I’m convinced that it’s not a good idea to advise newly minted scholars to revise their dissertations into first books. Doing so is an unwise career move and a poor financial decision—a paltry return on a substantial investment of time and effort.
Publishers will continue to publish revised dissertations that address broad topics, contribute new knowledge, are well written, and will sell. Increasingly, however, those will be the exceptions. Perhaps this not-so-good news could be turned to an advantage, especially if graduate students are urged early in the writing process to accept the fact that their dissertations should remain just that.
Recent changes at universities and libraries are having a startlingly negative impact on the fate of monographs in general and on revised dissertations in particular. Several factors are in play.
First, the value of revised dissertations in decisions on promotion and tenure is diminishing. We know that universities are making tenure more difficult to obtain by demanding more publications and awarding tenure to fewer faculty members. That higher bar increases the investment of time and effort required to revise a dissertation, as well as the competition to publish the resulting monograph. At the same time, publishers are less likely to buy monographs, because libraries are buying fewer of them. <Read more.>