Should the book I edited advertise my Ph.D.?
November 21, 2011 8:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm editing a non-academic, non-fiction book to be published by a university library. Should the book advertise my Ph.D. credentials? If so, how?

After finishing a Ph.D. in literature, I was commissioned by one of the libraries at the same university to edit some private papers of historical interest from their archives. The library is funding publication of the edited papers in a hard-bound book.

As the editor, I made selections from the papers to shape an engaging "story," edited the selected texts for length, and added footnotes and an introduction to explain the papers' historical context. This was not a work of scholarly editing; the primary goal was to produce something readable, almost novel-like, aimed at the school's alumni. I did, however, spend a lot of time researching historical details, striving to make the footnotes and intro informative and accurate. My doctoral research was not directly relevant to this project, but my academic background gave me some general research skills, and I'd like to think that my study of literature helped me shape an emotionally affecting, well-paced story out of the raw materials.

The book is essentially finished but I'm still wrestling with the question of whether and how to indicate in the book (or on the cover) that I have a Ph.D. On the one hand, the library director chose me to handle this (very expensive!) project in part because of my expertise, and the library perhaps deserves the cachet of showing off my credentials. The book is meant as something of a promotional piece for the library, and it might be to their advantage to show people "we got a Ph.D. to work on this." On the other hand, I personally do not want to come across as flaunting my advanced degree. It just seems kind of tacky.

As initially submitted to the printer, the cover and title page read "Edited by Orinda Adniro", no letters after the name. In the Foreword to the book, the library director referred to me as "Dr. Adniro," but the director told me to edit the foreword as I saw fit, and I changed the phrasing to "Ms. Adniro." (In general, I think only M.D.s should be called "Dr. So-and-so.") I don't know of any plans for an "about the author" blurb, which is where I would prefer to put information about my academic training.

So, right now the book contains no reference to my Ph.D., but I still have time to change that. Should I? Should the title page and cover read "Edited by Orinda Adniro, Ph.D."? Should the Foreword read "Dr. Adniro"? Is there somewhere else where a reference to my degree should be inserted?
posted by Orinda to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
In general, I think only M.D.s should be called "Dr. So-and-so."

For what it's worth, I think you're way off base on that part. You're every bit as much of a doctor as they are, embrace it.

I agree, though, that the editor blurb, or maybe the title page inside the book, is the place to put your academic credentials. On the cover seems a bit pretentious.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:52 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have a doctorate. I see no reason why you couldn't be referred to as "Dr. Adniro." You deserve the recognition for your accomplishment. I admire your humility, but these are the opportunities that you have earned through your study, and there's no reason to hide your accomplishment.
posted by erstwhile at 8:55 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a reader, I would be turned off if "Dr." or "Ph.D" were anywhere on the front cover of the book (cranks have co-opted this), but I would be happy to see it on the title page or blurb.
posted by auto-correct at 9:09 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a nonfiction (art) book editor, and deal with tons of editors/authors with PhD. We NEVER put degrees on the cover or title page, no matter how famous the author or how impressive the credentials. We only list credentials with the contributors' blurbs, either on the back flap or on a dedicated page at the end of the book -- e.g., "John Smith received his PhD from Harvard, and has published extensively on cubism and German expressionism for fifteen years. His latest book, Impressive Title, is forthcoming from Fancy Publisher."
posted by scody at 9:25 PM on November 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yeahhh, when I see "So-and-so, PhD" on the cover of a book I think "Ah, a self-help book. Skip!" You need to enquire as to author blurbs.
posted by troublesome at 9:26 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Oh, and I just double-checked with the Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), which is the predominant style guide for book publishing:
1.11: Chicago does not print academic degrees or affiliations after an author's name on the title page, with the exception of MD, which may be retained in the field of medicine.

1.14: A brief note on the author or authors ('author' here includes editors, compilers, and translators), listing previous publications and, if relevant, academic affiliation, may appear at the top of the copyright page. ...(The biographical note may appear on a separate page, either in the front matter or the back matter, according to the publishers preference.)

1.89-.90: In a work by many authors... a list of contributors often appears in the back matter, immediately before the index. ...Brief biographical notes, academic affiliations, [etc.] accompany the names. ...A work by only a handful or authors whose names appear on the title page does not require a list of contributors if biographical data can be included on the copyright page or elsewhere in the book.
posted by scody at 9:45 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't put it on the cover or title page, but I wouldn't leave it out altogether. It doesn't seem at all pretentious to me to have Ph.D beside your name in the forward. I think it would be a relevant detail, actually, considering so much work on this book was done by you.
posted by costanza at 9:51 PM on November 21, 2011

Don't sell yourself short because you see this as "not a work of scholarly editing"; it's still an edition and the work you put into it still counts (for your CV, too!). Mention the degree in your bio, just as scody says. That's the done thing.
posted by RogerB at 10:03 PM on November 21, 2011

This is exactly what the author bio is for!

I work in publishing. I've never, ever worked on a book that had Ph.D after the author's name on the cover. It would be a little...self-publish-y to do that.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2011

Best answer: It's completely appropriate for the library director to refer to you as "Dr. Adniro" in the preface. It's a setting where your title is appropriate. My dad never called himself "Dr. Ogilvie" in a social setting, but in his professional publications and in a professional setting, that's the title he used. Medical doctors tend to use the title socially as well (hence the New Yorker cartoon where the maƮtre d' at a restaurant asks a guest: "Is that Ph.D., or are you a real doctor?").

A brief "about the author" on the copyright page, as the CMS suggests (quoted by scody) would also be appropriate.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:11 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW I know quite a few people with PhDs and PPhils - almost all call themselves Dr XYZ professionally and socially. You are a Dr - and there were Doctors of a Law, Science and Art for hundreds of years before Medicine came around.
posted by prentiz at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I've been following the CMS for everything else in the book; it didn't even occur to me that it might be able to resolve this question, too! As you guys have suggested, I want to do "the done thing" and avoid looking "self-publish-y" or like a crank.
posted by Orinda at 7:35 PM on November 22, 2011

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