Shades of academic life: Being an editor

In today’s blogpost, we are talking to two PLURAL members about their experiences as editors.

We are very familiar with the world of academic publishing through writing, for example, publishing single-authored articles or co-authoring papers or monographs. But it is also possible to develop and edit a contributed work: a special issue of a journal, or an edited volume based on a conference panel. As an editor, you stand between the publishing house and individual authors and make many important decisions: What will be the purpose and structure of the collection? Who will be invited to contribute chapters or articles? Who will review the chapters and what changes need to be made before peer review?

PLURAL researchers Maija Hirvonen and Daria Dayter answered some questions about their edited collections.

  • What is the last thing you worked on as an editor?

Maija: I have recently co-edited a volume Saavutettava viestintä (Gaudeamus, 2020), which won a prestigious prize Tiedettä suomeksi -palkinto. During the publishing process, the last thing we worked on was the intensive collaboration with the publishing editor (‘kustannustoimittaja’), going through the proofs and making sure there were no typos and all figures and tables were placed correctly. And a detail that now comes to mind: compiling the index for the book and fine-tuning the references list was quite time-consuming.

Daria: The last collected volume I edited was Corpus Approaches to Social Media (Benjamins, 2021). It was based on a conference panel for the ICAME40 conference that I organised together with Sofia Rüdiger, who also co-edited the book. Only one year has passed from the conference to publication, which is very unusual and a great credit to all contributing authors; sometimes preparation of an edited volume can last 3-4 years. Right now, we are working on another edited volume, Manipulation, Influence and Deception for Cambridge UP, and at this stage editorial work involves many, many emails coordinating peer review of each chapter!

  • What difficulties have you encountered editing?

Maija: Losing the thread sometimes as one has to read the same content repeatedly. Also instructing the authors may be difficult since different people understand things (sometimes) differently – the editors also must be wary of changing the instruction on the go!

Daria: Editing during the pandemic years has been very hard, because everyone’s schedules have gone haywire and many deadlines cannot be kept. As an editor, you need to constantly weigh requests for extension against the danger of losing too many chapters or of your topic aging.

  • What are the great things about editing, in your opinion (in contrast to writing)?

Maija: When editing, you get to “say” so much more than as an individual or co-author: in an ideal case, the entire work is a representation of some state of the art, knowledge or debate in their most advanced form, and thereby you learn a great deal and are able to communicate this widely. Editing allows you also to learn, not only the content, but from others’ writing: style, expressions, logic, argumentation, etc.

Daria: First of all, it gives you an opportunity to contact people whose work you admire and respect, and invite a paper from them exactly on the topic that interests you! That is a special kind of power. Secondly, I believe that it’s a very important experience for young scholars who get to practice their organisational skills. Everything needs to be planned in advance, from various deadlines (When is the first draft expected? How long does the reviewer get to review it? How long do the authors get for revisions? What is your time buffer for extensions?) to the citation style, number of words per chapter, and risk management strategies if many of your authors drop out. And sometimes you even get to pick the cover – that’s one of my favourite parts!

Do you have any questions about the editing process? Get in touch with us via PLURAL social media: