I am very thankful that people are reading The Way of Improvement Leads Home, especially because books published by university presses, especially first books published by university presses, are not often read. I was reminded of this after reading Peter Dorchester’s (a pen name) somewhat depressing essay, “My Book, My Dreams.“
Dorchester is a literary critic who published his dissertation with a university press. Unfortunately, the press priced his book so high that only libraries bought copies. The subject matter was so specialized that the press could not sell enough copies to justify a paperback edition. Dorchester wondered for a long time if anyone was actually going to read his book. In fact, one of his own graduate students was not aware of his book despite the fact that it was pertinent to her dissertation research.
Yet, Dorchester claims that he has not been a “total failure.” His book helped him get tenure and it is now occasionally cited in footnotes of other books. His name is out there and he is happy about that.
Anyone on the tenure-track needs to read Dorchester’s honest and insightful essay–even if it serves as a lesson for what NOT to do when you are trying to get published.