A Masters in Self-Publishing? It’s Not Rocket Science.

PictureSo, it’s finally happened, I must be an academic after all. Nottingham University have introduced a Self-Publishing Masters Degree. For those of you in the US (and beyond) it’s a post-graduate degree in the UK, I’m not sure of the equivalent across the pond. However, it’s seen as a mega-academic qualification here and it’s one level below a doctorate.

What? We’re talking about self-publishing. It’s not a subject to be philosophised about by people wearing cravats and holding cigarette holders. (I don’t know what this has to do with it, by the way, I guess it’s just my idea of an academic) It’s a process. It’s a step-by-step process which you follow and complete. It’s not complicated.

My first thought, when I heard about it, was, ‘well, that’s an easy qualification to add to the list.’ I can’t imagine why anyone would want to take a masters degree in self-publishing. I’m flabbergasted in fact. The whole point of self-publishing is that there’s no rules. It’s do-it-yourself, no one has to qualify you to do it. Do you have masters degrees in cooking? How about car maintenance?

There are a couple of flaws that come to mind. The first is the fact that a masters degree typically takes a year to complete, it must involve a serious amount of essay writing and pontificating about specifics. My argument would be that you could spend that year writing books and attempting to self-publish yourself, learning from your mistakes and finding your own ways, reading blogs, getting involved in the online community of writers who are all in the same boat.

Secondly, the self-publishing landscape is in a constant state of change, as you’d expect given that it’s a new technique and it’s based on technology which is forever developing. Any course will be out-of-date as soon as it’s completed, meaning that the only value a student could take from it would be a general overview of what it’s about.

I don’t often even have an opinion when it comes to things like this, but seriously, if someone wants to spend a major chunk of their life learning how to do something that enables them to do-it-themselves then they’ve missed the point. Self-publishing isn’t about qualifications, it’s about learning a process, learning on-the-job as new people try new things, it’s about experimenting, it’s about being independent, it’s about freedom. Wrapping a course of such magnitude around it is simply going to attract those who aren’t confident enough to publish a book and are looking for any excuse to delay the leap of faith.

Until next time…


9 responses to “A Masters in Self-Publishing? It’s Not Rocket Science.

  1. My thoughts exactly when I first saw an article about it. The phrase ‘cashing in’ sprang swiftly to mind.

  2. I think that the US and UK usage of Master’s Degree is the same, actually. And I know you can get a Master’s in cooking in the US (they offer one at the university where I work) and probably in car repairs as well.

    As far as the degree itself is concerned MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts) programs in general are notorious for preparing someone for a teaching job and not much else. Getting a Master’s in Self-Publishing would probably prove useful if you wanted to get a job in another Master’s in Self-Publishing program at another university.

    The academic world tends to work like that, people getting degrees so that they can teach other people the same subject. Unfortunately many of the programs have little applicability outside of a university, so once all the teaching jobs are taken MFA holders are kind of out of luck.

  3. But as a prevarication from getting on with it, Wow what a great opportunity. I’m sure it could also lead to the possibility of spending a further 4 years on a PhD, and be a great theoretical expert on self-publishing.

  4. Studying a process is not the same as following a process. Self-publishing is a business. The original business model involved a great deal more risk than present-day business models. Self-publishers had to invest money as well as time in producing a print run of a substantial number of books that then had to be distributed and sold. Today’s business model might involve no outlay, and be as simple as uploading an ebook to Amazon Kindle. It’s the progression from the initial form of self-publishing to the present-day ebook market that forms the basis for academic study.

  5. I am no longer surprised at the desperate ways universities come up with to keep the cash flow going, but I am puzzled by this. I have not checked out the university’s site so as to enjoy a few days of trying to figure out the potential usefulness of the degree: is it for people who want to start a publishing/editing/consulting/fleecing business, or for would-be writers? This program sounds, at best, appropriate as a single optional course taught in a business school, comparable to courses dealing with other specific business sectors. Misha Burnett is correct about the MFA’s limitations in the US, although it seems to be used these days as a career ticket to punch (for establishing a writer’s credibility, not that an MFA guarantees anything.).

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