Vanity Press, Scam, or legitimate offer to publish: VDM’s kind offer to publish my M.A.

by Anna Blanch on February 24, 2010

So i got this offer today to publish my M.A. thesis.

But before you flood me with congratulations….and offer to throw me a book launch party.

here’s the email.

Dear Anna Blanch,

I am writing on behalf of the international academic publisher, VDM Publishing House Ltd.

In the course of a research at the Library of Baylor University, we came across a reference to your thesis on “A reassessment of the authorship of the Cheap repository tracts.”.

As we would like to make your work available to a larger audience, I am wondering if you may be interested in publishing your thesis in the form of a printed book.

Your reply including an e-mail address to which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.

Please note that publishing with VDM is free of charge for our authors, who retain the right to submit major parts (up to 80 percent) of the work for publication in academic journals, without the permission of the Publisher.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,
[Name removed at the request of the author]
Acquisition Editor
VDM Publishing House Ltd.
17, Meldrum Str. | Beau-Bassin | Mauritius Tel / Fax: +230 467-5601 [name removed at the request of the author] |
Business Registration No.: C07072290
Board of Director: Benoit Novel

[Update: I received a further email from the author of the original email who requested i remove his name and email address for privacy reasons. While his name can be found on V.D.M’s website and other sites present the email (including author’s name and email address) in its entireity, I have chosen to respect his request. I will say however that given that this email was unsolicited I am not convinced the author has a reasonable expectation of privacy in business terms – i did not after all publish a personal email address but rather the address as it appeared on the unsolicited email I was sent].

Well, let me think.

You are not peer reviewed. I’ve never heard of you. You sent me an email unsolicited and you are asking for an email address to which you can send information [when you’ve already emailed me? And you want to publish my M.A. as is?

Do i look stupid? I mean with an offer like you keeping 80% of all profits, why wouldn’t i say yes? duh? yeah, right. I don’t think so, Mr. [name removed].  Oh, and thanks for giving me permission to publish my own work in journals after you’ve published my book. I think the cart is before the horse there a little – seeing as any journal editor worth their salt won’t publish an article if its already been published in book form!

Publishing to make money in academia is false economy. or no economy. As one friend pointed out – the publisher might make $16.00 if they were lucky…

So where did they find out about my work? 
Looks like they are trawling BearDocs, the online repository for Masters and Dissertations that Baylor makes available! I think they are also trawling departmental websites as more than a few people mentioned that they received emails like this even in situations where they did not complete a thesis!

I did some online research and came upon a few good posts with warnings on emails of this type from this source, and a suprising number of affirmations — cough — [people who’ve said thankyou for the experience]!

There is a good post at Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes about someone else who received a similar letter a while ago, with extensive comments from other sharing their experiences. What suprised me was the number of “Anonymous” positive comments including details of book launches and justification of the positive experience of a vanity press publication of their thesis. There’s also been a discussion about this often cautionary tales on Higher Education Chronicle Forums.

What has really suprised is the seeming justifications about how vanity press is better than nothing and as long as you have a monograph, any monograph on your CV, then this will benefit your career. Seriously, i would rather never publish a book than have one that is not peer reviewed. What is the point? If it is about publication to show off and say you have been, then it really is all vanity and of the making of books there is no end. I guess we were all warned. 

What i should say is this. VDM Publishing is actually a real company and they do sell lots* of books on demand through Amazon. But what benefit would i gain from giving someone a piece of work that isn’t actually a monograph? – it is a thesis, an entirely different creature. Theses and Dissertations are not books. They look like books, but they’re not.

And vanity publishing as an Academic. Just don’t do it people.And really don’t do it cause you think you will make money.

Can you hear that? 

That’s the sound of me chuckling.

*lots refers to the number of different titles. I have no idea how many of each title they sell and i have no idea how i would get that kind of information!

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