Edited collections showcase related work by multiple scholars and amplify shared themes among their projects. If the studies were published in journals, they might be scattered across issues, requiring readers to identify connections among them on their own. And even when journal articles are clustered in a special issue, word limits often are more constraining than they are for edited collections (though book publishers also impose word limits!). So edited collections create space for more comprehensive dives into a topic, including editors’ guidance on the interconnections among complementary work.

I’ve co-edited three collections – Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer (with Chris Anson), Understanding Writing Transfer: Implications for Transformative Student Learning in Higher Education (with Randy Bass), and Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research (with Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler and Paul Miller) – and have two more under contract. I’ve also worked with collection editors for books published in CEL’s book series.

In an earlier post in this series, I’ve outlined the general process for publishing a (SoTL) book and shared tips that we’ve elaborated on throughout the series. In this post, I share tips specifically for scholars embarking on the rewarding—and time-intensive—work of editing collections. I’ll discuss the process in three stages—proposing the collection, writing and revising the collection in collaboration with your chapter authors, and supporting production and promotion of the book. In my experience, the entire process often takes 18-24 months.

At the proposal stage…

A flow chart showing the stages of the proposal process for edited collections: email query, brief proposal, call for chapter proposals, full proposal, under contract

Some edited collections evolve from existing collaborations or from events (e.g., a conference on the topic). For others, collection editors invite chapter proposals, sometimes forging new networks among scholars who previously hadn’t connected with each other.

As with many book projects, potential book editors should consider sending a brief email query to a publisher; this early effort can save you time and energy in the long run. Publishers might be able to give you quick feedback on whether your proposed project aligns with their mission and audience, and they often will share their specific guidelines for proposals.

For the Center’s series, if we think a project idea potentially aligns with our goals based on an email query, we’ll ask for a brief proposal (2 to 4 pages) to learn more about the project (guidelines here for the Open Access Series and here for the Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching with Stylus Publishing). We’re usually able to review this brief proposal within a few weeks. From there, if we invite a full proposal, we’ll share guidelines for the more comprehensive proposal.

At the full proposal stage for CEL’s book series, we want to see tentative chapter titles, and ideally, brief chapter summaries and the names of chapter authors. Therefore many of our collection editors have circulated calls for chapter proposals after we’ve expressed interest in receiving a full proposal, but before they submit the full proposal, so that they can include those details.

In my experience, knowing a publisher has expressed initial interest offers potential chapter authors reassurance that the collection will find a publishing home, and the publisher’s guidelines can shape how the editors frame calls for contributions.

If you invite chapter proposals, consider requesting both a 1- to 2-page proposal that offers you sufficient insight into the proposed chapter and a brief abstract that you can include in the full proposal for the collection. I’ve learned the hard way that not asking for a brief abstract adds to my work as an editor, since I then had to do the work of summarizing the chapters to adhere to publishers’ proposal guidelines. Learn from my mistake!

Many publishers request sample chapters as part of the proposal process. Think carefully about what you’ll share. Could you draft the introduction? Is there a chapter you’ll write that you could draft now? Could an established colleague contribute a chapter that they would be able to revise for another venue if the proposal doesn’t lead to a book contract? Avoid asking emerging scholars to contribute sample chapters unless you’re willing to commit to being a critical friend for their revisions for another publishing venue if your edited collection proposal falls through.

Once you have a sense of whose work—or which projects—you want to include in the collection, your next task is conveying the significance of the work for the publisher’s audience. Why will the publisher’s readers want to learn more about this topic, and why are you and your chapter authors the right people to be writing about it? Part of your response might focus on identifying a gap in existing scholarly conversations about your topic, but—particularly for traditional publishers—you also need to explain why readers will buy your book in addition to (or often instead of, given limited funds) other books on the topic.

At the drafting and revising (and revising some more) stage…

The flow chart of the revision stage: drafting, feedback, and revising. The is an arrow going back and forth between feedback and revising, denoting the cycles of revision after receiving feedback from the collection editor, the series editor, and the publishing team.

When you edit a collection, you aren’t responsible for only your own scholarly production; you also take on at least partial responsibility for your contributors’ scholarly production. As an editor, you make a couple (often implicit) commitments to your chapter authors. You commit to…

  • Keeping the project on track to meet publisher deadlines, and
  • Offering formative feedback to help authors more effectively convey their key take-aways to the collection’s target audience.

