How to... edit a multi-authored volume Part: 2 -

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How to... edit a multi-authored volume

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Article Sections

  1. Developing the volume
  2. Planning and administration
  3. Reference

Planning and administration

One of the key stages is planning, make sure to give yourself enough time to plan your schedule well. This will help you in the long-run as you juggle incoming chapters, copyright forms and submission deadlines.

The first thing to do is to set out the various steps involved. As there is a great deal of diversity in the way volumes are assembled, it is not possible to be prescriptive here, but merely to state general principles.

Isolate the stages

The first thing to do is to break the overall task down into its various stages. Below is one example, which assumes that the editor screens the proposals initially, before making a selection and then sending out a first draft for external peer review:


  1. Choose and contact contributors.
  2. Invite proposals, including abstracts.
  3. Review and select proposals.
  4. Brief and commission contributors.
  5. First draft complete.
  6. Send first draft for peer review.
  7. Receive and feed back peer review comments.
  8. Second draft complete.
  9. Edit and send queries to author.
  10. Final draft to publisher.
  11. Publisher edits manuscript.
  12. Proofs sent to authors.
  13. Proofs returned by authors.
  14. Final publication.

Add timelines and create a schedule

The next part of the process is to add timelines to the stages, which is an estimate of how long you think each stage will take. There is one golden rule here:

Include time for slippage!

We recommend not giving the same dates to the author that you give the publisher: for example, if you are contracted to deliver to your publisher by the end of November, tell the author that you need his or her manuscript by September. You can build a schedule using this guide which details how long they expect each task to take:


Table I. Timeline of stages
Task Timeline
Choose and contact contributors 1 month
Contributors submit proposals, including abstracts 1 month
Review and select proposals 1 month
Brief and commission contributors 1 month
First draft complete 4 months
Send first draft for peer review 6 weeks
Receive and feed back peer review comments 2 weeks
Second draft complete 4 months
Edit and send queries to author 2 weeks
Final draft to publisher 1 month
Production 3 months
Proofs to authors 1 week
Publication 1 month

In creating the schedule, it's important to consider not only how long each stage will take, but also times when you will have a heavy workload. Will 20 final manuscripts be landing on your desk the week you are going on holiday or have to mark exam scripts? Such times need to be taken into account. It also helps if you can stagger the authors' deadlines somewhat, so that you will have manuscripts coming in batches.

Monitoring the process

It is important that you keep the schedule as a living document, referring back to it often and if needing to remind authors of upcoming deadlines. There are project management programs such as Microsoft Project which allow you to see the result of slippage on the end date or you can simply record the data on an Excel spreadsheet.

You will need to keep a record of information for each chapter. This should include title, authors, e-mail addresses and affiliations (which will be useful in compiling a contents list and providing information to the publisher). When preparing the volume for production, the assistant commissioning editors at Emerald will compile chapter information, including the above, and also details of word count, tables and diagrams (see an example of a manuscript breakdown template).

There are a number of different ways of monitoring the process: this example of a book series schedule (used for Advances in Austrian Economics, Volume 11) is only one of them. The first workbook sheet lists the chapter titles, authors, and their affiliations. You could list the e-mail addresses under the author's name; for obvious reasons, we have not done so here. The second sheet provides a schedule; the third lists the reviewers and provides a separate schedule for review..

Checking the manuscripts

Upon receipt of manuscripts you will need to ensure that each manuscript conforms to the requirements of the Author Guidelines. In particular you will need to check:

  • Are the publisher's preferred stylistic conventions adopted, for example short unnumbered headings?
  • Has the author provided a structured abstract?
  • Are the figures of sufficient quality, in the correct file format, clearly labelled and captioned, is it clear where they should go in the text?
  • Are special characters (e.g. for equations) presented in the correct way?
  • Has the author used the Harvard reference system properly?
  • Has the author submitted the work in the correct way, and with items in the correct order? That is:

    1. Title page (Title, Author(s), Affiliations)
    2. Structured abstract
    3. Main text
    4. Acknowledgements
    5. Appendix
    6. References
    7. Figure legends
    8. Tables.


As volume editor, you will also have some legal obligations at the delivery stage, which will be set out in the schedule which accompanies your contract. As well as delivering manuscripts by a certain time and to a certain length, you will need to:

  • Provide written permission to include any material the copyright of which is vested in someone other than the author.
  • Ensure that each contribution is accompanied by a signed Chapter Transfer Agreement, without which publication will not be possible. This contains contact details for each of the chapter's authors, along with the chapter title, and copyright waiver.
  • Deliver a separate list of authors with full postal and e-mail addresses.
  • Be prepared to make changes if requested by the publisher, "with respect to style, scientific or scholarly quality, clarity, uniformity of presentation, or currency of information in text, data or bibliography".
  • Receive and return a set of proofs from Emerald. Each author will be sent a proof of their chapter, and the volume editor receives a full set (usually within 28 days). All proofs should be returned within one week. Corrections should not exceed 10 per cent of the cost of the original typesetting.
  • The production process usually takes approximately three months in total. If an index is included, this process is extended by a further two weeks. Please note that this schedule is dependent on meeting the delivery dates set by the production team.

Providing complete information – as stipulated in the contract – will make both the publisher's life, and yours, much easier as you won't have to keep answering queries.

Final word

Being a volume editor is challenging, but it is also not without its rewards, presenting a chance for the scholar to develop him or herself in a new direction. Editing a single volume is a step towards being a book series editor or a journal editor; it is not dissimilar to being the editor of a journal special issue. It's a chance to sit on the other side of the table from being a writer of articles and contributor to a scholarly journal, and to develop skills of selecting, shaping and reviewing which are all important in the scholarly world.