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First Contact With Elsevier and Responding to Reviewers’ Comments

By: , Posted on: September 24, 2015

caroline and komang

Having spent a lot of time putting our proposal together we couldn’t help but feel nervous and a little exposed when we first contacted our chosen Acquisitions Editor at Elsevier. However, we needn’t have been. In less than 24 hours we had a friendly response thanking us for our proposal, offering to send it out for external review and reassuring us that the editor would help us “work on this proposal to position it as well as possible in the market”.

We had in fact initially contacted the incorrect editor as, like I’m sure most people feel, we struggled to pigeon hole ourselves into a single topic area. This was quickly sorted out for us though as our proposal was forwarded to the correct people with us kept in the loop at all times.

marisa lafleurWithin a couple of days our email made its way into the hands of Editorial Project Manager Marisa.

Again, we were reassured that we would be supported throughout the process and we began to select appropriate reviewers for our proposal. Within the initial proposal form we recommended a number of people we thought would be appropriate. When doing this we did not realize the breadth of review Elsevier would require with opinions being from all over the world. We realized quickly that we had not recommended enough reviewers! However, Marisa was happy to help us target appropriate people.

Once we had gathered a pool of suggestions Marisa contacted some of them and added her own suggestions. This way the reviewers remained anonymous and represented a spread of people who we might be familiar with and those who were new to us.

Within a few weeks the first reviews were back. It was made very clear that we had received positive endorsements from all our referees – this was exciting as it meant that whatever work we would need to do towards the official acceptance of our proposal would pay dividend – that was all the fuel we needed… well, for the proposal stage anyway…

Marisa helpfully combined all of the referees’ comments into one document allowing a more general idea of the reception to our proposal with positive comments highlighted in green for us to simply acknowledge and celebrate, and suggestions for improvements highlighted in yellow (not red as this might have been a bit of a shock to our fragile novice systems!). The moment of opening this document for the first time took a little bit of courage, I’m sure everyone writing an academic book has had scathing reviewer comments at some time or another! Again we were guided quickly to where they had made suggestions and these actually helped us to develop a clearer narrative and more focused purpose for our book. Also, any points that we had already addressed at the point of proposal submission, but perhaps not emphatically, were pointed out to us – this really helped to manage our potential stress levels, just in case we found things daunting.


As always, when multiple reviewers look at anything, some of the responses contradicted each other but there were a few key ideas which came up frequently. We took some time to consider these latter suggestions, each in turn, wondering if they helped improve the story and would increase our readership. A couple of the reviewers also suggested other researchers who we could contact to contribute sections to the book, which was very helpful. One internationally renowned reviewer was even willing to be identified and put time aside so that we could telephone him for advice.

All in all there was some degree of back and forth between us, Marisa and the reviewers as each response came back but it was a rewarding learning process and not nearly as painful as we had feared that it might be.

All that was left was to have our proposal approved and negotiate the contract, which we’ll cover in our next post.

About the Authors

Dr. Komang Ralebitso-Senior

komangI am an early stage academic with a keen interest in research, and research-led teaching, on how microbial communities are studied and then exploited in different environmental biotechnologies. My senior lectureship with Teesside University in 2006 was my first academic post following postdoctoral fellowships in Singapore and Oxford. I really enjoy working in successful partnerships with different colleagues especially where we do research across disciplines, share ideas and learn from each other. So co-editing a book with Caroline will go down in my memoirs as one of my career highlights.

Dr. Caroline Orr

caroline orrI am a relatively early stage researcher whose area of expertise is in molecular ecology specifically looking at functional microbial communities within the soil. I first joined Teesside University a couple of years ago as my first lectureship position following my PhD and a small amount of postdoc work. When I first joined the University I was keen to establish myself as a researcher not just a member of teaching staff but struggled initially to juggle the two. I was quickly introduced to Komang who was interested in research similar to my own area.


View our previous article on Getting Started: What it Is Like to Publish Your First Book and Coming Up With a Book Idea and Creating a Proposal.

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Earth & Environmental Science

The fields of Earth science, planetary sciences, and environmental science encompass disciplines critical to the future of our world and its inhabitants. Our well-being depends on a thorough understanding of air and water resources, soil chemistry, atmospheric dynamics, geology, and geochemistry, along with a myriad of other aspects of the environment we live in. Elsevier supports the efforts of researchers and scholars in these areas with content that meets their cross-disciplinary needs: journals, books, eBooks, and online tools that span computer science, chemistry, energy, engineering, biology, agronomy, ecology, environmental impact and many other topics fundamental to the study of our world. Learn more about our Earth and Environmental Science books here.