For an academic author looking for a publisher, there is a range of options to choose from. These include university book publishers, private book publishers and trade publishers who specialise in academic books. There are also non-traditional options of vanity publishing, self-publishing or publishing digitally. However, there is a difference in the approach of both these publishing types. While non-traditional formats can be used by anyone who can afford them, traditional forms of publishing require a clear strategy.
Understanding University Book Publishers & Private Book Publishers
University book publishers are usually purely academic and operate in collaboration with universities. This might mean that they focus on subjects related to what the university offers. For them, preference is always given to authors associated with the university in question and material that would add to the reputation of the institution. This could lead to a very narrow range of specialisation and subject matter.
Private publishers can be strictly popular, strictly academic or a blend of both. That is entirely based on the market they cater to. Manakin Press, for example, is a private publishing house specialising in academic publications. Even though both are focused on academic content, their approach can be quite dissimilar. The first thing you need to understand is how the requirements of university book publishers and private book publishers differ when it comes to preferred content.
The Content Requirement of University Book Publishers vs. Private Book Publishers
As mentioned previously, university book publishers usually focus on specific subjects. Their focus is such that they stay away from subjects that are not on their lists. Moreover, the preference is generally given to research and dissertations within their shortlisted subjects. These tend to have small readerships but greater impacts on the knowledge base of the subject in question. University book publishers also publish textbooks that would have a better saleability with graduate or undergraduate students and non-academic readers. They may also publish non-technical books for a larger audience but these form only a small percentage of their entire title list. Furthermore, even these are limited by the subjects they focus on.
In contrast, private book publishers like Manakin Press accept a greater variety of subjects. As long as the book is academic, it doesn’t matter whether the subject is science, literature, law, or management. Private book publishers may also be amenable to publishing research or marketing studies from companies, as long as they follow the guidelines of academic publishing.
If one is looking to publish a scholarly book, one might have a better chance of publishing with a private book publisher. Unless the author is associated with the university whose publishing house they are looking to publish with, the author will most probably have to accept being rejected. Private book publishers usually accept a well-presented book proposal as long as it is viable and fills in a gap in the market. They are not restricted by the subject, even if the topic of the book falls in a niche category. Manakin Press, for example, actively looks for obscure subjects that might help fill in the holes in the data pool.
The Financial Aspect of Printing with University Book Publishers vs. Private Book Publishers
University book publishers generally work on a tight budget. This in turn affects the books they can print. They might want books on subjects that would either have a market or at the very least, be on a topic that is path-breaking in its field. Even then, they might want to keep the price at a point that is feasible for the market. This could mean heavy editing and very crisp writing to keep the number of pages within the specified limits.
Private book publishers on the other hand do not have such restrictions. As long as the book proposal and market feedback show a need for the subject matter, they will publish it. With more money available to invest, they are less likely to edit heavily as long as the manuscript is within a reasonable length. The idea is to put the information across clearly and as effectively as possible. Trying to fit the information in a limited number of pages is usually not a criterion when it comes to private publishers.
Freedom Given To Author When Printing With University Book Publishers vs. Private Book Publishers
As mentioned in the previous points, the subject of the book and its size may be issues when approaching a university book publisher. Authors are restricted to the subjects the university book publishers specialise in. Even within the subjects, they might not want manuscripts that are not innovative enough for them. Additionally, they might wish to keep the number of words within limit to control the price of the book. This means that any author writing for them would have to work under very strict boundaries. One might not, for example, have the liberty of explaining in detail if a short description is sufficient according to the publishers.
Private book publishers are apt to give their authors more creative freedom. Since they agree to publish the book on the basis of a book proposal and the first chapter, they generally look for clarity and information. While it is unreasonable to expect private book publishers to accept a very verbose tome, one may still get the freedom to write at reasonable length on the subject of one’s choice. The only factor that would make any difference would be how well the information is structured and presented.
The Expert Review Panel with University Book Publishers vs. Private Book Publishers
Since university book publishers are focused on fewer subjects, they need a smaller expert editorial panel for peer review. A limited subject base means they can aim for super-specialisation. They also have the university’s expertise to draw from. This might mean that their editorial board might have a better insight into the subject they are reviewing.
A private book publisher, on the other hand, would need to have experts in a variety of subjects. If they are not careful, this could lead to a shallow knowledge base to draw from. It is for this reason that Manakin Press works closely with experts in every field to put together an expert panel on every subject we publish.
University Book Publishers vs. Private Book Publishers: Your Choice
Based on aforementioned information, it becomes easier to determine whether one should approach university book publishers or private book publishers.
You would have greater success with university book publishers if you are already associated with a university. You might also have a good chance if you’re writing on the subject that the publishers specialise in. To further increase your chances, it helps to have a dissertation or research topic that is ground-breaking and innovative. It would also be ideal to have a well-defined clientele for the book. If all these criteria are being fulfilled, it still would be necessary to present a well-written proposal. One might also need a manuscript that has been edited and revised until it is close to perfect. Only then should one hope to find success with university book publishers.
On the other hand, if the subject of your book is not on the roster of the preferred university book publishers, it might be better to approach private book publishers like Manakin Press. These publishers usually give authors greater freedom in how they write their books. They are not looking for very innovative research, although subject matter that is not already flooding the market would be preferred. Emphasis is not on the subject matter but how well it is presented. If one has a good grasp on a subject that is not already in the market and has a clear and marketable proposal, a private publisher would generally accept the book.