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Ask an Editor: Transforming Articles into Chapters

Ilana Gershon asked seven editors for their insights on questions that authors commonly ask. Five are press editors (Berghahn, Chicago, Indiana, Princeton, Stanford) and two are series editors. This month’s column explores the following question: If authors include pre-published chapters, they will need to be reworked, but this raises the question of how much reworking is required for those 2-3 chapters?

Fred Appel: The nature of the reworking—how much and of what sort—can only be determined in discussion with your editor upon completion of the peer review process.

Jennika Baines: It’s hard to quantify something like this. I’d suggest being upfront with your editor early on about what has been previously published and then thinking through a revision strategy so she can give you some specific advice.

Berghahn Books: Most publishers have liberal reusage policies, presuming that authors will build on that work for their next. However, recently a certain large journals publisher has started making it impossible for book publishers to use article material, even if it is significantly revised, because of the increase in visibility of ebook chapters alongside articles. So depending on the agreement the author signed with the publisher(s) for those works, it may have to be revised as much as 90 percent (it is vital for authors to keep track of their agreements and to be well informed on permission policies and wherever possible retain reusage rights that allow the publication of revised works without restriction). However, even if not forced by permissions restrictions, it is presumed that a pre-published work needs to be rather significantly revised to effectively integrate it into the larger work at hand—if it can be included with only cosmetic changes or dropped completely with little impact then perhaps it does not belong in the book in the first place. In short, it should be revised as much as needed for it to effectively contribute to the larger project.

Dominic Boyer: Yes, I would advise reworking them. Edited volume chapters and book chapters ought to do different kinds of work in service of the big picture of the text that contains them. A book chapter should be working to develop a main argument in concert with other chapters. This is less often the case with edited volume chapters.

Alessandro Duranti: One of the advantages of using previously published articles is that they have gone through a review process and therefore they are in principle in better shape than the new material. So one must be careful not to change too much to maintain the quality of the original article. But the important point is that whether or not a chapter has been previously published, it must make sense in the overall logic of the book. It must fit the book as a whole and not feel like something extra added on.

Michelle Lipinski: Book chapters are a completely different format. Book chapters are integral, working parts of a greater whole, which an original stand-alone article is not. Not everything will change, but the mode of presentation will, and you will have to pivot the article material and the style of presentation so that it aligns with the main thesis of the book, and the flow and structure of the surrounding chapters. It should be an original work.

Accepting the premise above, usually one or two book chapters that draw material from articles is fine, depending on the length of the book. There is one further caveat—articles should not encapsulate the main argument of the book in miniature. You should absolutely save the beating heart of your book’s argument for the book alone. If readers can access the main points of your book in article form, why would they read the longer material?

Priya Nelson: As much as the book requires! The table of contents of a book should be simple, elegant, and soundly scaffolded. A book is not a bound collection of articles.

Fred Appel is executive editor and acquisitions editor for anthropology and religion at Princeton University Press.

Jennika Baines is an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press, who acquires books in global and international studies, anthropology, Middle East studies, and Russian and East European studies.

Berghahn Books—answers were co-authored by Miriam Berghahn, Vivian Berghahn, and Chris Chappell, all press editors at Berghahn.

Dominic Boyer is a professor at Rice University and edits a series for Cornell University Press, Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge.

Alessandro Duranti is a professor at UCLA and the series editor for the Oxford Series in the Anthropology of Language.

Michelle Lipinski is an editor at Stanford University Press who acquires books for their anthropology and law lists.

Priya Nelson is an editor at the University of Chicago Press where she acquires books in anthropology and history.

Cite as: Gershon, Ilana. 2018. “Transforming Articles into Chapters.” Anthropology News website, December 5, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1050