I’m not going to do it, here’s why:
Firstly, the obvious issue of me having not written my PhD thesis yet. So… there’s that. But it was nice that I was called “Dr” in the email. Fancy!
Secondly, I have been spammed from ‘Scholars’ Press’, an imprint of VDM Publishing or Omniscriptum Publishing. Google one of them and you will see, apart from their own site, ‘VDM Verlag Dr Muller – Writer Beware‘, ‘Lambert Academic Publishing, a Must to Avoid‘, ‘Who in the world is Dr Muller? Or, how to get published without really trying‘ and ‘Is it worth publishing with Lambert academic publishers?‘ (spoiler: No. It isn’t).
You may have been spammed by them under the name of VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, AV Akademikerverlag, Scholars’ Press Publishing, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, EUE Editions Universitaires Européennes, Verlag Classic Edition, Saarbrücker Verlag für Rechtswissenschaften, Lehrbuchverlag, EAE Editorial Académica Española, PUA Publicaciones Universitarias Argentinas, Fromm Verlag, Dictus Publishing, BB Bloggingsbooks, Trainerverlag, JustFiction! Edition, Doyen Verlag, GlobeEdit, FastBook Publishing, Alphascript Publishing, or Betascript Publishing.
They seem to specialise in two things. Publishing collections of Wikipedia articles as books, and publishing theses as books. Luckily, Wikipedia is all over it and their info has helped a lot in compiling this post. Their business model involves a team of acquisitions editors, who search the internet for academic authors and invite them by e-mail for their manuscripts.VDM sends emails to thousands of people who have written a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation on a web-accessible catalog. When I say they publish books, what I mean is, if someone orders your book online, they will print one and send it to them. It seems a lot of people are shocked at the price of these books too, especially considering that most, if not all of the content in them, is freely available online.
VDM’s publishing methods have received criticism for the soliciting of manuscripts from thousands of individuals, for providing non-notable authors with the appearance of a peer-reviewed publishing history, for benefiting from the free contributions of online volunteers, and for insufficiently disclosing the free nature of their content.
As for editing, VDM likes to assume that as the brilliant scholar you are, the work you give to them is already of a very high standard, so they don’t read it. In fact, check out this story from someone who published with them, just to see what would happen. After publishing the book, the author kept an eye on who, if anyone would buy it. Not a soul.
LAP Lambert’s real plan finally became clear: They make money not by selling arcane tomes to readers, but by selling the books back to their authors after they’ve already signed away the rights.
Over the next two weeks, I got three more emails from Holmes pressuring me to buy, each more aggressive than the last. She used several strategies: guilt (“We agreed to provide you free ISBN, free cataloguing of your book in thousands of bookstores, free book cover, market coverage, support and assistance. We are now offering you the opportunity to support your project.”); optimism (“You can also purchase some copies and market them in your locality or maybe even sell them at your own price, thus not only generating profit, but also getting to know your target audience and perhaps establishing valuable contacts.”); and finally, hostility (“We would have thought that you would have at least liked to have some copies of your new published book and that is why proposed this offer to you in the first place. Maybe you have not realized the importance of having some printed copies of your book in hand?”).
Against my better judgment, I finally bought a copy shortly before finishing this article, finding the best price on Amazon ($61.20, plus free shipping with Prime). Somewhere, one of Amazon’s on-demand printing presses came to life and churned out all 128 pages of my thesis, binding them together between an ugly blue-and-white cover. In two days, the familiar brown Amazon box arrived at my house.
I flipped through the softcover book, reading the words I’d written four years ago, during my senior year of college, never thinking that they’d be reproduced on cheap paper and owned by a multinational publishing conglomerate. They looked exactly as they had in the original PDF of my thesis, just shrunken down onto A4-size paper and surrounded by page numbers and a title page printed in a different font. My thesis had been transformed into a mass-produced commodity.
Then, as I paged through the book, I remembered something funny I’d done when reformatting the text for submission. For kicks, I’d buried an errant phrase deep in the middle, partly to see if LAP Lambert’s editors ever actually read the thing. When I got to Page 86, I was gratified to find that they hadn’t noticed it. Right there on the middle of the page, amid talk of Oglala Lakota politics and tribal sovereignty was my insertion.
“Is any proofreader actually reading this book before it gets printed?” I’d asked. “Didn’t think so.”
If you think maybe a published book will look good on your resume, take note: The Australian Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) explicitly excludes the books by VDM Verlag and Lambert Academic Publishing from meeting the requirements for submission. VDM will jump out of your resume and make you look like a sucker.
A junior faculty member writes:
I just received an email from VDM Verlag asking to publish my dissertation "in the form of a printed book." I was wondering if you knew this publishing company, and whether you think doing something like this is a good idea for junior faculty. I wasn't planning on publishing the dissertation, I'm on to other projects, but part of me thinks that it can't hurt (although maybe it could for tenure?) I googled the company and it SEEMS like a legitimate organization, or at least not a blatant scam. They have a large number of books on Amazon.com etc. On the other hand, it is a form letter and I received identical emails at my old email adress and my new one.
Anyhow, I thought you might want to post this for discussion on your site since I'm sure many of your readers have received similar solications. If it is a blatant scam, then it couldn't hurt to warn people about it either I suppose.
I've heard of VDM Verlag, I think, but know next to nothing about it. I am inclined to think if one's dissertation is worth publishing, it is with revisions and one should aspire to place it with the best publisher possible. But comments are open, and I invite thoughts from readers on the general question about publishing dissertation, as well as from readers knowledgeable about Verlag.