Sometimes keeping a project on track means making tough decisions. If chapter authors aren’t able to meet deadlines or haven’t been able to revise a draft sufficiently to address feedback, you might have to make the difficult decision to cut their chapters. Alternatively, you might find yourself working intensely and intentionally with some chapter authors to ensure their perspective or significant findings are reflected in the book.

Formative feedback—and chapter authors’ thoughtful revisions in response to it—can contribute to a collection’s cohesiveness and help authors amplify key ideas and their significance for the intended readers. While collection editors should have a central role in providing feedback, they don’t have to be the only source of feedback. Sometimes it’s helpful to have chapter authors offer feedback on other chapters so that they also can integrate references to those chapters into their own contributions to the collection as appropriate. Sometimes collection editors might invite other critical friends who have a vested interest in the topic to offer feedback on specific chapters or the entire collection. And even after collection editors are happy with the shape a collection has taken, publishers often will share the manuscript with editorial board members or other reviewers, leading to additional suggestions for revision.

Given the multiple potential sources for feedback, collection editors should try to transparently preview for chapter authors who will be providing feedback and when. Moreover, feedback and the revision process often are cyclical, with meaningful revisions making it possible for collection editors and publishers to see additional opportunities for important revisions that would extend the reach of the book.

After your manuscript is accepted…

A flow chart showing the process after the manuscript is submitted: review copyedits, promote the book (1), review page proofs, celebrate publication, and promote the book (2)

Although it’s important to celebrate the milestone of your publisher accepting your edited collection manuscript for publication, your responsibilities do not end at that point. As an editor, your remaining commitments to your chapter authors—and your publisher—include…

  • Facilitating timely review of copy edits and page proofs, in partnership with the publisher’s team, and
  • Promoting the published book.

Many publishers send both copy edits and (later) page proofs only to the collection editor. Reviewing materials for both production stages holistically can help you determine if you need to discuss any global issues with the publishing team (e.g., standardization of language that hides authorial identities, citation edits that promote epistemic injustice [Chick et. al 2021]). Yet, authors also should have an opportunity to review their chapters so that they have both agency in and co-responsibility for these stages of scholarly production. Therefore, share the publisher’s style sheet and any additional guidelines with your chapter authors, and give them a deadline for reviewing their chapters (often shared via Dropbox or Google Drive, with strategic permission settings). Set their deadline at one to two weeks before you have to return the documents to the publishing team so that you have time to consolidate feedback and to give the holistic manuscript one more thorough review.

As you review copy edits, you simultaneously should develop a plan for promoting the published book in collaboration with the publisher. For both of our book series, CEL develops social media images that we’ll use for promotional posts on our accounts and share with our authors/editors for their use. We enlist our Editorial Board (for the Open Access Book Series) and friends of CEL in sharing announcements about our publications on professional listservs, on social media, and across their other networked spaces. And we encourage chapter authors’ libraries to add the book to their lending collections.

We ask editors/authors to think about conferences where they can share research from their books. As a collection editor, I’ve had success proposing panels with representatives from multiple chapters – often resulting in multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary panels that attract diverse audiences. Where could you—and your chapter authors—reach potential readers and inspire their interest in your collection?

Some publishers (including CEL) might require you to develop book resources for your collection’s book website. These resources also can integrate with your promotion plans.

Collection editors play a key role in promoting their books, increasing the likelihood that individual chapters and the holistic collection will have a significant impact in scholarly discussions about the collection’s focus topic. Moreover, promotion isn’t a one-time task associated with your collection’s publication date; rather, promotion should be an ongoing, recurring activity. We’ve seen CEL authors and editors inspire new interest in their books six months, a year, or even two years after initial publication, drawing more readers to engage with the books’ ideas in future scholarship and in their daily practices.

If you’re considering editing a collection, what else would you like to know about this valuable—and energizing—role in academic publishing? Email me (jmoore28@elon.edu) your questions for a future FAQ post as we continue to strive to demystify academic publishing.


Chick, Nancy L., Sophia Abbot, Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, Christopher P. Ostrowdun, and Krista Grensavitch. 2021. “Naming Is Power: Citation Practices in SoTL”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9 (2). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.9.2.2.

Jessie L. Moore is Director of the Center for Engaged Learning and Professor of English: Professional Writing & Rhetoric. With Peter Felten, she edits the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching and the Center for Engaged Learning Open Access Book Series.

How to cite this post

Moore, Jessie L. 2022. “Academic Book Publishing: Editing Collections.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. February 15, 2022. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/academic-book-publishing-editing-collections.