So, you want to edit a book? Or to participate in an edited collection? Read here first!

I have discussed here and here my analysis of authors as belonging to a continuum of which the two extremes are the category of “artists” (they want to impress with a great narrative, and see their writings as works of art) and that of “communicators” (they want to engage in discussion, and see their writings as open to modifications).

Now, I would like to add a few new insights derived from my recent work as editor:

  • While reading the drafts sent to me, I invariably add post-its or the like with questions such as “What do you mean by that?” or “Do you mean to say that x?” More often than one would expect, I get an answer from the author in the same post-it and directed to me alone. However, as an author I think you should focus on the fact that hardly anyone will read your article as carefully as the book editor. Thus, if she or he does not understand something, this means that you have not been clear enough and that you have to clarify.
  • Since I am a communicator much more than an artist, and a synthetic much more than an analytic person, I am not particularly annoyed by typos, imprecise bibliographies and the like. Nonetheless, after I have commented upon the first draft and told the author about such problems, I expect them to take care of these flaws. They can decide to either spend time (e.g., by looking carefully through their article, checking grammars and dictionaries and the like) or money (e.g., by paying an English native speaker and/or a proofreader) on their articles, but I think it would be unfair from them to expect me to do it (in case you are wondering: I regularly have my articles checked by an English proofreader).

Last, a warning (in case you want to work with engaged editors like me):

  • I find collections with no specific purpose useless and slightly annoying (because one never knows what one will find in them) and I take my job as editor extremely seriously. Thus, I expect the authors and co-editors working with me to work on shared enterprise (and not just to deliver their article as if it was a parcel). If you are not ready to re-think your article along with your editor, send it to a journal and not to an edited collection. But, let me add that almost all the authors who have worked with me in the past have hated me (like any other editor, I suppose) during the process and thanked me a lot afterwards, since articles are incredibly improved while going through this process.
  • What are your insights as editor and author?

    If you are editing a book, you might also be interested in this post (on what one can delegate while editing a book or article).

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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