Thursday, 20 January 2011

Editor's laments

One aspect of getting published that I had forgotten, but was reminded of yesterday is edited books. Every time I have done it I swear solemnly that I will never do it again, but here I am, right in the process.Moreover, co-editing, which has it advantages and disadvantages.

My first edited volume was in Swedish and originated from a seminar series on children's literature and literary theory. It was used for many years in children's literature courses, but before that, it gave me a lot of trouble. No matter how detailed instructions you give to your contributors about footnotes, bibliography, indented quotes, subheadings and double-spacing, they will all do it wrong in different manners. As an editor, you have two options. You can send the chapter back to your contributor and ask for corrections. This will probably delay your already delayed production schedule by a month, so the second option most editors take is to correct everything themselves: it least, it will be wrong consistently when you submit it to the publisher. Likewise, you prefer to do all proof-reading yourself - you need to do it anyway - rather than sending out and wait for another month. There is always one contributor who is more busy than evebody else.

It gets still more complicated when you edit an international volume, and at least one of your contributors does not use email or has antedeluvial software or is on study leave in the faraway rainforests. Some will go beyond all deadlines, and you have two options. You may send a nasty email saying that if you don't get the typescript right now, the chapter will not be included. This is not the option you choose, because it will collapse the neat structure of the volume, and it is often the contribution you want most. The second option - no, you cannot write it yourself, although you would. The second option is to wait and to passify your other contributors with promises you know you can't keep.

If you co-edit a volume, you can be sure that your co-editor will have a wedding, a sick relative, a prolonged business trip and thousands of other reasons to postpone the submission. You have three options. You can wait until your co-editor does her share of work. Meanwhile, the contributors will bombard you with questions about the progress. The other option is doing everything yourself. The third is withdrawing from the project, but that can be fatal as you jeopardise your professional relationships not only with your co-editor but all contributors as well.

To crown it all, edited volumes are rated low in academic reports, bring no royalties, are seldom reviewed, do not sell and do not get quoted, so you do it all for the love fo the subject.

To be honest, I must admit that I have contributed to lots of edited volumes, and although I am usually prompt with deadlines, I have withdrawn a couple of times, I have messed up with bibliography and double-spacing, excellent guidelines notwithstanding, I have forgotten to read proofs, and I have been a nuisance bombarding editors with silly questions.

There are at least two sides to everything.

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