The beginning of the selection process is not the publisher’s deciding whether to accept or reject a particular book proposal. Rather, the beginning is the publisher’s deciding whether it will receive particular proposals at all.
The best way for publishers to communicate what kinds of proposals they are seeking is by constantly producing and selling their books with the same format and pricing. This is why The Edwin Mellen Press always produces its books with the same page formatting, the same type of title, and the same kind type of cover. Mellen publishes expensive scholarly books with hand-sewn library bindings. We do this because we are seeking authors who write books of this type.
The first decision of the press does not depend on reading a manuscript. The first decision deals with a prior question: “Why has the author written this manuscript?” Mellen doesn’t want to publish books that reiterate what scholars already know. Mellen doesn’t want to publish books written by scholars for non-scholars. Rather, Mellen wants to publish books that add scholarly information to what is already known. So Mellen’s ONLY concern is what new idea an author intends “to contribute to scholarship.” This means that, in the beginning, we focus on the idea behind the manuscript rather than the manuscript itself.
Mellen’s evaluation of a proposal focuses not only on the book idea, but also on the scholarly competence of its author.
Does the author have a Ph.D.?
Having written a dissertation is the key evidence that an author can produce a scholarly manuscript. Through producing a Ph.D. dissertation, authors learn the rules and skills of scholarly research and writing. So if authors do NOT have doctorates, then a publisher should presume that they do not know how to write a book that makes a contribution to scholarship.
A second evidence of an author’s ability to write a scholarly book is previous publications. So, our editorial board examines an author’s curriculum vitae to see what else he/she has published, especially books.
If a Mellen editor is satisfied with an author’s idea and writing qualifications, then the editor offers a publishing contract to that author. The contract states that the completed manuscript will be published by The Edwin Mellen Press only after it has been through the stages of peer review.
Before signing their contract back, Mellen requires each prospective author to seek the approval of their Chair or Dean. Prior administrative approval is necessary because, after publication, the authors will be presenting their books as qualifications for promotion or tenure. So we want the project, the author, and ourselves to be pre-approved by the author’s own university before we proceed further.
After the contract has been countersigned by Mellen’s Editorial Board, the press sends instructions to the author for the preparation of the final manuscript. From now on, every author has personal contact with an editor at the press.
An editor’s job is to be an author’s “first reader.” The editor aims to provide an author with a “reader’s reaction”, pointing out any problems or confusions in the text. However, the editor never crosses the line to being an author. A book must be written by its author alone.
Authors write books and readers react to what authors have written. Mellen refuses to blur this line that distinguishes an author from a reader. Therefore, The Edwin Mellen Press refuses to write, rewrite, or revise any author’s text.
When a manuscript is in its final draft the author must provide evaluations from two scholars who recommend it for publication. These two scholars effectively, sponsor his book.
The two sponsoring readers know that their reviews are for the sake of supporting a manuscript’s publication. Therefore, they have no objection to their recommendations later being made public. This publicity itself becomes a check on the reliability of these sponsoring reviewers.
Mellen does not accept the two sponsoring reviews as a substitute for our own double blind peer reviews. But, by requiring sponsoring reviews, we enable authors to revise and to improve their manuscripts even before submitting them to us.
In addition to the two sponsoring peer reviews, The Edwin Mellen Press also requires double blind peer reviews for every manuscript that it publishes. Mellen commissions these anonymous reviews after we have received both the finished final manuscript and the sponsoring reviews.
We ask our anonymous reviewers to read the manuscript and to answer a series of specific questions bearing upon its scholarly quality. Our reviewers are also asked to write narrative evaluations, giving special attention to two issues: (1) What is the specific contribution of this manuscript to scholarship? (2) Would publication of this manuscript bring credit to the publishing program of The Edwin Mellen Press?
During our review process we always receive at least four evaluations which evaluations usually include suggestions for improving the manuscript virtually all cases, authors are happy to comply. But what happens after all such improvements, when one or two reviewers still recommend against publication? In such cases, this is how we proceed:
The ninth step in Mellen’s selection process is requesting a Senior Scholar to read the finished manuscript and to write a Foreword describing, and commending, the book’s contribution to scholarship. This scholar must really believe in the value of the book because he/she is not offered any financial compensation. (This is to avoid any suggestion the Senior Scholar commended a book because he/she was paid.)
There are two reasons why Mellen requires Commendatory Forewords for its books. (1) The Foreword explains why the Senior Scholar believes that this book makes a specific contribution to scholarship. (2) The Foreword links the Senior Scholar’s name and reputation with the author’s book.
After an author’s manuscript has received both its four “recommendations to publish” and its Commendatory Foreword, the author’s file is then carefully reviewed by the Lector of The Edwin Mellen Press.The job of our Lector is to consider the implications of each book project for our entire program and to prevent us from publishing any book that might bring discredit upon The Edwin Mellen Press.
The Edwin Mellen Press vests its final decision to publish with one person, its Lector. They have the power to override the vote of any of our committees. It is their special responsibility to maintain the distinctive style of The Edwin Mellen Press.