Some Graduate School of Arts and Sciencesstudents just can’t let go…of their completed dissertations or theses. Even though the last, arduous task of their graduate studies has been finished—downing obscene amounts of coffee and foregoing a good night’s sleep for way too many years along the way—many students need more. This craving is a good thing since it can lead to having a dissertation or thesis published in book or journal form. We reached out to several GSAS alumni who successfully published the seminal work of their graduate careers to find out how they made it happen and how you can too.
Hit the Conference Circuit…Hard
Conferences are a time to share research and meet graduate students and faculty members from other institutions. Conferences are also ideal places to create some buzz around your work, interest that may culminate in a book contract.
“I approached several publishers at conferences to see if there was an interest or appetite for my topic,” said art historygraduate alumna Annie Robinson, G99, who had her thesis published as a book, Peabody & Stearns: Country Houses and Seaside Cottages, (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.), in 2010. “Most publishers wanted a monograph on the architectural firm, which I was not prepared to provide since that would involve years more research. Several years later, I again contacted W. W. Norton with the pitch for my topic, and was accepted immediately. I was fortunate that the architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns had not been published before, so it was a fresh topic.”
Added drama graduate alumnus Mark Cosdon , G97, G01, whose dissertation was published as The Hanlon Brothers from Daredevil Acrobatics to Spectacle Pantomime, 1833-1931 (Theatre in the Americas Series, Southern Illinois University Press), in 2009.
“At many national conferences press representatives are in attendance and eager to talk with prospective authors. Make appointments to speak with them. You must also know the presses in your field. What books do they tend to favor? What themes are especially of interest? How would your work fit in with the presses?”
Keep it Simple (Well, as Simple as You Can)
Many dissertations and theses are, to put it kindly, tough to get through. This is based, primarily, on the complexity of what’s being written about. So, when it comes to getting published, it’s a good idea to avoid jargon and write accessibly for a lay audience (though, generating interest in a nuanced topic may be difficult in a world where Snooki from “The Jersey Shore” is a best-selling author).
“When it came to publishing my dissertation, I first identified the paper I wanted to publish. Then, I identified a journal that would be appropriate for such a paper. I made some modifications to have it read more as a journal article and less like a dissertation, and I made sure it fit within the journal’s aims, scope, and format,” said Morgan Hynes, E01, G09, who holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in education from Tufts, and had a portion of his dissertation published in the International Journal of Technology and Design Education.
Annie Robinson added that “most commercial publishers will want you to write in a nonacademic style, so be prepared to provide a writing sample that is not laden with footnotes and jargon.”
Patience is Everything
You may think that graduate school takes a while (six years or longer for Ph.D. students) but it’s nothing compared to how long it may take to get your dissertation or thesis published. So, it would be a good idea to get comfortable with waiting a looooong time.
“Writing my Tufts dissertation took nearly six years,” said Mark Cosdon. “Getting my dissertation published took nearly ten years, interrupted by several job searches, relocations, and family commitments.”
“The publishing process can be a long, iterative process. It’s important to be patient and well organized.”
Promote, Promote, Promote
The continued growth of social media has made it easier than ever to promote yourself and your work. It’s a good thing, too—because if you’re fortunate enough to have your dissertation or thesis published, you may have to do some heavy (marketing) lifting.
“Be prepared to spend a lot of time doing self-promotion after the book is published—talks, lectures, blogs, etc.,” said Annie Robinson. “Also, in my field, photographs and images are of prime importance, and the cost of securing photos and rights to publish can be expensive. Clarify whose responsibility that will be and have an idea of how much you can afford to front.”
“Once a book is published a new job ensues—that of publicizing the book,” said Mark Cosdon. “Many academic presses don’t have the resources to adequately promote a new book, so this necessary work falls to the author. Many of us are not very good at self-promotion, but it’s mandatory for one to make arrangements for the book to be shipped to journals for review, to post announcements over listservs and on webpages, and perhaps to pay for advertisements in appropriate journals; all of which takes an enormous amount of time.”
Publishing your dissertation or thesis may not land you that coveted job, but it’s definitely a nice achievement to have in your back pocket.
“You want as many people as possible reading and considering your work as you complete your graduate studies,” said Mark Cosdon. “Once you enter the job market, you’ll have some visibility. Perhaps more important, you’ll also have some publications which you can draw upon to market yourself.”
Added James Artz, G08, who has a master of art in classical archaeology from Tufts and whose thesis, Natural Resources and 5th Century Athenian Foreign Policy: The Effect of Natural Resources on Fifth Century Athenian Foreign Policy and the Development of the Athenian Empire (VDM Verlag), was published in 2008. “Think carefully about the title of your thesis. You will see it on your CV for a while, at least until you get enough other publications to not need it. Your title should be a good ‘jumping off point’ for discussions with prospective employers, researchers, and other professors.”
By Robert Bochnak, G07, senior writer/communications manager, Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences
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