In the academic world, the process for choosing a publisher for your first manuscript is clear: seek out the presses with the best reputation in your field and find a good fit. As strange as it sounds to those outside the Ivory Tower, your primary goal is neither to sell a lot of copies, nor to make a lot of money. Rather, you’re looking to establish a reputation as a serious contributor to your discipline, and the best way to do that is to release a book with the most prestigious publisher you can.
However, as is quickly becoming a theme in our posts, edited books are different. Since editing won’t make or break your case for tenure or promotion, focusing exclusively on a press’ reputational ranking doesn’t make sense.
An efficient publisher is crucial
Editors of collected volumes are typically more concerned with the speed of the publication process than first-time authors. (To get hired or promoted, your book need only be accepted for publication. If an edited book isn’t available for professors to purchase and/or use in their courses, it has no value.) For example, our book (on the Harper government’s international policy up to 2015), will quickly lose its shelf appeal regardless of who wins the next election. So a publisher with a reputation for efficiency is critical.
It is equally important that the press is able to provide you with an editorial representative who has experience with edited collections. We’ve written about how the skills needed to produce a successful edited book on the author side are unique; so, too, are the skills on the publishing side. Publishers need to be comfortable dealing with multiple authors, and even with editors themselves, who don’t always agree.
The marketing ability of the press matters as well. Those with established international distribution networks are the most attractive. Those that have experience convincing faculty to include edited texts in their courses are also particularly valuable. In some cases, a press’ ability and willingness to translate your book into other languages will be a significant consideration.
Identifying the right fit
Browsing a press’ recent catalogues will give you a feel for its willingness to produce and distribute edited volumes. Reading the acknowledgement pages of edited books that you have personally enjoyed should provide the names of editorial staff at university presses who might be worth approaching. Speaking directly to colleagues with experience publishing edited volumes is another good idea.
In the end, the key is not to get too caught up in the press’ rank or reputation. When it comes to publishing an edited book, what you really need is a press with the right combination of experience, personnel, and reach.