The Edited Book - From Consumer to Producer of the Literature - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

The Edited Book
From Consumer to Producer of the Literature
Writing as Professional Development

The advantages of edited books are numerous; first, if the contributors are carefully selected for the quality of their writing and adherence to deadlines, a book on a timely topic can be produced more quickly. Second, by involving authors with highly specialized expertise, a chorus of perspectives on an important topic can be achieved, thereby providing a “deeper and wider” analysis than a single author might be able to produce.

Usually, those who edit books need to have some name recognition in the field. Editors of books usually:

· Make a plan for cohesiveness. An edited book is not a collection of disparate chapters unified only by the cover page. From the very beginning, the editor needs to communicate the unifying vision for the work, its purpose, and the specifics about format of all chapters.

· Look beyond local colleagues. Editors go in search of the necessary expertise and assemble a “wish list” of chapter authors. If the publisher also sponsors a journal, as is the case with many professional associations, they probably will start there. Other ways that they will locate authors is to send out calls for papers and distribute them as flyers at conferences or via technology (e.g., listservs, special interest groups) or by “backwards searching” through the reference lists of recently published articles. Sometimes, peer reviewers of the proposal will recommend a suitable author for a chapter. The goal is to assemble a diverse group of experts.

· Evaluate chapter authors as writers. Knowing the person based on informal professional interactions is not sufficient. It is very important to know the person as a writer. Most editors will oversample a bit in the expectation that, due to circumstances beyond their control, at least 10 % will neglect to submit a chapter. It can be very difficult to locate a substitute author for that particular topic who can submit a chapter quickly to avoid postponing or derailing the whole project.

· Assess the skills of collaboration in authors. An edited book is a team effort so select authors with a reputation for doing high-quality work, turning it in on time, and graciously accepting recommendations for revision. Some authors will become indignant when they are asked to revise; in one memorable instance of this, a chapter author refused to condense a chapter that was twice the length limit and wrote, “it would do violence to the integrity of my work to condense it.” Book editors will want to avoid working with this type of prima donna.

· Make hard decisions. Even when chapter authors do submit a chapter, the work sometimes is not acceptable for a variety of reasons. Over the years, there have been book chapter authors who lost the instructions, submitted a manuscript that was written for a different purpose/audience, neglected to make the recommended revisions, or threw together something at the last minute that made a very poor showing in comparison to the other chapters. This leaves the editor with the difficult decision that a chapter needs to be cut.

After you have made the decision to contribute to an edited book, you will need to make a plan for fulfilling expectations for the chapter. Chances are, you are working with someone who is respected and influential in the field so it is important to create a favorable impression. Some ways to achieve this are in Table 10.3.

Table 10.3

Contributing to an edited book

1. Clarify the projects purpose. Usually, the letter of invitation will describe the purpose of the project. If you know the editor, you might ask to see a copy of the book proposal if he or she is willing to share it

2. Understand the contract. It is rare for the authors of chapters for edited books to get financial compensation in the form of an honorarium or royalties. Much of the time, these books are published more as a service to the profession than as a way to supplement income and even the editor gets little more than a small honorarium. Perhaps the most common form of compensation is one free copy of the book to the first author. Another consideration is copyright. Usually, authors are required to assign copyright to the publisher. If this is unacceptable for some reason, they need to know this in advance. Follow the principles of informed consent where contract is concerned

3. Read the guidelines. From the beginning, create a separate folder for this project. You will need to refer to the guidelines multiple times so keep them at hand. Ideally, the evaluation criteria for chapters would have been shared from the outset. If not, request them—and be sure to apply them to your own work upon its completion

4. Locate an exemplary chapter. If the editor can supply an example of a chapter that was particularly well written, this can be a great help in fashioning your own chapter. If the edited book is part of a series, go back and look at chapters from previous volumes as well. This gives a sense of the preferred style, particularly if the editor was the same as the one for the current volume

5. Adhere to the deadlines. Others’ professional careers may be counting on the book to come out on schedule, so it is very inconsiderate to delay the process by being late with revisions and final edits. If you can foresee that you will not be able to fulfill your obligations, let the editor(s) know as soon as possible so that a suitable replacement can be identified

6. Respond thoughtfully to reviews. Any reputable publisher of edited books will use an anonymous peer review process. It is important for authors to revise manuscripts in accordance with this feedback and submit the revised manuscript by the specified deadline

7. Attend to details. If the editor has not supplied you with a checklist of what needs to be submitted, create your own. It is customary to expect authors to supply such things as a signed contract, a copyright transfer agreement, an abstract of the chapter with keywords for indexing purposes, and a brief biography

8. Be a writing mentor. Prolific, well-respected authors often are invited to contribute to edited book projects yet they probably have reached a point where they certainly do not “need” another publication. Edited books can become a tool for mentoring as they coach a less experienced author in producing a book chapter

9. Try co-editing or editing. After gaining considerable experience with reviewing proposals for edited books and contributing chapters to them, you may want to propose a volume on a particular topic for the same series or even pursue the establishment of a new series with a publisher. Realize that name recognition in the field often is required, however. If that does not yet exist, collaboration with a well-known scholar is one way to break into book editing

Editing a book and/or contributing to an edited volume constitutes a responsibility to a group of respected scholars. If a person fails to generate the chapter as promised, this can leave everyone in a holding pattern until the situation is satisfactorily resolved. Over the years, there have been a few times when an admired editor contacted me to say that she or he needed a really big favor. Each time, I could anticipate that the request would be to write a chapter in record time because a replacement was necessary. The book editor’s role is to:

· Conceptualize the unifying theme of the work and communicates this to authors

· Provide a timeline for the project

· Supply each contributor with explicit guidelines for the chapter (e.g., length, referencing style, format considerations, permissions, author bio)

· Provide, if possible, a sample chapter to follow

· Read chapters as submitted

· Render decisions about the necessity for and degree of revision prior to external review

· Decide if a manuscript is unsalvageable and terminate the assignment in consultation with the publisher

· Return manuscripts to contributors for revision with deadline for resubmission

· Submit manuscripts to publisher for external review

· Advise contributors of changes needed and deadline for resubmission

· Carefully review the proofs and make corrections

· Treat authors with courtesy and respect.