Monday, January 11, 2010
For those of you who missed the very informative program hosted by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Teaching International Law Interest Group (TILIG) this past weekend, there was an interesting discussion of the issues involved in publishing international law books. Our very knowledgeable speakers, Mary Ellen O'Connell from Notre Dame Law School, John Berger, from Cambridge University Press, and John Bloomquist from Foundation Press/Thomson Reuters led the discussion.
Professor O'Connell talked about her entry into publishing international law textbooks by becoming a co-author on established case books with senior colleagues. This led to a discussion of the pros and cons of co-authorship in general, from benefits such as sharing the workload and the potential for wider adoption of a book with more than one author to the potential problem of delays caused by individual co-authors who do not complete their portions in a timely manner. Many of the authors stated that regardless of co-authorship, their books took longer to complete than they originally anticipated - often several years.
The publishers stated that they are very open to "cold calls" for new book proposals by authors. For authors ready to "pitch" a book proposal, the publishers recommended submission of a complete table of contents and one chapter. They suggested not writing more than one chapter in case the publishers' board of editors recommends changes. Further, they stressed the importance of finding an editor who is really excited about the book and who can be an advocate for the author. Finally, both publishers and authors emphasized the need to identify the intended audience for the book and to write for that audience. The co-editor of this blog and former Publications Officer for the ABA Section of International Law, Professor Mark Wojcik, pointed out that the ABA Section of International Law has a Publications Manual on its website for authors interested in publishing with the ABA Section of International Law. The Publications Manual will also help help prospective authors think through some of the issues that arise in putting together a book proposal.
Copyright issues were also a hot topic. Policies and fees for permission to use material from a book in other books and articles vary substantially from publisher to publisher. Some authors suggested that the publishers reconsider some of the more restrictive policies.
On behalf of the ASIL TILIG, many thanks to the speakers and to the audience participants for a great program!