This handbook is designed to assist series editors for the Society of Biblical Literature publications program. It states the relevant policies of the Society and describes procedures for the preparation of books for publication. It includes information about resources to assist the editor with the evaluation of proposals and manuscripts and with communication to authors about the preparation of the manuscript for production (copyedit, typeset, proofread). Editors are encouraged to consult with the SBL Editorial Director, Bob Buller, concerning questions of policy or procedure and for advice regarding editorial matters, especially regarding methods for acquiring titles. Editors may contact Leigh Andersen, SBL Managing Editor, regarding instructions to authors about the preparation of their manuscripts for production. Contact information is listed below.
The SBL Publication Program
The Society of Biblical Literature makes all editorial decisions and performs all editorial work on SBL books through its Research and Publications Committee, its series editors, and its Publications staff. The Research and Publications Committee oversees the Society’s publication program by approving and reviewing regularly all journals and monograph series, as well as collaborative publication projects; nominating editors and editorial boards for election by Council; initiating and responding to proposals for publication and dissemination of biblical scholarship in various media (print, audio, video, and digital forms). Editors, employing appropriate peer-review procedures, accept works for publication. The SBL Publications staff provides for the production of the Society's publications, consistent with a budget approved by Council. SBL determines the number of copies to print and their prices. SBL is responsible for providing effective marketing, design, manufacture, and distribution for its publications.
SBL editors serve the function of what is usually referred to in commercial publishing as “acquisitions editor.” SBL editors, in consultation with SBL Publications staff, create a plan for the acquisition of new titles. SBL editors obtain from potential authors proposals and manuscripts that are consistent with the publication plan they have developed. Editors are encouraged actively to seek any appropriate works and to commission the writing of volumes. Editors consult with the SBL office about the financial viability, audience or market, and potential production of particular proposals and manuscripts. Editors vet these proposals and manuscripts for quality of content, using appropriate methods of peer review. Editors accept or reject the proposals and manuscripts, notifying the author and the SBL office about the status of the editorial review within a reasonable period (usually within two months of receipt of a manuscript). Editors also review, approve, and return galley proofs and page proofs during the production of the manuscript for printing.
Publication Sequence Receipt of Proposal or Manuscript
Though editors should certainly entertain proposals and manuscripts that arrive “over the transom,” editors are encouraged to take an active role in soliciting and shaping book proposals. Editors are encouraged to require each potential author to submit a proposal for review (even when the author plans to submit a full manuscript). Editors are encouraged to guide potential authors to the Guidelines for Book Proposals to assist them with the formulation of a useful proposal. Editors should provide copies of author proposals to the SBL office. These proposals serve as the basis for consultation regarding financial viability of the project, potential audience or market, title, and possible calendar of production prior to acceptance. Editors should make every effort to respond to authors as soon as possible.
Every project must undergo peer review prior to acceptance by an editor. Editors should consult with other scholars qualified in the particular subject matter under review regarding the project's merits. Peer review may take place at either the proposal stage or the manuscript stage (or, where appropriate, at both). If peer review takes place at the proposal stage, the editor is responsible for ensuring that the completed manuscript matches the project proposal. Should the peer review process be delayed by the inability of a reviewer to respond in a timely manner, it is the responsibility of the SBL editor to keep the author informed about the status of the manuscript and/or proposal. The editor should inform the SBL office of the names of reviewers used when reviews are received to ensure the reviewers receive a letter of thanks and an offer of gratis books as a small token of the SBL's appreciation.
Notification of Authors and the SBL Office Regarding Acceptance and Rejection
Copies of letters of acceptance must be provided to the SBL office. The letter of acceptance should include no details regarding the mode of publication, price, print run, or any other matter than the disposition of the editor's review of the proposal or manuscript. The details of the SBL's agreement with the author to publish the work will be included in a contract issued by the SBL office. (See Contract section below.)
All materials for production are to be submitted by the author to the series editor. Editors will transmit to the production department the edited and approved manuscript, receive and return the master copies of proofs, and receive from the author and transmit to the production department the index to the book.
Copyediting and Typesetting
Although Publications staff typically copyedits manuscripts, editors are encouraged to assist authors in the preparation of manuscripts that are largely ready for production, including checks for consistency of style and the verification of citations. The SBL assumes all editors and authors are willing to contribute in this way to the success of the SBL publication program. Editors should insist that authors follow the SBL Handbook of Style in matters of style. The SBL generally arranges for typesetting by staff or freelance professionals (but see the Preparation of Printer-Ready Copy section below).
The production department will send duplicate copies of the page proofs to the author and editor. The author will correct the proofs and send them to the editor, who will review, approve, and return them to the production department. Since it is very expensive to revise a manuscript at the proof stage, authors will be charged for the cost of any changes that are not actual corrections of composition errors. After the page proofs are corrected, the production department will send the corrected proofs to the author for creation of the index. The final page proofs, with all corrections entered and any indices in place, will be sent to the author and editor for their final approval to publish. In all cases, authors are expected to return proofs within 21 days of receipt.
Preparation of Printer-Ready Copy
“Printer-ready copy” means that the manuscript is received ready to be processed by the printer. In preparing printer-ready manuscripts, authors act as composers of their work; accordingly, formatting, correct pagination, the placement of running heads, and the like are crucial tasks with which the editor should assist by reviewing the author’s work. Editors should inform authors interested in preparing printer-ready copy of the availability of the Preparing Your Printer-Ready Manuscript
document. The editor or author may call on Leigh Andersen to review an author's sample and to assist the author in conforming to printer-ready specifications.
Though editors are not responsible for creating contracts with authors, editors should be familiar with the usual stipulations of the SBL's basic contract with authors. Editors may refer authors directly to Leigh Andersen at the SBL office for answers to questions relating to the contract.
A contract stipulating the agreement reached between the author and SBL will be issued prior to production. The date for issuing the contract is determined by the SBL office in consultation with the SBL editor. Authors will be provided with multiple copies of the contract. Authors are to sign each copy of the contract and return them to the SBL office. A copy with all signatures will be returned to the author for his or her personal records. Contracts stipulate the following items:
Royalties are paid on all titles as stipulated in the author's contract. SBL author royalties are usually set at 10 percent of net revenue (i.e., 10 percent of the amount returned to SBL upon sale of a book; this sum usually amounts to approximately 6 percent of the list price).
An SBL author receives 5-10 free copies of the book to distribute at the his or her discretion.
Authors and editors of volumes published by the SBL are eligible to purchase copies of their work at a 40 percent discount from the list price. Orders should be placed directly with Customer Service (see contact information below).
Rights and Permissions
The author is responsible for securing all necessary permissions to reprint materials that may be contained in the manuscript (guidelines about permissions and how they should be secured are covered in Copyright, "Fair Use," and Permissions. Additional information may be found in chapter 4 of the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
Copyrights are retained by the Society of Biblical Literature. SBL pays a small fee to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Requests for permission by an author to reuse his or her work in another publication are routinely granted, assuming that the subsequent publication will not infringe on sales of the SBL publication and with the stipulation that the subsequent publication print an appropriate statement of SBL's prior publication of the work. SBL also requests a copy of the new publication for consideration for review in RBL. Authors are paid a share of the return from the licensing of any subsidiary rights and permissions to print.
Editors are encouraged to assist in the marketing of the books they accept for publication. Editors may suggest reviewers and journals to which books should be sent.
Gratis Copies for Editors
The current series editor, the editor who was active at the point of acquisition for a title, and editors of specific volumes each receive a gratis copy of the book at publication.
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