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Finalizing a Journal Issue

Putting together a journal issue requires a lot of steps and details. As I finish my last issue of Provenance, I thought people might be interested in steps required to finalize an issue.

The editor facilitates the peer-review process, assigning submissions to reviewers. Once those reviews are complete, the editor takes that feedback to register a decision. For Provenance, it is accept with minor revisions, accept with major revisions, and declined. Submitters receive that notification along with the reviewers’ feedback. Generally, this happens throughout spring and summer, with the most submissions received around the end of July due date. Once it is known which articles are selected for publication, then the bulk of an editor’s job begins.

All articles need some editing. There is always a mix of minor, some, and major editing needed. There’s generally 1-2 articles that only need a few minor edits, mostly technical with an occasional clarification. Next are articles that require a thorough editing, primarily technical with perhaps a few questions/clarifications. Last, there are articles that go through several drafts before being publication ready. These authors have solid and strong ideas, but need to rewrite/rework paragraphs or sections, reorganize, the article, incorporate additional research (generally only one or two articles or books to support their statements), or heavier copyediting. The latter, of course, is often hard and stressful for the author, but my ultimate goal is to bring out the best in their writing.

This back and forth with authors for edit can go on for several weeks. What I do as editor is check grammar, punctuation, footnotes for proper citations and formatting, credit/citation for photographs, charts in black and white (only our cover is in color), proper use of quotes, section headings, clear articulation of arguments and evidence, and so forth. I want to retain the authors’ voices and do my best not to rewrite, though I will sometimes offer suggestions. For example: if there is a confusing section I will note that and ask for clarification; I’ll ask for citations if they were not included; or ask for reduction/expansion of thoughts or arguments.

Generally, I make a first pass for all these possibilities and return to the author with tracked changes and comments. The author will then return it with further edits and respond to comments. I try to communicate that most are just suggestions. I have had authors clarify why they don’t want to make a suggested change and I honor those requests. Then, I ask the authors to sign publishing agreements and provide short biographies. I also make sure I have addresses for non-SGA member authors.

After the content is more or less final, then I will start formatting to adhere to Provenance standards, meaning The Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition. Across all articles, I make formatting changes for consistency such as title/author headings, section headings, use of numbers, citation format, font size, paragraph spacing, etc. This goes for the articles, reviews, and any other content (like editor’s notes). It’s very gratifying to see all of that come together.

When this is complete, I decide on the table of contents. It’s subjective, but my goal is to make the reading flow well. As Provenance publishes any topic related to archives, it’s seldom that two articles are on the same topic (at least in my tenure). Sometimes it’s easy, but with the current issue which will have 7 articles, it was hard to decide.

I also do both the front and back matter. The front matter includes picking a cover photo, updating the editorial board list, and the table of contents. The cover image is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. If an article includes photos, I try to use one of those. Last year there were no photos, so I worked with an author to create an image. The 2011 issue included original artwork. As a teaser, what will be on the upcoming issue is my favorite yet. It was provided by a professional photographer who graciously allowed us to use it at no charge. Regardless of where the image comes from, it directly ties into one of the articles. The back matter is the easiest: updating the SGA board list and information for contributors.

Editors of some journals write an editor’s note for each issue. I’ve written a few, but not for every issue. I did choose to write one this year, as it is my last issue. I previously wrote ones for the special issues completed. That is entirely up to the editor.

At last, finalizing the issue is getting closer. Once I have all of this complete, I send it to the managing editor for markup. She will fix any technical issues I may have missed, format it in Publisher, and assign page numbers. After that is complete, individual PDFs are sent to the authors for one final review. At this stage, only minor corrections are completed. I review the entire issue one more time and also give any corrections.

Once all the authors approve their articles, the managing editor will fix anything necessary then work with the printer. She coordinates the printing and mailing. She works with SGA to compile a mailing list that includes members and non-member authors. We decide on a number to print, as two copies go to the SGA archives and we want to have a few extra for individual purchase or replacement. We go into the printers’ queue, so we never quite know how long it will take. But generally 4-6 weeks later, it arrives in the mail. It’s always a happy day when I see the result of the work of so many people.

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