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FAQ: About conference proceedings

What are the differences between conference proceedings and fully edited books?

At Cascadilla Press, we publish three basic types of books containing chapters by different authors: conference proceedings, selected conference proceedings, and fully edited books.

A conference proceedings collects as many papers as possible from a particular conference. Authors may revise their papers in response to comments they received at the conference, but the volume editors do not generally suggest further changes except to ensure that authors follow the formatting requirements. We consider this sort of proceedings to be most appropriate for established conferences which have higher rejection rates for the conference itself, such as BUCLD and WCCFL.

A selected proceedings adds a layer of review organized by the volume editors to ensure that the papers chosen for the proceedings will be of interest to the most readers, and offers authors a chance to complete some revisions to their papers. While a selected proceedings takes longer to put together and involves more work for the volume editors, the resulting book will usually appeal to more readers. We publish selected proceedings for the Second Language Research Forum and the Hispanic Linguistics Symposium.

Both types of conference proceedings contain preliminary versions of papers that may be published later in a much expanded and revised form. In this respect, conference proceedings are similar to research reports and working papers. These all provide a quick and easy way to share research with a broad audience.

A fully edited book is a much more elaborate process where a volume editor decides on a focus for a book, solicits papers and sends them out for peer review, obtains revisions from authors, and chooses the best ones to create a coherent book. The papers are then thoroughly edited by Cascadilla Press and typeset in-house. While a fully edited book may gain its original motivation from a conference, it is very different from a conference proceedings. A fully edited book is similar to a journal -- in both cases, the work goes through both peer review and professional copy editing and is presented in a final polished form.

How does Cascadilla Press decide which conference proceedings to publish?

The information below explains how we have chosen conference proceedings in the past. Cascadilla Press will continue to publish our established series such as BUCLD and WCCFL, and we will consider new proposals for proceedings to be published on CD-ROM if there will be at least 500 registrants and the proceedings will be included as part of the registration fee. All other proposals for conference proceedings should be directed to Cascadilla Proceedings Project, an imprint started by Cascadilla Press in 2003 which focuses on publishing linguistics proceedings.

We receive a lot of requests to publish conference proceedings and we have to turn down most of those requests. The biggest obstacle is usually not the quality of the papers, but rather the financial viability of publishing the proceedings. Even though proceedings do not require in-house editorial work, they still entail significant costs in production, printing, shipping, storage, advertising, and sales. Here are some of the factors which affect our decision:

1. If the conference is part of an ongoing series, will we be the publishers for future proceedings? It is important to have a consistent publisher for a conference proceedings series. Having a consistent publisher means that customers know where to order the proceedings, regular presenters at the conference become familiar with the style sheet, researchers know where to find the proceedings, libraries know how to order the proceedings, and the publisher knows how to reach the most likely customers.

2. If the conference is part of an ongoing series, is there a continuing committee for the series? If there is, it is easier to ensure that the choice of publisher will not be changed in the future without good reason. It is also easier to ensure consistency in format and length of the proceedings.

3. Is the conference reasonably focused? A general conference can certainly be a lot of fun and can spark great ideas as people from different sub-fields or research paradigms talk to each other and discuss their research. A more focused conference makes for a better proceedings, however, because readers can be more confident of finding several papers they are interested in reading.

4. Does the conference attract registrants from a broad geographical area? That is a good sign that the proceedings will attract more readers. Small regional conferences are useful, but those conferences are often better served by publishing a proceedings as part of a local working papers series.

5. Does the conference attract more than 200 registrants? That is also a good sign that the proceedings will attract more readers.

6. Has the conference already happened? If it has, that makes it much more difficult to find customers for the proceedings. The best initial source of customers is at the conference itself.

7. Will the proceedings be included as part of the registration fee? This is still an infrequent practice in linguistics, but it can make all the difference on whether a proceedings is financially viable. Having guaranteed advance sales to all of the conference registrants allows us to keep the price of the proceedings lower, reduces the financial risk of publishing the proceedings, provides wider distribution for the proceedings, and makes the proceedings more affordable for some registrants who can pay for the conference registration out of research or conference funds.

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