The goal of any scholar is not only to write, but to be read.
However, there is much about the realities of both academia and publishing houses that hinder the latter. The academy wants to see scholars publishing with certain presses, often different A-list houses for different fields. Further, some fields might reward publishing a book prior to tenure; other fields do not value it very much. When I published my first book, The Hidden Role of Software in Educational Research: Policy to Practice, I did so as part of a series with an excellent academic press. At over 200 pages, the monograph sold at $150 each to over 100 university libraries around the world. After two years, it went into paperback and e-book versions. The royalty rate on that book was, let us say, modest. When once I heard a well-known education researcher speak on a panel about his 12% royalty rate after selling tens of thousands of copies worldwide, I was equally appalled for him as I was for my own rate at less than a quarter of that.
Then it came time to put together my second book, Strata and Bones: Selected Essays on Education, Technology, and Teaching English. I had two priorities for this book. I wanted to make sure that: 1) it was affordable for people to actually buy, not $150 or even $40, and 2) the royalties were a fairer reflection of my creative efforts.
My decision wasn’t easy, particularly because the idea of self-publishing can have a stigma in academia. However, digital publishing platforms have never made it more possible for individual authors to retain control of their work and to be compensated more fairly, with providers like Amazon’s CreateSpace helping scholars like me compile what I stand behind as a timely, thoughtful, and thoroughly professional collection.
My goal was never simply to write for a small audience of editors and like-minded professors, but to be read by unknown others whose readings and actions might give life in the world to words on a page.