[ilds] Editing

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Mon Feb 2 14:42:45 PST 2015

Hi Bruce,

I can comment on this from a few perspectives.

First, there are presses that largely "process manuscripts" as you say, 
rather than editor or nurture them, but even in that there are 
divisions.  Some push for a large number of acquisitions and "prey" on 
junior scholars who may not be familiar with the process -- after a 
conference nowadays, there will often follow emails from publishers 
asking for the papers and/or a book.  The same for announcements of MA 
thesis or PhD dissertation defenses.

Edwin Mellen sued a librarian and McMaster University (which, btw, has a 
lovely set of Durrell mss. and tss.) when it was described as predatory. 
  My understanding is that this suit was later dropped -- Edwin Mellen 
publishes more than 300 new books each year.


This isn't simply a matter of cutting the expensive editorial staff.  It 
can also reflect the market to which a press is oriented and 
consequently the kind of product is strives to create.  Those driven 
exclusively to the library market tend to have higher prices and less 
editing since the impulse is to get on a shelf, not to be taken off that 
shelf again...  Textbooks might have more investment, but likely not by 
subject matter experts at the press.

That said, even inside some of the best publishers, there can often be 
"tiers" of service.  I edit the annual "American Literature post-1900" 
chapter of Oxford UP's /Year's Work in English Studies/, for which we 
have thorough copy editing, two levels of paid editorial reading, and 
paid contributors.  The project is professionally indexed by OUP 
(authors are not invited to do this themselves) and it really is a 
"luxury" product in today's age of academic publishing.  However, I 
don't think it would be realistic to say all journals or books have the 
same level of support inside the same press.

One of the reasons I went with U Alberta Press for the /Personal 
Modernisms/ and /From the Elephant's Back/ books is the level of 
editorial support and the quality of their design work (entirely aside 
from knowing and liking the staff at the press).  They also produce 
books at reasonable prices, all things considered, so they're actually 
meant to *sell* (a rarity for today's academic publishing).

My own university's press, FDU Press, which has published much Durrell 
materials, was through Associated University Presses and is now with 
Rowman & Littlefield, which means distribution and a good deal of 
production is external (also keeps down costs for the university but 
puts it a bit more toward the library market).  The quality there is 
in-house editing and the peer-review integrity, but the internal layout 
and design is fairly fixed for each title.

For your Wiley-Blackwell example, it's classified as a textbook, so 
apart from copy editing, I'd guess they left facts and dates to the 
translator!  Worth noting, it's also a print on demand title, which is 
increasingly common for Wiley, Oxford, and Cambridge for their back 
stock (and has been the case for U California P for quite a while now).

A few dozen or more books go across my desk every year for /Year's Work/ 
reviews, and the range of production and editorial standards is remarkable.

All best,

On 2015-02-02 11:27 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> James,
> A brief comment on the sorry state of book editing, which has some
> relevance to Durrell himself, who notoriously hated to proof his own
> work.  (It might be interesting to explore why he felt that way.)  I
> know for a fact that some publishers (apparently Edwin Mellen Press is
> one of them) have essentially done away with an editorial staff and
> simply “process manuscript” with little or no attention to the product.
>   Diboll’s book looks like a prime example of this trend.  Why?  It
> saves money by cutting staff.  Here’s one egregious example of such
> folly.  The well-known French Egyptologist Béatrix Midant-Reynes wrote a
> respected book on Egyptian prehistory.   Ian Shaw translated it as /The
> Prehistory of Egypt:  From the First Egyptians to the First Pharaohs/
> (1992).  It was published by Blackwell in Oxford, a reputable publisher.
>   The first sentence of Midant-Reynes’s introduction reads, “In 1922,
> when Jean-François Champollion announced the decipherment of
> hieroglyphics with his famous ‘letter to Monsieur Dacier’ . . .”  Only
> off by a hundred years!  Any respectable editor should have caught the
> typo, but apparently there aren’t any at Blackwell’s editorial offices.
> Bruce
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