Copy Formatting for Academic Presses
As I begin adapting my dissertation for publication as a monograph, I’d like to have a good idea of the formatting requirements and other technical preferences on the part of the publisher. That way, I will largely be able to anticipate the work’s final form as I draft, avoiding all manner of replacements, manual and by regular expression, at a later stage. Questions that concern me in particular are:
- Does the publisher accept copy in XeLaTeX source format?
- If so, does the publisher provide a LaTeX class file and/or citation script?
- What is the publisher’s preferred dialect of English?
- What is the publisher’s preferred stylesheet?
- What is the publisher’s length preference?
- How much say does the author have in the choice of typeface?
- Does the publisher play nice with Google Books?
The following table shows answers to these questions as I have found them for a number of publishers about the tier-one mark in the humanities. My sources have been a combination of publishers’ websites, email contact with acquisition editors, and inferences from studying recent title pages. The links in the first column are to the publishers’ main online guidelines, while “rtf” in the second column is a shorthand for Microsoft’s formats (i.e. rtf and its successors doc and docx):
|publisher||format||provides .cls||dialect||stylesheet||length (words)||typefaces spotted|
|Boydell & Brewer||rtf||no||BrE/AmE||~MHRA/all but Harvard||Palatino, but see below||preview|
|Cambridge UP||rtf/LaTeX||yes||~MHRA/all but Harvard||Bembo; Photina (not specified in recent volumes)||preview|
|Wiley-Blackwell||rtf/LaTeX||yes||?AmE||CMS||Bembo; Dante; Galliard; (Adobe) Garamond; Palatino||preview|
I further gleaned from email correspondence or lack thereof that acquisition editors have too little time to answer emails. The editor for one large university press ignored all my questions and suggested instead that I submit a proposal. She and one other editor got back to me after two weeks; two others never responded. A fifth editor was very prompt and helpful, but unable to tell me what the going submission formats are because it would depend on the time of manuscript completion! I wonder if that is supposed to reflect the culture of outsourcing to Indian typesetters, so that “the situation is changing very fast at the moment” really just means “submission formats depend on whatever subcontinental typesetting startup is the cheapest when you end up submitting”.
What I find most perplexing about the responses I have received to my very specific and articulate enquiries is that many editors don’t seem to think it makes sense for me to draft according to the specifications of the publisher I intend to approach. I have since begun drafting using biblatex-chicago for citations and bibliography, which means I either stick with biblatex using a custom style provided by the publisher or scripted by myself (since I have as yet found no style that works quite the way the stylesheets prescribe!) or I convert to odt and do my final editing in LibreOffice. I suspect some acquisition editors don’t much care about formatting, stylesheets, and dialects because it is the authors and copy-editors who will have to do the conversion, not they. Presumably once a book contract has been signed the author is designated a contact under orders to prioritise correspondence with signed authors. This suggests I should pitch a proposal sooner rather than later, but publishers have different ideas about the stage at which this is to be done. In any case the reception I am getting seems to be sending the message that this is a buyer’s market, and I have no business looking to find a publisher with a logical content supply system.
Some direct quotations may be instructive regarding further formatting stipulations:
The highest degree of formatting control is attained by submitting camera-ready copy. For some reason this means forgoing professional copy-editing, however. I am comparatively confident in my ability to typeset a humanities monograph, but one needs a second (and third) pair of eyes to filter out the worst of the copy-editing errors and inconsistencies. Far be it from me to deny copy-editors their legitimacy.
Boydell and Brewer’s Camera-Ready Copy Instructions [pdf] offer some more distressing insights into the technology of book-publishing:
If we ignore the idiosyncrasies and archaisms so typical of publishers’ instructions today (“must be capable of working with a laser printer”) and the implication that there is no such thing as a client-independent document, perhaps the most telling clause in this passage is “a majority of secretaries are familiar with most of its basic features”: this tells me preferred practice is dictated by the greatest common divisor. At least the document indicates there is considerable freedom in one’s choice of typeface. This gives the author space to move away from B&B’s default choice of Palatino, whose character set is still woefully lacking:
In short, Cambridge UP and Wiley-Blackwell are the most XeLaTeX-friendly of the bunch, no doubt because they also publish in the sciences; yet that does not mean their humanities editors will accept XeLaTeX copy (I could get neither to confirm this). If you intend to publish with a humanities-only press, be prepared to convert to a rich text format and do your final editing in a WYSIWYG-editor. Some publishers (such as B&B) are less bent on publishing everything in the same stylesheet and dialect than others. Routledge and Oxford UP have disappointingly little information for authors available online.