Finding a suitable book publisher
There are several criteria to consider when choosing a publisher for your book: Besides a publisher's subject focus and range of services, there are important questions about licensing, fees, and discoverability. It is worth investing time before submitting your manuscript to find the best publisher for you. You should consider the following criteria when selecting a publisher:
What funding requirements must my publication meet?
If the project was funded by a third-party funder, it is advisable to read the funding conditions. Many research funders require that research results of the projects they fund to be published open access. The OAPEN list of publishers that meet the access requirements of European research funders can help you with this.
Professional orientation and reputation
The scope of the publisher regarding subject areas should match your manuscript so that your publication will be noticed by the research community. Consider which publishers are known to you and your peers. Which publishers publish books that are thematically close to your manuscript? Do you know the editors? It is also helpful to have a look at the bibliographies of related publications. If you are unsure whether you have chosen a publisher that is suitable in terms of its subject orientation, ask your colleagues for their assessment.
Monographs play a major role especially in the cultural, linguistic, and social sciences. The choice of publisher can have an impact on reputation and career. Reputation is not a measurable quantity but is the perceived reputation within a subject community. Often, publishers and book series with a long tradition are perceived as prestigious. The level of awareness of series editors also influences the perceived reputation. It is ideal if the publication platform is used by as many members of your specialist community as possible. More and more institutions and research funders around the world are working to ensure that the evaluation of research results is increasingly detached from the reputation of the publication venue.
For some years now, there have been more and more publication opportunities by science-owned, noncommercial publishers (scholar-led). They are supported by scientific institutions and publish high-quality open-access publications without high costs for the authors. They thus offer an alternative to commercial publishers. One example is Berlin Universities Publishing with its book division.
Peer review and indexing
What really matters is that the publication is widely received. To achieve this, the publication platform should ensure good quality assurance processes (peer review) and have defined interfaces to national and international bibliographic databases and search engines.
The standards and implementation of quality assurance for monographs differ depending on the discipline.
- There may be peer review by the editors, also called editorial peer review. This practice is more common in the humanities and social sciences.
- Peer Review: The critical and independent evaluation of scientific papers by peer reviewers is a central component of quality assurance. This practice is well established in STM subjects but is now also gaining acceptance in the humanities and social sciences. The evaluation by usually two to four reviewers serves as a basis for deciding whether and which parts of the work need to be revised and whether a manuscript is rejected or accepted. The publisher or the editors coordinate the peer review.
Besides peer review, quality standards have also been established for open-access books, for example, the standards of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Universitätsverlage (see below). Such standards specify, among other things, accessibility, rights, formats, metadata, distribution, and machine readability.
Which publishing services are important to me?
A central service is the organisation and implementation of quality assurance through the review process (editorial review or peer review). Check whether the publisher of your choice provides the services that are important to you. Check if the publisher of your choice provides the services that are important to you.
For your convenience, we have listed the most common publishing services here:
- Editing, typesetting, and proofreading
- Layout and cover design
- Active marketing (sales and presentation at conferences)
- Quality control (peer review and proofreading)
- Provision of an e-book edition
- Image editing, data preparation
- Licensing (as well as legal advice)
- Metadata management
- Long-term archiving within a certified service (e.g., DNB, Portico)
Frequently asked questions
Open access publications are publicly available worldwide—without legal, technical, or financial barriers and without embargoes that restrict subsequent use by third parties. They have many advantages:
- Higher visibility and citation rate: open-access books are accessed more frequently than closed-access books.
- Ease of discovery: books available in open access can be found through the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). They are also visible in bibliographic databases such as BASE, certain subject databases, and discovery services.
- Permanent discoverability through persistent identifiers, preferably a DOI. Other possible identifiers are URN, EPIC, ARK, or Handle.
- Often faster publication times
- Ability to combine research data and multimedia content (enhanced publication).
Note that most research funders expect research results from the projects they fund to be published open access.
Commercial, scholar-led, and university publishers offer the option of publishing a book or the contribution to an edited volume open access. The costs of publishing open-access books are not settled by selling the publications, as has been the case in the past. Instead, commercial publishers often charge the authors so-called book processing charges (BPC). The BPC varies greatly depending on the publisher and the range of services offered. It is therefore advisable to compare several publishers' offers.
A publisher should provide clear information on its website about the services it offers and their costs. If you cannot find this information, ask specifically.
Reputable publishers define themselves by sufficient quality assurance through review processes, such as peer review or editorial review. The following criteria and tools for evaluating a publisher's trustworthiness are recommended:
- The publisher provides detailed information on workflow, rights transfer, and costing, including open access costs.
- The publisher follows the quality standards of the AG Universitätsverlage.
- The publisher meets the quality standards of the community (e.g., DOAB, OASPA). Before submission, check if your preferred publisher is a member of OASPA and/or listed with DOAB.
- Another resource is the Think.Check.Submit checklist. Answering questions and using linked databases will help you decide if a publisher is trustworthy.
- Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)
- Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA)
- List of open access book publishers | OAPEN
- List of university publishers | Working Group of University Publishers [only available in German]
- Think. Check. Submit. checklist for books and chapters
Traditionally, scholarly books are published in print only. Authors grant exclusive rights of use to the publishers, that is, they themselves cannot use the publication for any other purpose.
As with scientific journals, a transformation process is also underway for books. Increasingly, scholarly books are now published primarily online open access and have a parallel printed edition that is sold in bookstores. However, there are also an increasing number of books that are published exclusively open access online as e-books.
Open-access books are published under free licenses that allow the general public to reuse the content. Publishers obtain simple (nonexclusive) rights of use for the publication, which allow authors to a) reuse the content of their publication themselves and b) grant other parties further rights of use. When signing the publishing agreement, please ensure that you do not grant exclusive usage rights, if possible.
Scientists are well aware that the peer review process does not detect all quality gaps in a paper with certainty. Reviewers may not have adequate expertise, may not have sufficient time to thoroughly review the manuscript, or may have a conflict of interest (e.g., if they are researching the same scientific topic and are actually in competition with the author[s]) that affects their neutrality and opinion. Scientists know that peer review increases the quality of scientific publications, but that it is not a perfect process. The peer review process is based on trust that reviewers are fair, objective, independent, and reliable in their assessment and that editors themselves indicate possible bias. Despite its weaknesses, the peer review process has established and proven itself as a central element of quality assurance for scientific publications.
- Many academic institutions have established open access publication funds for books. The funds help authors to finance the BPCs charged by publishers. Such funds are operated, for example, by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Technische Universität Berlin. Please inform yourself about the funding conditions of your institution.
- To be eligible for support from these funds, the publisher must submit a transparent calculation that clearly shows the share of open access-indexed costs.
- Take advantage of funding programs offered by foundations, research funding agencies, and professional societies.
- Libraries also try to find alternative funding models for BPCs. They participate in crowdfunding models and, in some cases, sign up for institutional memberships. If publishing authors belong to an institution that maintains an institutional membership with an open access publisher, the publisher covers all or part of the publication costs.
- Some publishers offer discounts for early career researchers. Ask about them!
- Academic, noncommercial publishers usually do not charge BPCs but provide a wide range of basic services free of charge to members of their institutions. Certain additional services are charged for. There again, the publication funds mentioned above may apply.
The OAPEN database has published a list of possible funding sources for open-access books.