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:

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 Google
Ashgate rtf no BrE/AmE ~CMS 80.000–100.000 preview
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
Routledge rtf no OED/AmE Harvard 70.000–120.000 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:

We need you to supply your typescript in a version of MS Word [...]. We cannot use software such as LaTex [sic]. (Ashgate)
If you are using LaTeX, check with your Press editor whether you should be using one of our house macros. (Cambridge; the hyperlink is mine)

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 possible, use only one operating system and version of software when writing your files. The word processor software of choice is Microsoft Word running on a PC. Reasons: Word handles 1800 foreign language characters, printing them on most printers (even the least expensive ones); it is frequently updated and hence bugs removed; it is the most widely used word processor; most offices handle it, a majority of secretaries are familiar with most of its basic features; it handles hyphenation better than all the word processors we have seen, using (for English) a hyphenation dictionary; it allows for at least two languages using two different spelling check and hyphenation tables. Other word processors are obviously quite usable as well such as WordPerfect. Whatever word processor is used, it must be capable of working with a laser printer and producing usable fonts such as Times Roman or Palatino, in a variety of font sizes.

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:

Font families: you may use any font that is found in the families such as Times, Palatino or other fonts which provide roman, italics, bold and bold italics. Palatino is warmer and less ubiquitous than Times Roman, hence slightly preferred. Avoid ‘light’ typefaces and also ‘fussy’ ones – there are plenty of good ‘book’ typefaces on the market such as Minion, Garamond, Plantin and Sabon. It is sometimes helpful to look at a few books in your local bookshop to get an idea of what is available and looks good.

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.

posted by paul on 8 mar mmxii at 16:53 EST
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