Six top book editing tips from an experienced Elgar editor

pencil in a book

photo credit: Horia Varlan via Flickr cc

A leading researcher in the field of entrepreneurship, Hans Landstrom is no stranger to editing books. He has published seven with Edward Elgar Publishing, and is in the process of completing the eighth. We asked Hans what, from his experience, is important to ensure the smooth running of the publication process.

I have had the privilege of being the editor and co-editor for several book projects published with Edward Elgar Publishing, and looking back on these projects I have some thoughts that may be helpful for future book editors:

1.      Driving force to become an editor of a book

Why are you doing it? I can conclude that the editorship is very time consuming and the work is not always fully rewarded in your CV. So, you have to think through your own motivation and your own time restrictions. Your driving force may be to manifest an event (e.g. conference), a new research field, or a feeling of a need to synthesize your knowledge within a field. In any case, you need to be aware that it will be a time consuming activity and you need to feel a commitment to your role as an editor.

2.      Selection of authors

The quality of your book will partly depend on the quality of the writing of the contributing authors. The selection of authors can be done in different ways; for example, a selection of best papers at a conference, an open call for papers, or an individual selection of authors who will be asked to contribute a chapter in the book. From my experience in this area, I can offer the following advice: (a) The most famous authors are not always the ones that write the best chapters – not because they can’t write a good chapter, but because they don’t have time to do it. (b) In many cases the authors will have an agenda to write journal articles, believing that they will be more cited than a book chapter. Journal publishers do not always accept double publication and may have restrictions with regards the possibilities. Therefore, this issue needs to be raised early with the authors of the chapters in the book.

3.      Time schedule

As an editor you are always dependent on the last contributor, although the last contributor does not always provide the best chapter. The key to keeping to the time schedule is regular communication with the authors – asking for their progress and providing information about the development of the project. In addition, from the beginning of the book project you need to define a fair time schedule for the authors and to get the authors to commit to it. To attain high quality chapters you often need two or three revisions of each chapter. The time schedule that you suggest should be regarded as a balance of, on the one hand, giving enough time for authors to revise their chapter, and on the other hand, maintaining steady progress of the book project. Too short a time for revisions will result in a  “quick fix work” from the authors, whereas too long a time will lead to a “lost interest”. Therefore, a revision round should not exceed four months. With two or three revisions, together with the time for Edward Elgar’s work on the book, in my experience an edited book will take about two years to complete.

4.      Quality improvements

Important for the quality of the book is the work put into the reviews of the chapters. The review work can be organized in different ways, but in order to keep to the time schedule, you as the editor must put a lot of effort into the reviews and/or organizing the review work. And as an edited book often includes 15-20 chapters, I am talking about a lot of work.

For several book projects I have organized a workshop together with the authors of the chapters. During these workshops we have discussed the contents of the chapters, providing comments and suggested improvements and linkages between them. These workshops have been very successful and have significantly improved the quality of the books.

Before you submit the chapters to Edward Elgar I will advise you to take a very close look at each chapter. In particular, you should undertake a stringent check of the headings used and also the reference list in each chapter (all references in the text should be included and the reference list should be comprehensive throughout all chapters). In order to facilitate your work you should send the “Edward Elgar Guidelines” to each author as soon as possible and emphasize the importance of using the guidelines throughout the writing process.

5.      After submission of the manuscript

You have done a good job so far … but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your work is finished when you have delivered your manuscript to Edward Elgar. I have been very impressed by the detailed work that Edward Elgar puts into the production process, and you can expect at least two rounds of copy editing/proof reading. You will not be able to reply to all requests that you get from Edward Elgar yourself, and therefore you will need to rely on the responses from the authors of the chapters. Keep in close communication with the authors; keep their commitment and have their email addresses at hand.

6.      Marketing activities

Edward Elgar will do an excellent job in marketing your book, but you can’t rely solely on Edward Elgar’s efforts – Edward Elgar have hundreds of other books to promote, but you have only one (or at most, a couple). You and your authors need to be committed to the marketing efforts; for example, trying to get the book reviewed in journals, having a copy ready to show at conferences and meetings, trying to get it included in course curricula, and thinking about writing a related article for the Elgarblog!

In conclusion, as I have tried to relay above, there is a lot of work involved in editing a book, but I can promise you that once you have the published book in your hand, you will feel that all the hard work was worthwhile.

Hans Landstrom photoHans Landström, PhD in Industrial Management and holder of the Chair in Entrepreneurship at Lund University, Sweden. He is founder of Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship and responsible for courses in entrepreneurship at Lund University. His research interest includes entrepreneurial finance, informal and institutional venture capital, entrepreneurial learning and teaching, and the history of entrepreneurship research.  He has edited a number of books with Edward Elgar, including most recently the second volume of the Handbook of Research on Venture Capital.

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3 Comments on “Six top book editing tips from an experienced Elgar editor”

  1. Brendan Brown Says:

    You have shared really nice tips about editing and i like your points……….



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