Friday, March 1, 2013

Edited Books: Part Two

In my last post, I mentioned two issues that you need to think about carefully before committing to editing a book: market considerations and prestige.

The fact is, the publishing industry is undergoing a lot of changes. Publishers that previously took on books that would not make a profit are less willing to do so. It used to be that university presses were viewed as being an essential part of the mission of universities, and it was often expected that presses would run deficits and be covered through other means. This is not the case anymore, at least not for the majority of presses. Most university presses must be self supporting. This means that books that might not sell well are less likely to be given contracts. The truth is, edited books, unless they clearly can be implemented in introductory classes that are common in many universities, often do not sell well. So, while you might not see sales as a primary motivation for editing a volume, publishers do. You need to carefully think through your market, think through what classes your book could be used in, why libraries should buy it, and why it is essential for your field/disciple.

The second issue you need to consider is prestige. Edited books, depending on your discipline and university, may not be a great "bang for the buck" use of your time if you are on the tenure track. Often, edited books count little more than one article in the minds of some members of T and P committees; I know it sounds crazy, given the amount of work edited books take, but it is true.  Paradoxically, edited books are given much more weight outside of you the campus T and P structure, and can be a great way of getting known. So, know where you are on the T and P clock, and how you are doing with meeting (or exceeding, preferably) campus and disciplinary standards before you commit to an edited book.

So, two posts basically telling you why you should not even consider edited volumes; next we will explore why you may wish to do so.

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