection they may have are what publishing companies value. The first question would be whether the book would be of interest to a broader audience in the context of the specific publisher. Then, publishers would consider if the work’s quality is high, especially if the publisher’s audience is made up of scholars, researchers, and experts in the field. Finally, since a research thesis requires peer review and detailed analysis of its findings and conclusions, a similar process is to be expected for the book. That is why the publisher will be asking whether the work can hold up to the demands of a review by researchers and experts in the field (Elsevier, n.d.).
It is important to note the differences between the goals of a dissertation and publishing a book. A dissertation exists as a way to fulfill a graduation requirement with a very limited audience, but a book aims to reach a broader audience. A book is, therefore, a more personal undertaking, with the author’s voice playing a big role. So, when you compare the two different forms of publications, you notice the differing reasons for pursuing one or the other. Before embarking on the process of publishing a book, one has to look into how long it takes to turn a PhD dissertation into a book. Since you would need to adjust much of the dissertation and make it more equipped for a wider array of readers, you would need to rewrite your dissertation. How much time this process takes depends on a number of factors, such as how much time you can dedicate at this point in your career for the book in terms of editing and rewriting and if you have support. The best way to look at your dissertation may be as an outline for your book, where each section in the dissertation is expanded to be of general interest for a wider audience. With those factors in mind, you should count on dedicating about 18 months to two years at minimum to convert your dissertation to a book. Clearly, if the work is complex and requires additional research that would require more time, and if you are working with other contributors, you may need less time (Elsevier, n.d.). Now that we have gone over the factors that go into making the decision of turning your thesis into a book, we can go into the process of actually converting your thesis into a full-length book.
To start with, you will need to consider your audience. If you are publishing a book, you must know who you are directing your work to. “You need to jailbreak your research from the library and make it accessible to the largest potential audience,” said Hamideh Iraj (n.d.)., an MA in Information Technology who turned her master’s thesis into a book. “First, ask yourself who this wider audience is and why they would be interested in your research. They might be industry leaders, managers, researchers, students, university professors, or self-learners. To make your research accessible to them, you might need to reconfigure the main theme of your thesis.” After determining who you want your audience to be and reconfigure your thesis into a central theme that fits that audience, you will need to find a publishing house that specifically serves this audience.
Now that you have found an appropriate publishing house, you’re going to have to write a book proposal. You will need to contextualize by adding international or interdisciplinary context, if the research is of narrow scope, especially in the introductory and concluding chapters (Clague, 2017). A book proposal will, according to writer Tanya Golash-Boza, “briefly [contain] 1) a summary of the book that outlines the main argument, 2) a one-paragraph summary of each chapter, 3) a timeline for completion of the book manuscript, 4) a brief description of the target audience and potential classes for course adoption, and 5) the competing literature. Usually, these are short documents” (as cited in Hughes, 2018).
Also, you will need to keep an eye out for predatory publishing mills, since not all publishers will have your best interests at heart. A good predictor would be if the publisher asked for the information mentioned above. It is more likely that they are legit publishers if they did. It is also noteworthy to mention that anyone who promises to publish your thesis book proposal without any changes is highly suspect. You should seek out legitimate academic publishers and you need to position yourself to have them find you. Although some publishers use institutional repositories, such as college directories, to find potential books, you can take initiative by nudging the process along. This could be done by engaging with people at conferences and mentioning the idea or starting a blog.
Things to keep in mind when finalizing a book are the factors that make a good book: 1) A concise and memorable title that uses keywords will help make the book intriguing. 2) Since the number of readers of a book are greater than dissertation readers, the more general your topic is, the more engagement you will get. 3) In a dissertation, you authority as an author must be proven, but as a book writer, it is assumed. Make sure to play that advantage. 4) While dissertations usually contain extensive documentation to prove authority, books document to credit sources and help the reader. 5) Keep in mind that dissertations can run long, but books are often far shorter (Hagman, n.d.).
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