WRITE A CROSS-OVER BOOK. Professors build their reputations by publishing articles and books in their specialty. Almost always, their only readers are other professors, graduate students, and their own family. Sometimes, however, a faculty member produces a successful crossover book, a work respected by, and receiving laudatory reviews from, his or her academic colleagues while also selling well with the general public.
Such books are difficult to write, however. If your book is to fly off the shelves at bookstores such as Barnes and Noble, it has to be both readable and entertaining. Few people reach the level of clear and creative writing required. Furthermore, even among highly skilled professional nonfiction writers, New York Times best sellers are rare. Nonetheless, some university scholars have written best sellers. They include Peter Drucker, Margaret Mead, Paul Krugman, Gail Kearns Goodwin, and Stephen Hawking. We believe that professors who produce crossover books perform a valuable public service. Unless you become a world-class public intellectual like the people in the above paragraph, you may be denigrated by your academic peers as a mere popularizer. A false equation that does not work mathematically, but still describes the behavior of many misguided professors: excellent technical productivity plus commercial success is respected less than excellent technical productivity alone.