Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Edited volume start up thoughts

You have carefully considered the downsides and have decided to try your hand at an edited volume in spite of my warnings. Congratulations; I hope it leads to professional success and gratification. 
Now, get ready for an exciting and bumpy ride. First do not expect this to be a smooth process. If you do expect this to go smoothly you are going to be in for a very rude awakening. Expect the unexpected. Expect who you thought would be certain to provide you with chapters on time to be just the ones to hand in their chapters late, or never at all. Expect there to be problems, delay and hassles. If you do so, you are well on your way to having the perspective you need to start the process.  This is an long race, not a sprint. Short articles are sprints- this is an endurance event!
First, you need to find a publisher. To do so, you need to write a prospectus and send them to potential publishers. Starting your edited volume without a contract is usually a very, very bad idea, unless you have a huge reputation or your book is a surefire excellent seller (and anticipating this is way beyond my skill-set!). Most of us mortals will want to write a prospectus first and submit to a few publishers.

So what to include. You will need to look at the guidelines for authors of the presses that you wish to query. For the most part, stick to university presses or well respected publishers; you want your book to be viewed positively in the T and P process. In general, you will have to write about the nature of the problem you are exploring, the nature and contents of the book, explore why your book is different than the competition, who the competitors are, and why your book will sell. It is a good idea to think about classes where you book might fit.

Depending on your reputation and publication record, you may wish to have a sample chapter, for example, your introduction, or at least part of it. This will provide publishers with a sense of your writing. If you do not, brag about your skills and accomplishments a bit in the letter and include a writing sample. Most publishers also ask you to submit your CV.

The majority of publishers accept electronic submissions; a few do not. Make sure in your letter to say if you are submitting it to multiple publishers. While submitting to multiple publishers is permissible (unlike with scholarly articles), at some point, hopefully, a publisher may ask you to give them the first shot at the book, or may be willing to contract with you. Here is were things get interesting, and very exciting. 

If you are asked to contract for the book, you then enter into negotiations on a variety of issues. This is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but I will discuss these issues another time.

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