By David C. Birchler

A submitted proposal ready for reviewBefore approaching a publisher with the idea of getting your work into print, it is always good to know what sorts of books that publisher specializes in. If you’ve just completed a novel, you do not go to a publisher of high school textbooks. If you’ve just written an expansive biography of a well-known historical figure, you do not seek out a publisher of small books of poems. This much is common sense. And if you are a musicologist, conductor, or performer interested in creating a new edition of music that you esteem, it would be common sense to know (and you may already know) that A-R Editions is the world leader in publishing critical editions of music heretofore found only on the shelves of libraries in manuscripts and prints that are decades or hundreds of years old.

You will have noticed that in the previous sentence I snuck in the word “critical” before the word “editions” in speaking of A-R’s specialty. Here is what we say on page iv of all the editions in our Recent Researches in Music series:

Each edition in Recent Researches is devoted to works by a single composer or to a single genre. The content is chosen for its high quality and historical importance and is edited according to the scholarly standards that govern the making of all reliable editions.

We use the word “reliable” rather than “critical” in the above statement, but the meaning is the same: a critical edition is first and foremost reliable, and its reliability is underscored by careful internal documentation of how the edition has been prepared, with the goal of preserving the basic content of the original work even as it is presented in a way that will be easily approachable for modern scholars and performers.

In a previous contribution to this blog, “A Conversation about Publishing,” Danielle Pacha, managing editor of Recent Researches, writes:

At A-R, on-staff musicologists (all with doctoral degrees) and a team of off-site series editors (all leading scholars in their fields) provide peer review. Our editorial staff is especially robust, allowing us to offer several types of in-depth editing: developmental editing to help shape and organize a manuscript in the very early stages of creation; copyediting to review and improve a manuscript’s basic content, style, spelling, and grammar; and proofreading to ensure that proofs created by our production team are accurate. Our production team is likewise suited to music publication; it includes experts in music engraving software, such as Finale and Sibelius, who can make even the most complicated and specialized music notation look clear and elegant on the page.

A-R Editions is indeed a full-service publisher of music editions, providing help and guidance in developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, and production. But before any of those steps toward publication can take place, there is “peer review,” which is what we do at the proposal stage, when we review potential projects and determine their suitability for our series. First things first, as always, sets the stage for what may follow.

If you were to email me to express interest in publishing an edition of music with us, I would note that we have an established process for the review and evaluation of potential projects, which involves our entire editorial staff as well as scholars outside of A-R. To help get the process started, I would supply you with the proposal guidelines for our Recent Researches in Music series. The guidelines describe the various items we ask for as part of a proposal, starting with “a summary argument for the importance of making the music available to the scholar and performer” as well as a “detailed listing of the proposed musical contents for the edition.” Then comes the heart of the proposal, which lies in the principal source or sources on which you have based your edition—that is, the material of composers, copyists, editors, and publishers of bygone days that you wish to bring to light for the enlightenment and enjoyment of scholars, musicians, and music lovers around the world today.

It is the purpose of Recent Researches to help you do that in a way that preserves the content of what was first put forth for people of an earlier time and place. Hence, we request what is the most essential item in the list of guidelines—“a substantial sample of the edited music, along with the following supporting materials,” namely, a “summary of editorial policies used in the sample” and the “appropriate critical notes for the sample.” These are your opportunities to tell us how you have gone about transcribing the music of the principal source (or sources) into modern notation, usually using notation software or even, as is still acceptable today, writing it by hand. This is also where a familiarity with what we have published in the past becomes extremely important, since it is only by reading the editorial policies of past volumes, and by studying their critical notes and notational conventions, that you can arrive at an understanding of how best to prepare your own “sample of edited music” for us to view.

Ideally, you would consult these guidelines before preparing the initial version of your edition, but we understand that you may have already prepared your edition for a different purpose (for instance, for your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, or for a conducting class, or even for your own performance); as a result, you may have used methods and styles that are not compatible with A-R’s established approach. This is of course fine, which is why we only ask for a sample at the proposal stage; that way we can review it and—should the project be a good fit for our series—give you the go-ahead to submit the full edition for publication.

In addition to the supporting materials directly related to the music edition, we also ask for “a written draft of a substantial portion of the introductory essay” for the volume, which can also be viewed as supporting material in that it provides the historical background on the composer and music of your edition. As we also write, we do not want an extract taken directly from your dissertation or an article, but rather something written specifically with your edition in mind. I am often asked how long this sample draft needs to be, and how long the completed introduction will need to be. For the draft, fifteen to twenty-five double-spaced pages should be enough, with an additional outline of portions planned and yet to be written. For the completed introduction, a quick perusal of our volumes will show that these run the gamut from what could be called lengthy “monographs” to much shorter offerings meant to provide only the essentials required in discussing a given subject. You will need to decide what is best for your project, but please keep in mind that if we contract the edition, we will set a firm word limit for the introductory essay.

I hope that the above has given you some insight into the proposal stage of bringing Recent Researches books to publication. Feel free to contact me directly if you have an idea for an edition in mind or a full-fledged edition that you have already prepared that is just waiting to be moved from your computer out into the wider world.

David C. Birchler is Senior Editor at A-R Editions. He is currently overseeing proposals to the Recent Researches in Music series.