I’ve got a friend who is struggling this summer with her university press publisher’s demand that she cut 20,000 words from her 142,000 word book. She’s doing interesting work pulling together the relevant strands of scholarship from many different fields, and as most of you humanists can probably guess, this means that her footnotes are pretty crunchy and dense. She added a great deal more to her first draft of the manuscript to respond to the suggestions and concerns of the press reviewers, and now the press itself is demanding that she cut-cut-cut, and she’s understandably frustrated.
As a first-time author, she feels obligated to demonstrate quite clearly her scholarly debt to others, so her footnotes and bibliography comprise 36,000 of the total. At this point, she has already cut 12,000 words from the manuscript and doesn’t think she can go further without undermining her contribution to the existing literature.
I think she might consider dropping the bibliography, because her footnotes will include full citations of her sources. She might also shave a few thousand words out of her notes by removing all of the chit-chat and leaving only the citations. (She’d likely have to make use of the “subtle but deadly ‘cf.’ (‘compare’),” which Anthony Grafton explained to me in his book on the footnote as a sign “at least to the expert reader, both that an alternative view appears in the cited work and that it is wrong,” (The Footnote: A Curious History, 8). As a first-time author, this might be read as a little presumptuous without further explanation–at least, I would have been reluctant to use “cf.” in my footnotes in my first book, but maybe I’m too nice and too deferential. (Maybe I was also reasonably cautious because of the pushback I got from several senior and mid-career scholars about my ideas.)
Another solution I suggested is that she might cut the notes dramatically for the print edition of the book and set up a website that contains the fuller citations and bibliography on a web page hosted by the publisher’s server. I know that people these days are using web pages not just to promote their books, but also to serve as hosts for further resources that interested readers can consult and engage with–more images, more of the scholarly apparatus, etc. (If any of you have ideas about models for this kind of website, please drop a link in the comments!)
Have any of you set up a web page like this? What in your view are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing an online companion to your books? Finally, what suggestions do you have for this first-time author about either cutting words and/or communicating with her publisher about the impossibility of cutting further?
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