When I complained about the economics of the book business (see Selling my own book: my royalties are less than what I get with the Amazon Affiliate program ) the most common comment I got that we should have self-published our book instead of using in a well-known publisher like Morgan and Claypool.
Well, there’s a good (and very pragmatic) reason for this. Given the target audience of the book and the fact that the topic is not exactly a hot topic among that audience we cannot expect massive sales for the book (we do hope to sell plenty specially since some university courses are starting to use it as core teaching material but definitely not tens of thousands).
For this volume of sales getting a bigger percentage of each sale won’t change our lives. Therefore, we had to consider how to “benefit” from the work of writing and publishing the book beyond the monetary aspect. The solution was to “sell” (in figurative terms) the work on the book as part of our daily work as MDE researchers, i.e. explaining to our institutions that the book was a very important result for our teams and was worth putting time on it.
I bet you are nodding right now. This makes sense but what does this have to do with the choice of a publisher? Well, here is when the pragmatic part comes in. Unfortunately, I can only convince my institution that the book is worth if I publish the book with a known editorial. There’s no way they are going to accept a self-publishing book as something serious (regardless if this could help to attract more readers).
Research institutions as in many other aspects are very conservative (yes I know, research and conservative are two words that should not go together!). So, if we wanted our work on the book to be internally recognized the only viable option was to choose a “serious” publisher.
(unfortunately this kind of problem is not only for books, I have the same discussions when trying to justify that developing open source tools that many people use should be also taken into account when evaluating me, and not just the simple number of publications; so far I’ve been quite unlucky with that as well)
Definitively agree with your point about tools being considered in the evaluation process. Things are slowly changing (e.g., we talk now about productive people (“produisant” in French) rather than writing people (“publiant”)), but there is still room for more recognition for (most of the time collective) production work.