Winning the Game of Books
By Lindsey Mantoan, PhD, assistant professor of theatre, Linfield College
In the August of 2017, three things were happening to me.
- My collaborator Sara Brady and I were wrapping up our first edited collection of academic essays, Performance in a Militarized Culture. Working with Sara had been a great experience, I was proud of our book, and I wanted to find a way for us to continue working together.
- Game of Thrones season seven was also wrapping up, and HBO had announced that the final season wouldn’t be released for well over a year. Withdrawal was imminent.
- My Facebook wall had become a forum for dozens of people to post their thoughts and feelings about Game of Thrones — and I mean, this thing turned epic. People who didn’t know each other debated for days about the third Targaryan and if Tyrion is in love with Dany and whether Cersei is really pregnant. It was clear there was a deep need to process this complex show.
Put these things together, and clearly Sara and I needed to edit a book about Game of Thrones. And, we gave ourselves the almost-outrageous goal of getting the book into print before Season Eight would air. So, what, really, goes into putting together a collection of academic essays?
Our first step was to put forward a call for papers (CFP). We wrote, revised, brainstormed, revised again, and finally came up with text soliciting submissions to our collection. The CFP outlined why this volume is important and necessary (as if a book about Game of Thrones needs this!), outlined the focus of the book (death, gender, power, and performance — and the intersections thereof), and suggested topics for essays (including “Jon Snow’s hair”). It also listed a deadline for abstracts (350-word proposals) to be emailed to us. We posted this on academic websites and circulated it via academic listservs.
The process of getting a publisher varies from book to book; given our desire to publish quickly, as soon as we posted our CFP we reached out to McFarland Press to gauge their interest. They, too, were invested in publishing the book before Season Eight airs and committed to an accelerated publication timeline. We signed a contract with them in September, less than one month after we first developed the idea for this book.
Once we had collected over 50 proposals, we organized them by our four topics and decided which ones could create a cohesive volume. It felt awful to cut some proposals that were compelling and creative but didn’t quite fit with our themes or with the other proposals. And it was fascinating to see what topics multiple people proposed (orientalism was a big one!) and which ones no one focused on (poor Tyrion!). I was also delighted that Ben Bartu, a senior at Linfield College, submitted. His proposal was exciting and it’s great to have an undergraduate’s work side by side with that of full professors.
Given how quickly our publication schedule needed to move, we gave the authors of the proposals we accepted three months to write their essays. Sara and I then edited these essays, a process that involved multiple rounds of passing drafts back and forth with authors. Typically, authors and editors take a couple of months for each step in this editorial process; we took a couple of weeks, at most. It felt like a sprint. The first round focused on argumentation and evidence, the second continued these conversations and also attended to any holes or redundancies across all of the chapters in the book, and the final round smoothed out technical issues and citations.
At this point, we assembled the manuscript and sent it to McFarland. The next steps involved agreeing on artwork for the cover, finalizing the title, setting up marketing goals, proofreading, and indexing the manuscript.
Our first book took about four years, from inception to print. This book took 15 months. It was quite a ride, and we’re thrilled with the book, entitled Vying for the Iron Throne: Essays on Power, Gender, Death, and Performance in Game of Thrones. Here’s hoping we’re as thrilled with the final season of show, because the waiting is brutal!