August company

Back in May I answered a call for papers (cfp). I sent in a abstract based on the conference paper I delivered at K-zoo. One of the editors behind the cfp convened my session so he was able to judge my submission on more than a 150 word synopsis. Back in June I got word that my proposal was accepted and a few days ago I got an initial style-guide for submissions with May 2013 deadline for finished drafts. And, because I’m like that, I looked up the other contributors based on the cc addresses. It’s an impressive list.

Of the 21 other contributors (not counting me) there is only one other grad-student. The rest are a rich mix of established academics, professors, and newly appointed lecturers in medieval literature, cultural studies, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic history, military history, forensics, liturgical studies, and material culture. I actually recognized some of the contributors from their published work and the range of disciplines is encouraging.

Edited collections get a lot of flak in history, particularly in military history, and it’s a reasonable criticism. In some disciplines the edited collection fits into the hierarchy of academic publishing somewhere between the book review and the conference proceeding; everyone has one or two on the CV, but no one ever reads them. Edited collections on military history are rather over represented in the discipline and it’s not entirely clear why. Certainly there is a lack of alternative routes to publication. There are very few peer-review journals dedicated to military history and the wait-lists for submissions could last longer than many academic appointments. If you are lucky, and your topic has some interdisciplinary appeal, and it isn’t too ‘operational’ in focus, you may be able to squeeze into the main-stream historical journals, but it’s a gamble.

The solution it seems, is the edited collection. But these volumes reach fewer readers, get cited less often by other scholars, and are occasionally judged negatively, and unfairly, based on one bad contribution. They also tend towards the repetitive and unimaginative, something the journals can’t afford to do. I knew all of this when I submitted my abstract.

The thing is, my paper, while broad enough in its appeal, is fairly interdisciplinary and the worry was that it would alienate the primary discipline represented by any one journal. I also like the idea of having a book chapter on the CV this early in the career. I’m already publishing over my weight and I would like to maintain that. I may re-consider contributions to edited collections post-DPhil, but for now, this is an efficient way to get my work into print and better targeted towards other scholars.

I do worry about the publisher. I don’t know who is handling the project at the moment and while i trust the professionalism of the editors, I hope we are going with a university press and not one of the smaller academic presses. Not that there is anything wrong with them. Boydell, Brill, Brepols, all produce good work, but they don’t get as much coverage in the disciplines as other publishers like Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, etc.

As an added bonus, I may be entitled to royalties on sales. Divided between 22 contributors and 2 editors, I seriously doubt I will see anything more than a purely symbolic payment in the point-two-digit range, but the symbolic value is slightly higher.

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