How to...
Edit a multi-authored volume

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.

Developing the volume

The volume editor's role

Often the series editor will also be the volume editor but sometimes the former will delegate this task to someone else. This person will be a specialist in the area, alert to who is doing the most interesting and influential work.
The series editor is the expert on the particular distinguishing features of the series, so a volume editor would be well advised to ensure that he or she gets a good briefing. In particular:

  • What size of volume has to be assembled in what timescale?
  • How are volumes reviewed?
  • Is the series associated with a particular conference, if so how? Are contributors selected from conference presentations?
  • What is the topic, how well has the series editor developed it (for example, is it just an idea or does he or she have a list of proposed chapter headings)?
  • How "hands on" or "hands off" does the series editor intend to be – in other words, will you as volume editor have the authority to make the decisions you want without any restrictions?
  • Is there an expectation with regards to the type and variety of contribution, for example a balance between different perspectives, between state-of-the-art reviews and empirical research?
  • Do contributors normally send in a proposal, and is there a proposal form they are advised to use?

The series editor will guide the volume editor through the process but the volume editor should be in charge of all editorial decisions and author management.

Editing a book series for Emerald

When editing a book series for Emerald, the volume editor will need to fill in a Series Volume Proposal Form, providing a brief synopsis, a provisional table of contents and a list of contributors. The form should also contain a tentative title, estimated manuscript length and date for submission. On receipt of the completed form, Emerald will be in a position to issue a volume contract.

Contacting and briefing the contributors

Volume contributors are assembled in various ways, these can include:

  • Identifying and inviting potential contributors either through papers presented at a conference, looking at literature or writing to distinguished scholars.
  • Open calls can be issued through various relevant e-mail listservs, relevant journal homepages, newsletters and websites.
  • Some series may already have a strong connection with a conference e.g. Contributions for Research in Consumer Behaviour are selected from the best paper at Consumer Culture Theory Conference.

During your initial discussions with authors, it is useful also to provide them with information such as:

  • An overview of the series, and the angle of the volume.
  • An explanation of the various stages, including a timeline.
  • A copy of Emerald's Author Guidelines for Series and Books, which provides guidelines on preparing your manuscript for submission.
  • A copy of the Chapter Transfer Agreement (CTA), which they will need to fill in and sign before the manuscript can go to production.

The Author Guidelines contain advice on a series of stylistic matters such as:

  • How to submit the final manuscript;
  • The order in which chapter material should be presented;
  • How to use the Harvard referencing system;
  • The correct form for the abstract; and
  • Presentation of illustrative material.

Although this may seem time-consuming it’s crucial to provide this information at the beginning so authors have the appropriate tools to submit all the correct information in their final draft.


You will also need, at this stage, to consider how you will communicate with contributors. Many editors will rely on email, however, it may be worth considering use of some Web 2.0 tools, such as a wiki, which allows for shared editing.

Review stages

The review process will vary from series to series as will the different stages to be gone through, and the process of selecting the final chapters.

Some volume editors will require each contributor to produce a proposal before submitting a draft; others just ask for a first draft. Sometimes the proposal will be used as a means of selecting the final contributions whilst others will make the final selection after the revised first draft. It’s essential to communicate which of these methods you intend to use in the beginning stages of discussions with authors.

Inevitably, some papers will be rejected, which will involve the volume editor turning away papers from scholars whom he or she greatly respects. This may be very difficult, and requires great skills of diplomacy.

As the chapters emerge, the volume editor should be not only checking on quality, but also shaping the book:

  • Do the chapters fit nicely into parts?
  • How should the book be sequenced?
  • Is there sufficient contrast and complementarity between the chapters, a balance of different perspectives?

Sometimes there is a combination of internal and external peer review. For example, a book may grow out of a conference, in which case the conference papers will be double blind peer reviewed prior to selection; the author will receive benefit from the feedback from other delegates; and then the final paper will also be reviewed by the series and volume editors.

If external peer reviewers are used, one approach is to assemble a team of about five people, drawn from scholars known to be active in the field, previous authors in the series, and the authors' own citations.

As with authors, reviewers should be given sufficient time – say around six weeks – to review a chapter, and ensure that they are not "overloaded", in other words, distribute the workload evenly. When you assemble the team, make clear what the commitment is and when the work is likely to fall.

You will obviously need to tell the reviewers what to look for: whether they are to confine themselves to style, or should they also consider substance, such as the research design?

At the review stage there will be a large number of drafts in circulation, so editing becomes an exercise in project management.

Planning & 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.


van der Vlist, E. (2006), "Web 2.0, professional ... and fun!", weblog of Eric van der Vlist, available at:… [accessed August 6 2009].