Are you a good collaborator and enjoy working with other writers? Are you a big-ideas person but have limited time, resources, and opportunities to develop an idea by yourself? Are your ideas the kind that would benefit from multiple perspectives? Do you have strong editorial skills in all senses of the word from seeing the big picture to organizing content to parsing sentences? If so, you might want to consider proposing a theme for a cluster or volume of the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies [JLMMS]. Read on.
THE IDEA: For me, most publishing projects have begun with a eureka moment (often striking at 2:00 a.m.). The concept or theme on which you plan to focus a collection should have enough breadth and scope to support a range of in-depth perspectives. It also needs to be flexible enough to undergo transitions as the volume takes shape.
I NEED HELP: I have always preferred to work with a co-editor or co-editors. Finding someone with complementary skills to my own has been invaluable. Every editing experience has been different, every experience has had its own challenges, but every experience has ultimately been positive because of the respectful and invigorating relationship with co-editors. Beyond the obvious division of labour, the benefits of the conversations that you and your co-editor(s) have will be reflected in a much stronger volume than had you undertaken it alone.
WHAT NEXT? Now you have what you think to be an amazing idea and perhaps someone to assist you in bringing this idea to fruition. What next? Every journal has different processes and criteria, so you need to acquaint yourself with the mandate of the journal you plan on approaching (for the “Aims and Scope” of the JLMMS, see here), its past publications, and its future plans. Contact the editor to determine interest. Ask questions about online, print, or both; length and/or expected number of articles; peer and/or editorial reviewing; due dates; editorial assistance; readership. Be prepared to answer questions about your theme, potential topics and contributors, planned process, target audiences, and editorial experience.
CALL-FOR-PAPERS: Once you have the green light to proceed, you have several options. You can send out private calls for papers, public calls for papers (through the LMMI itself and through relevant listservs), or some combination of these. I have found that asking for an abstract (250-500 words), which the (co-)editors will then vet, is a much better option than asking for a full paper when you are inviting a potential writer to contribute. Make sure that you establish clear timelines for when the abstract is due, when you will respond, when the finished paper is due, when reviewing will take place, and anticipated publication date if your final paper is accepted. The deadlines should be highlighted by prominent placement and/or bolded font in the call for papers. As well as the theme, you should provide a list of possible topics. Here, for example, is the call for papers that Jean Mitchell and I developed for the forthcoming Mental Health volume.
DEVELOPING THE CONTENT: If you are sending out invitations to potential contributors based on abstracts, you should invite as many as you can, anticipating that one-third or more of them will not submit and/or not make it through the review process. Vetting abstracts needs to go beyond the strength of the individual abstract itself. You will need to consider whether the finished paper would be a good fit in the volume and whether it would potentially overlap with other papers. At this point, I always consider the volume as a whole: Are all the major topics covered? Are there different theoretical perspectives? Are all the major works (in the case of Montgomery, prose, poetry, life-writing) covered? If not, you may want to send out invitations to fill in the gaps. This is the time that you also should consider whether you might expand the parameters of the theme as originally framed to accommodate unique perspectives that you had not anticipated. Make sure to ask those that you invite to confirm their intention to submit.
NOW THE HARD WORK BEGINS: Answering questions. Sending out submitted papers for review. Making suggestions as to how a paper could be strengthened or made to fit the volume’s theme better. Preparing the papers for uploading and publication. Writing an introduction. Promoting the volume. By “hard work,” I also mean what can ultimately be the most satisfying steps of the process as the volume takes its final shape.
We would welcome talking to you about your ideas for a themed cluster or volume. Please contact the editor, Kate Scarth (email@example.com).
Submitted by Lesley Clement, Visiting Scholar, LMMI/Co-editor, JLMMS
Thank you to Kate Scarth, Rita Bode, and Jane Ledwell for input on this piece.
Banner image of PEI waves. Anne Victoria Photography, 2018