How to be a successful academic book series editor at Aldus Press

What is the role of a series editor?

An academic book series is a series of topical books,  published at often irregular intervals. The books by themselves are self-contained in their topic and content. They are thus an ever-growing number of individual anthologies that, together, form a developing canon of knowledge. The series editor is the embodiment of the series, the person who ‘sets the course and steers the ship’.

What makes a successful series editor?

Five elements go into the making of a successful series editor.

  1. Extensive subject matter knowledge on your chosen topic and themes. This is important because you need to have the knowledge to evaluate the quality of contributors and their contributions to the series.
  2. A network of peers who can contribute to the series and are willing to do so. Having access to a group of people with similar academic interests as your own, either through being a peer to them or having another form of regular interaction is vital…
  3. The ability to be a mentor and confidant to your contributors during the writing process. With experiences authors this is not needed but if you want to ‘push’ younger authors then being an editor gives you a chance to be intimately involved in a knowledge-driven process of creation. This is a highly rewarding experience. It also allows you to offer advice on the writing task itself through every draft.
  4. A real passion for the subject at hand and a desire to expand the knowledge about it. This translates into the tasks that a series editor must perform to bring attention to the themes and topics and gather a group of contributors around it. ‘Flying the flag’ about the series by networking at conferences, sending out an email update to contributors or answering questions about the purpose of the book series are all an expression of interest and passion for the chosen subject.
  5. Persistence and patience. At the beginning of a series, an element of ‘beg, steal or borrow’ might be needed to get the series off the ground. Once it is moving forward, the ability to select, and sometimes say ‘no’ becomes a needed task.

Time to start your own book series?

If you have read this far, perhaps you can see the advantages and rewards of the work and are ready to begin your own path to put your stamp on a topic of your choice.

To start a series, a series-editor begins by working with the publisher and, possibly a small group of peers, to define the series itself.  The subject area, as well as aims & scope, needs to be defined. Here, often, a trade-off is made. In general, a publisher would desire a broader subject area hoping to be able to publish more, whereas a series-editor might want to be focusing strongly on a niche. In line with the aims & scope, form an editorial policy regarding desired quality, review policy, English language only or also other languages, frequency, and so forth. All this information is published on the publishers’ website and promoted, both by the publisher as well as by the series-editor. This process usually is summarized by a descriptive title that, quite often, reflects the group of series. Think Anthologies in Medicine, Anthologies in Religious Studies and so forth.

Once there is  a valid proposal for a book series, then we work together to bring the book(s) to light. At Aldus Press, we want to ensure that series-editors are focused on contacting their networks, obtaining book proposals, and safeguarding the quality of the series. We manage all production aspects. We also manage the review-process but ask you to make the final decision.

In summary, the tasks associated with being a book series editor include, but are not limited to:

  • General communication with Aldus Press
  • Curating the series in terms of aims & scope, editorial policy and upcoming themes.
  • Contacting possible authors and editors, discussing potential submission.
  • Mentoring the authors to help them complete their submissions.
  • General endorsement of, and alerting to Aldus Press.
  • (Seldomly) Adjudicate cases of unethical publishing behaviour as well as conflicts between reviewers and authors.

Begin your rewarding journey as a book series editor

The role of series-editor can be a very rewarding ‘add on’ to your career in academia. Being a series-editor enables you to help shape and develop your field, support scholars, as well as interact with some of the leading scholars and experts in the field. Also, being a (series-) editor can help your academic career or prepare you for a role in publishing.

We offer series-editors a royalty of 10% on the revenue for their series. Now, this clearly won’t be enough to allow you to drive a Ferrari. But then Open Access never was nor will be about driving a Ferrari. We see it as a logical acknowledgement of your knowledge, reputation and effort.