Lessons Learned: A Book Editing Collaboration

by Maha Kumaran
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library, University of Saskatchewan
Tasha Maddison
Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Recently Maha and Tasha (M/T) had an opportunity to collaborate on a major research project – editing a book. The book is entitled Distributed Learning: Pedagogy and Technology in Online Information Literacy Instruction and is expected to be published in October 2016 by Chandos Information Professional Series, an imprint of Elsevier.

Editing a book is a massive, arduous, and time-consuming project that typically extends over a long period of time. As editors of this project, M/T originally initiated conversations with the publishers in October of 2014. The book proposal was accepted in January 2015 and the final manuscript was submitted in May 2016. The book is now in the safe custody of the publisher undergoing copy-editing and production.

Collaboration has its merits and learning moments. This post reflects on the merits of M/T’s collaboration and what they learned from working together.

There is lots to do:
• Initiating the project and connecting with various groups of people
These groups include your institutional ethics office, your fellow editor(s), and people at the publishing house. You need to finding reviewers for your initial book proposal, chapter authors, and peer reviewers. For this project there are 22 chapters and 44 contributors, so you can imagine how many emails were sent and responded to.
• Deadlines to deal with
Deadlines for abstracts and chapters from authors and feedback from peer reviewers on each chapter. Then you need to work with the publishing house until the final manuscript is submitted.
• Corresponding throughout the project
Corresponding about copyrighted material within chapters and contributor agreements with authors, negotiating the contract with the publisher, collaborating with your co-editor almost on a daily basis, sending acknowledgements to chapter authors on receiving their work, writing letters to the peer reviewers, sending their feedback to authors, and all the while remembering to keep confidential information in check, etc.

Merits of this Collaboration – Strengths of M/T Combined:
After submitting the final manuscript, M/T appreciated working together on this project. Neither one could have completed this task without the others’ help. Tasha’s expertise in communicating in a timely fashion with empathy (especially when a chapter had to be rejected), her ability to nudge others gently with reminders, and her positive attitude throughout the project is a huge skill set.

Maha’s prior experience with publishing, writing, and co-editing proved invaluable throughout the process especially when negotiating the contract with the publisher and anticipating critical next steps. Maha is also a good editor and Tasha looked to her for advice on many issues throughout the peer review process.

What did we learn?
• Find someone that complements your skills and hopefully shares your research interests – easier said than done!!
• Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! If you cannot answer an email immediately, acknowledge receipt and let them know you will respond soon. M/T communicated primarily through email, but also met in person, phoned each other, and sent text messages.
• Be prepared. Last minute issues will occur: an author might pull out too late, may decide not to submit the chapter, and may not accept your revision suggestions. Learn to remain nimble and adapt accordingly.
• Sometimes things will fall apart, something won’t meet your expectations, events won’t happen on time, issues won’t get resolved the way you want them to be resolved. Get over it and move on!! See the big picture.
• If you find someone who is easy to work with and you form a successful team – hang onto them! This doesn’t happen every day and it is truly special!

Other Brain-Work posts on collaboration:

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.