Choosing a book publisher

Publishing a monograph

In some disciplines, publishing a scholarly monograph has more prestige than publishing in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings. This is particularly the case in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS).

Monographs are distinguished from textbooks in that they communicate the author’s original research and are written for the author’s academic peers/recognised experts in the field; whereas textbooks are primarily educational material for taught students. Textbooks are rarely considered research outputs, and therefore not REF-eligible.

Choosing a publisher

If you are planning for a monograph, you will have to identify a publishing house that is most relevant to your research field. Some academic publishers have a diverse portfolio and will publish books in many disciplines, other publishers specialise in specific fields. A fundamental choice is whether you are aiming at a small expert audience or at a wider cross-disciplinary or even non-academic audience. It may be smart to identify a book series with a respected editorial board – this may help you to maximise the impact in your field.

When choosing a publishing house, you could take the following factors into account:

  • Academic weight: Does the publishing house or book series offer a peer review process? This may or may not be essential for your purposes (e.g. for future career progression or submission to the REF).
  • Prestige: Are you looking for a prestigious publisher where competition may be greater, or a younger press that may focus on offering a good personal service and where acceptance may be less competitive?
  • Speed: Will the publisher be able to meet your deadlines, if any, depending on personal requirements or those of your funder or employer?
  • Added value: Does the publishing house offer services such as: design and layout of your monograph (including designing the cover), indexing, copy-editing and proof-reading, good review coverage, and a wide and effective promotion of your monograph?
  • Pricing policy: How does the (likely) price the publishing house will sell your monograph for, compare to similar books on the target market? Does this help you to achieve your aims and reach your intended audience?
Publishers´ business models

Please be aware that some publishers operate an exploitative business model by charging publication fees without providing proper editorial and publishing services; this is sometimes referred to as ‘predatory publishing’. These publishers often get directly in touch with you with an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true. Often they only do the minimal peer review process, if any at all, and sometimes even guarantee acceptance. These publishers only provide a minimum amount of services, excluding functions such as design, copy-editing, advertising and promoting your monograph. Some publishers may also ask you for a fee, which may not always be clear upfront. Finally, you may be required to sign a copyright agreement in which you sign over all rights to your work. 

Open Access monograph publishing

Just as for journal articles, it is possible to publish a monograph via Open Access. This may require an author fee. Some publishers will make an electronic Open Access version of your monograph available online whilst also selling hard or paperbacks via print-on-demand. There are many other business models.

Publishing Open Access monographs is a new phenomenon which has so far been received with caution by the AHSS academic community. Initial findings suggest that an Open Access monograph may get more downloads than pay-to-view digital copies, and may open up a wider readership from a broader range of countries. Making a monograph available via Open Access could even increase print sales. However royalties are likely to be reduced and the usually guaranteed ‘long tail’ of print monograph sales is likely to be eroded. Monographs are exempt from REF 2021 open access requirements, so the decision on this rests with the author and their institution.

Publishers offering Open Access monograph publishing are, amongst others:

If you are unsure about the credibility of an Open Access publisher you can check:

These publishers are meeting strict criteria to show their commitment to quality assurance, e.g. they have a proper peer review process. For more information see:
E. Collins, C. Milloy and G. Stone, ‘Guide to Open Access Monograph Publishing for Arts, Humanities and Social Science Researchers’ (2015): http://dx.doi.org/10.5920/oapen-uk/oaguide