Method 1: author return on investment of time
Hypothesis: the vast majority of academic authors would advance their financial situations faster by moonlighting at a second job, even at minimum wage, than by writing academic books.
- estimate or calculate author time spent on writing academic books
- estimate or add royalties over years book is likely to continue selling
- divide royalties by author hours
- compare with local minimum wage
- collect publisher records for royalties on a per-author / per-book basis
- calculate range, average and mode
- paint a qualitative picture of likely financial rewards for academic authors for book publishing
Anecdotal evidence (and inspiration) from an expert
Sandy Thatcher, formerly publisher at Penn State University Press and former President of the American Association of University Presses, points out today on the scholcomm list: the fact that a significant number of authors published by university presses earn no royalties at all, it is also true that the number of authors who earn really significant royalties on academic books is very small. For them, the greatest incentive to publish a book by far lies in the indirect rewards to come in the form of tenure and promotion, whose pecuniary benefits usually far outweigh any monies actually received from book royalties. I therefore think a much stronger case for OA book publishing can be made than Peter seems ready to admit yet. And it is important to press on this point because the longer book publishing remains TA while journal publishing goes OA, the wider the "digital divide" will grow between book and journal content, which is intellectually indefensible.