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First Time Authors: Finalizing the Table of Contents and Commissioning Authors/Contributors
Once we had finished celebrating Elsevier’s acceptance of our book proposal we began to break our contracts down to come up with a plan for how we were going to deliver the finished book. Elsevier had given us a few deadlines to stick to, the first of which was to come up with an official table of contents and commission authors for our chapters. We certainly didn’t want to have to write them all ourselves… Not yet anyway!
When drafting our proposal we had come up with tentative chapter titles and themes, and had made suggestions for authors we would like to approach; however, we had decided not to approach anyone until we had gained the support of a publisher. Emailing prominent researchers out of the blue seemed a little daunting and we wanted our emails to be taken seriously. We are all often the victim of spam messages from bogus researchers or publishing groups and we wanted our first contact with contributors to be distinguished easily from the noise.
We discussed how we might do this with our Editorial Project Manager, Marisa. Should we be making initial contact or should Elsevier? How much information should we give up-front? How much flexibility could we allow contributors in terms of topic area, chapter titles, and word counts? What deadlines should we give people to submit their chapters? How long should we wait before deciding to move on to another potential author if we didn’t hear anything?
Upon advice from Marisa we put together an email which we would send to contributors based on a template provided by Elsevier on letterhead. We decided to keep the information within the text minimal with just a quick introduction of who we were, the overall scope of the book, and the tentative title of the chapter we wanted the researcher to supply. Within the letter, we explained that there was room for maneuver on topic area as long as this was discussed with us first.
We agreed that we would ask contributors to submit their chapters to us by a deadline that would give us plenty of time to read and edit their contributions, and return these to them for any further actions. This would also leave us space/time to write the introduction and summary chapters, which would hold the book together. It would also give us a bit of room if any of the contributions arrived late—not that we don’t trust our authors, but we’ve struggled to balance teaching, research, and writing several times ourselves!
We decided to indicate in the invitation email that we would appreciate a reply by a certain date (10 days after the emails were sent). We then agreed that we would follow up with the authors if we hadn’t heard anything, including a read receipt to chase up any undecided prospective authors. For each chapter we created a list of 3-4 names of who we would like to approach, trying to make sure our choices gave us a good spread of expertise that was also globally distributed. If our first choice said ‘no’ we could then quickly move on to the next one.
All that was left to do was sit back and wait for the acceptances to come rolling in…
About the Authors
Dr. Komang Ralebitso-Senior
I 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
I 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.
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