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Edited collections can make excellent books if they are conceived thoughtfully and managed well. The key is to develop the strength of an edited collection—being a presentation of multiple fresh perspectives on a particular subject, informed by a broad spectrum of scholarly insights and research expertise—and to work against its main vulnerability—being a mishmash of loosely related essays. A successful edited volume is more than a compilation of conference papers, or an expanded version of a thematic journal issue, but is itself a coherent intellectual project and should be considered that way from the beginning.
Edited collections tend to work best if they begin with a specific call for chapters or papers, perhaps for a conference or workshop. Through sharing draft papers, receiving feedback, and responding to the work of other participants—all in light of a shared set of questions, themes, ideas, and objectives—the nature of the intellectual project becomes clear. This helps the volume editors to clarify their vision for the book and allows the participating authors to articulate the significance of their own contributions.
We encourage volume editors to select for inclusion in the volume only the strongest chapters among those submitted to them. One of the weaknesses of edited collections often identified by peer reviewers is their unevenness. Although the selection process can involve difficult decisions for volume editors, a collection is much more likely to be successful if the weaker chapters are removed from the manuscript prior to review. Chapters that are strong on their own merits but that do not fit firmly within the parameters of the collection should also be carefully considered and may need to be removed. All of the selected chapters should clearly belong in the volume and together should make the collection more than the sum of its parts.
To this end, it is vital that the collection has a strong introductory chapter that explains the nature and purpose of the book and the logic of its contents, framing the issues in such a way that the connections among chapters are evident. It may be beneficial to organize the collection into sections by topic or theme. The contributors should be familiar with each others’ chapters and, where possible, should refer to them in their own contributions. This familiarity and cross-referencing reinforce the cohesion of an edited collection and should help to avoid repetition. We also encourage editors to write a concluding chapter to the volume. Even well-structured collections can be disparate in their themes and it is often helpful if volume editors pull the various strands together at the end.
The coherence achieved in substance should be matched in style and it is the responsibility of the volume editors to ensure stylistic consistency throughout the manuscript. We encourage editors to circulate MQUP’s style guide to their contributors as soon as their proposal has been accepted, ensuring that they are using the same referencing system, formatting, and general style. In some edited volumes, it is best to compile a single bibliography containing all references cited in the collection; in others it may be preferable to retain separate reference lists at the end of each chapter. If you are unsure how to proceed, please check with your acquisitions editor.
The volume editors serve as the liaison between the Press and the contributors throughout the publishing process, from the submission of the manuscript through peer review and approval, manuscript revision, copy-editing, proofreading, and the preparation of the index. As a collection has many moving parts, it is essential that the volume editors take a firm hand at the outset to ensure that all of the contributors fulfil their responsibilities, meet their deadlines at each stage, and help the project move forward in a timely way.
Once a manuscript has been approved for publication, a contract for the book will be signed between the Press and the volume editors. In addition, the volume editors will sign an agreement with each contributor, in which the rights and responsibilities of each party are outlined. If a contributor includes material that requires reproduction permission, s/he must secure the necessary permission and pay any related fees. We encourage volume editors to raise this matter with contributors at an early stage and to advise them of their responsibilities. Our web site contains further information on permissions requests.
While McGill-Queen’s publishes works by both Canadians and non-Canadians, many MQUP books authored by Canadian scholars receive subventions from the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, including edited collections that are judged to make a valuable contribution to knowledge. Please see the ASPP guidelines for details on the eligibility of “Collective Works” for a publishing grant. One of their requirements concerns the citizenship of editors and contributors: at least half of the principal editing team and half of the contributing authors must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents in order to be eligible for ASPP funding. Regardless of whether it meets ASPP eligibility criteria, we would appreciate it if your proposal for an edited collection included information about the institutional affiliations and citizenship of the editors and contributors.