When we started our careers, professors didn’t have to think about raising money to publish a book with an academic press. If your manuscript was peer-reviewed positively, then the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) would inevitably provide your publisher with the necessary subsidy (now $8,000) to allow the press to break even on its investment, no matter the book’s commercial success.
There are different funding rules for edited volumes
In Canada, this arrangement remains largely, albeit not entirely, in place for single-authored scholarly monographs. Edited volumes, however, no longer command that same guarantee. Indeed, one of us recently contributed to a book that only made it to print after its authors raised the necessary funds to compensate for a failed ASPP application. The peer reviewers for that manuscript, it is worth noting, had strongly recommended publication.
The purpose of this post, then, is to remind current and future editors that in today’s fiscal environment, you should be thinking about fundraising from the moment you begin to solicit your authors. In our experience, if your book is deemed worthy of publication by the peer reviewers, university presses will be prepared to publish it, so long as they have the necessary subsidy, regardless of where that subsidy comes from. They will not, however, fundraise themselves beyond ASPP.
It’s a good idea to secure multiple sources of funds
In anticipation of this potential challenge, we secured a number of partial sources of funds. We pledged to draw, for example, from the honorarium provided to us by University Affairs for this series of blog posts. We obtained a generous financial commitment from one of our departments. We also exchanged funding that we had previously raised for research travel for a publication subsidy.
Had these approaches failed, we would have contemplated emulating Carleton University’s Shawn Graham who used a Kickstarter campaign to support his research. Fortunately, given our inexperience with that process, such an experiment was not necessary.
You need to prove that you have back-up funding
Our “ask” was unorthodox: we explained to our benefactors that UBC Press would only publish our book with a subsidy, and that while we were hopeful that ASPP would fund us, we could not be certain. It followed that, in order to prevent a delay in publication, we needed to prove to our publisher that funding would be in place if ASPP fell through. That way, the process could safely begin the moment that the book succeeded through the first round of peer review.
We are fortunate that – thanks largely to the excellent team at UBC Press – our ASPP application was successful, but we do not regret our preliminary fundraising efforts. Some of that money will revert to its original purpose, but some can also now be put towards promotion.