We want to publish your thesis – A Warning

September 29, 2009

You may have heard of a diploma mill but until yesterday I didn’t know what an author mill was although they have been impacting on us for the past few months. What generally happens is that a student with a PhD or Masters thesis receives an email from a publisher offering to publish their thesis in print format. Typically they are told that their work has come to the company’s attention and that “I am therefore wondering if you would be interested in cooperating with us towards a worldwide marketed publication of your work.”

Coming out of the blue this sounds quite appealing but, like many exciting prospects, it probably is too good to be true. The companies that make these offers practice “publish on demand” which means that no copies are printed until someone orders one. Until then there is only a brief record of the thesis on various websites – no other marketing is done and the author mills make their money out of the sheer volume of theses they are able to present. Only a few copies of each one (or most probably none) ever get sold and the cost per copy is set quite high. Often these few sales are to the author’s family and friends who are falsely impressed at the prospect of seeing the work in print.

In the meantime the author may have signed over the copyright to their work which means that they cannot take it to a bona fide publisher. And having work published by one of these outfits is not a good look. A really good way of getting your thesis into the public domain is through depositing a copy in Massey Research Online (MRO) – this is easy to do and gets your work onto the Internet where it is much more likely to attract attention than having expensive print copies available in a handful of libraries. One Masters thesis in MRO has been downloaded over a thousand times since the beginning of 2008! Read more about Massey Research Online here.

If you have received an unsolicited publishing offer and would like some advice please feel free to contact us – libcol@massey.ac.nz

Bruce White
College Liaison

8 responses to “We want to publish your thesis – A Warning”

  1. Anon says:

    I’ve seen an example from one of the publishers concerned – appalling quality and very expensive

  2. Claire Matthews says:

    When investigating this issue after an approach to a student who then sought my advice, I found a useful discussion on line in respect of the issue with particular emphasis on a particular publisher. The website for that discussion is http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,45997.0.html.

  3. Bruce White says:

    Thanks for the link Claire. I didn’t want to put down the name of the company – in fact there are a number of them – but this will give people more detail. I don’t think it is an out-and-out scam – although some of these schemes undoubtedly will be – as much as a waste of time and effort over something that will have little or no benefit. Recent graduates would be much better served by getting their work into bona fide journals or as books put out by recognised publishers.

  4. Sheeanda says:

    Kia ora,
    Yes I was approached way back in May by this particular publishing company. I think they must go through University Library catalgoues looking for theses to publish. I have done nothing more than read their email…. and will leave my research project unpublished and sitting on the shelf gathering dust. 🙂

  5. Fran Wolber says:

    Author mills have been notorious for quite some time. Massey may want to advise students to check with the publishing watchdogs at Absolute Write if they have any questions about a publisher:

  6. Bruce White says:

    Thanks for that Fran. I followed up a link from Absolute Write and found this excellent posting on the Writer Beware blog – http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2009/10/author-mills-and-request-for-contact.html.

  7. Fran Wolber says:

    Writer Beware is a splendid author watchdog group, and their principals are very active on Absolute Write. Right now, they’re seeking info from authors who have worked with author mills for an article they’re preparing.

    Victoria Strauss, who runs Writer Beware, says:

    I’m doing research for an article on author mills and I want to talk about authors’ actual experiences with these kinds of publishers.

    I’m interested in hearing not just from authors who had problems with an author mill, or who felt their expectations weren’t met, but from authors who chose an author mill specifically for what they felt it could do for them, and were happy with the result.

    If you’d like to help, please post a message here, or contact me at beware@sfwa.org. (You’ll get an immediate reply from my autoresponder, because I’m out of town at the moment, but I’ll contact you early next week on my return.) In accordance with Writer Beware’s policies, all information you share with me via email will be held in confidence, and won’t be quoted unless you give me permission.

    Thanks so much!

    – Victoria
    her original post is here: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=159622

    Bruce, if you know of any Massey students who’ve been targeted by author mills, could you forward that message to them? Thanks!

  8. Jane Smith says:

    I’ve seen so many writers get involved with author mills and it’s heartbreaking: they lose their work, they lose their first publication rights, and they often end up losing a big chunk of money, too.

    Good research is vital, and yet so many skip it when an offer to publish appears before them.

    I’d urge anyone involved in an author mill to contact Writer Beware: Victoria is meticulous in her research, and WB does such a useful job in warning writers away from scams.

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