Ashgate at the Attending to Early Modern Women symposium

Posted by Erika Gaffney, Ashgate’s Publisher for Literary Studies and Women & Gender Studies

During the first weekend of November, the atmosphere was electric at the international, interdisciplinary symposium Attending to Early Modern Women.  Scholars descended from all over the US, as well as from Canada and the UK, on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus for the eighth iteration of this dynamic triennial gathering, to address the theme of “Conflict, Concord” in the context of early modern women’s studies.

Kudos and thanks to the University of Maryland’s Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies, organizer and host of the event!   Established in 1981, CRBS plays a vital role in fostering intellectual exchange between disciplines in the arts and humanities and allied fields.

The CRBS staff are to be congratulated not only for their successful coordination of multiple plenary lectures and workshops to do with early modern women, but for their innovation in composing advice roundtables for today’s professional women, whether in early or mid-career.  In the Early Career Professional Development session I offered guidance about working with academic presses in the form of a list of “Publishing Dos and Don’ts.”  Before long, documents relating to this session will be posted online (along with materials relating to a parallel session on Mid-Career Development); see also the bottom of this posting for the content of the “Publishing Dos and Don’ts” handout mentioned above.

Highlights of the 2009 incarnation of Attending include, but are not limited to:

The SSEMW business meeting included announcement of the book prizes awarded this year by the Society.  Congratulations to Susan Felch, whose book Elizabeth Tyrwhit’s Morning and Evening Prayers was awarded the Society’s Josephine Roberts Scholarly Edition Prize Congratulations also to Betty Travitsky and Anne Lake Prescott, the General Editors of The Early Modern Englishwoman, 1500–1750: Contemporary Editions, the series in which the prize-winning book was published.

“Her Leaves Be Green,” the performance by Musicians in Ordinary, was well attended; the audience found the lively session highly entertaining, as well as instructive.

Nearly ten years to the day after the signing of the contract for the book series Women and Gender in the Early Modern World, a panel of series authors participated in a special anniversary session, Negotiating Geographical and Disciplinary Divides.  The session was organized and moderated by series editors Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger and me; panelists described their experience as authors, addressing what the series had meant to them.

It was obvious from the tone of the comments from the floor after the panelists had spoken, that despite differences in disciplinary approach and geographic or cultural focus, there has formed around this book series a true community of scholars.  The membership in that community includes not only the authors and volume editors, but also contributors to essay collections; peer reviewers; book endorsers; book buyers; and well wishers.  To all of you: thank you!  Your support over the past decade has been invaluable, and we look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration.

Special heartfelt thanks to Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger, General Editors of this series.  Since November 1999, their advice, guidance and advocacy have shaped the series.  Their intellectual rigor has ensured the uniformly high quality of scholarship in the nearly 70 titles which have appeared to date under the series aegis.  But at the same time, they have fostered a culture of open-mindedness and support which is not to be taken for granted in academic publishing circles.  In instances where a project has not made the first cut but is seen to have promise, they have encouraged the author to undertake revisions, and they have been willing to reconsider the resubmitted work.  In many cases, the series editors have in this way facilitated the eventual publication of book that makes a genuine and lasting contribution to the field, which otherwise might not have seen the light of day.

For more information about the series editors’ approach in their own words, please see our interview with Abby and Allyson on the Ashgate website.

Multi-facted, multi-dimensional and ever evolving, the field of early modern women’s studies remains vibrant!  The 2009 incarnation of the CRBS symposium Attending to Early Modern Women beautifully showcased the importance of this area of study, as well as the intelligence, curiosity, commitment and vitality of the scholars who pursue it.

Here are the publishing “dos” and “don’ts” mentioned earlier, from the Early Career Professional Development Roundtable at Attending to Early Modern Women, 2009

Do …

… Know your tenure clock; begin the process at least three years in advance if possible.

… Know your tenure committee.  Do they have any expectations with respect to the nature of the press that publishes your book?  Do you need to present, for anyone in the department or on the committee, information about your chosen press?

… Know your press(es).  Find out from reliable sources (colleagues who have served on tenure committees, or who are perhaps actively involved in academic societies in your field) how the press is viewed by those “in the know.”

… Follow, to the letter, the proposal submission guidelines listed on the website of your chosen press(es).  Include all of the information requested, in the format requested.

… Proofread your prospectus, or have it proofread by someone you trust, before you send it.

… Send your proposal to more than one press at a time if you like, BUT: state up front that you are doing so.  You might say in your cover letter something along these lines, “Because this is my first book, I am contacting several publishers to assess the degree of interest in my project.”

… If your project has its basis in any part of your dissertation, indicate whether you have already engaged in extensive revisions, or if you have specific plans for doing so.

… In responding formally to a reader’s report, take the time to compose a response that makes you seem thoughtful, reasonable and professional.  Even if a snappish and impatient response on your part is 100% justified, it will not serve you well to send it!

… Throughout the entire book publishing process, keep track of all correspondence, including important e-mails.

… Ask questions!  The more information you have about the process of publishing, the smoother and more pleasant the evaluation and publication of your book will be for all concerned—and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be a positive experience!

Do not

… Indicate the extent of your manuscript in pages if the submission guidelines ask for the extent in words.

… Send large e-mail attachments without having first been invited to do so.  Your e-mail program may be robust enough to send large files without difficulty, but the size of your message may still cause problems for the intended recipient.

… Nag the editor for a response to your proposal.  It is not unreasonable to send a brief e-mail, maybe 2-3 weeks after submitting, asking for confirmation that the material has been safely received.  Then, wait patiently and/or try your luck elsewhere.

… Send either an unrevised dissertation chapter or a published article as a “sample chapter.”

… Assume that if an image is available on online, whether on Wikipedia or EEBO or elsewhere, it is “free.”  You must still research the copyright issues; you must clear permissions fees and/or secure high resolution artwork from the source.

… Quote freely from a recent edition of an early modern work, on the assumption that the publication date of the original work puts into the public domain the material contained in the edition. Either quote directly from the original work, or obtain permission from the publisher of the modern edition to incorporate any material exceeding “fair use” or “fair dealing.”

… Assume that someone else’s publishing experience, especially with another press but even inside the same press with a different acquisitions editor, gives you an accurate picture of how your own experience will go.

… Suppose that organizing an essay collection will be easier than writing a full-length study yourself!

Suggested resources

Getting it Published, 2nd Edition: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books, by William Germano.  University of Chicago Press, 2008.

From Dissertation to Book, by William Germano.  University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property, by Susan M. Bielstein.  University of Chicago Press, 2006.  (NB: not just for art historians!)

Any questions? Feel free to contact Erika Gaffney

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