How do book series get started? Can a would-be series editor approach a press?
The easy part is the latter question: Yes, please do. We all want to hear about big new ideas.
Series can originate with a university press editor or a scholar. In both cases, we’re surveying disciplines, thematics, and methodologies and making a wager on an underserved and perhaps underdeveloped area that needs to be given more prominence and a sustained platform on which to evolve and expand. If the series originates with a university press editor, that editor will approach scholars to test and refine the idea and to look for scholars to take up editorship of the series. If it comes from a scholar, the scholar will approach one or more publishers with the concept, determine if there is a good fit, and then work together to refine a series proposal that will (in almost all cases) be sent out for peer review. Upon approval of the series by the press’s editorial board, terms will be spelled out in a contract and a series will be born.