If you are someone who has organised a conference and is now being urged to edit the ‘conference volume’, you need to be wary of what you are getting yourself into.
Overcoming the prejudice against edited volumes means that the progression from conference programme to printed book is not simple; it is more than a matter of polishing the papers presented.
- The volume must be given a focus (more of a focus than the conference had, perhaps).
- Papers need to be selected that generally match this focus.
- Inevitably, some papers presented at the conference will have to be excluded; no matter how good they are, their subject lies far beyond the volume’s focus and they cannot be adapted to it.
- Ideally, other papers should be solicited that fit the subject but are missing from the original line-up.
- All papers must then edited to conform with the overarching focus of the volume.
And that’s just the outline. Within this process are a mass of issues, not least those of managing a complex project, handling many authors (some with experience, reputations and egos vastly greater than yours and no doubt all with many other demands on their working time), performing in the delicate role as first-line peer reviewer and dealing with a publisher. And perhaps worst of all, editors are often given little academic credit for such a difficult and delicate task.
Given the prejudice against edited volumes and the demanding requirements to produce something that brings you credit, not opprobrium, it may be that another outcome for the conference is best. Perhaps your best course of action, then, is to suggest publishing the conference papers online, essentially as a cluster of working papers.
Unfortunately, your bosses may think it makes perfect institutional sense to publish a volume based on the conference programme and this year it’s your turn.
Of course, you may not be forced into the role of volume editor; there are indeed a number of good reasons to offer yourself as editor. Editing a book could be a way for you to build your academic network and gain name recognition in a wider circle. You might feel that your field needs a collaborative volume on a particular subject, and that there is nobody else who can make it happen, or happen well. Perhaps you have to offer a route to publication in order to attract good contributions to a workshop or conference you are convening.
But, whatever your reasons, be aware what you are getting yourself into.