Going through proposals

Ancient Warfare magazine relies on proposals from authors to fill each issue. Fortunately, we really never have any problems with getting enough proposals.

The only time in my tenure as editor so far that proposals were scarce, was for issue VII.1, on ancient Egypt. The bulk of the proposals I received focused on the New Kingdom or the centuries leading up to it, so the decision was quickly made to have the entire issue focus on it. This meant turning down two other proposals that I thought were really good (and they will be published at some point as non-theme articles). Further problems occurred when the authors of two other articles were unable to deliver due to other obligations or personal issues, and so I had to jump in and write both the historical introduction and a short two-page piece.

But on the whole, each issue usually receives far more proposals than can actually be published. I have just worked my way through the proposals for issue VII.6, on Marcus Aurelius. I received around twenty proposals in all, but there is only ever room for around 6 or 7 articles: the historical introduction, “The Source”, and then four or – in this case – five articles related to the theme. The remainder is made of non-theme pieces: a “Special” article and a “Debate” article, and sometimes also a brief two-page article on a specific subject, mainly “The Find”.

So how do I decide which proposals to publish? If most of the proposals that I receive were of poor quality, this would be easy to accomplish. However, most of the material submitted for Ancient Warfare tends to be fine as far as quality is concerned. Only rarely do I encounter a proposal that is not of sufficient quality; for example, if it is too general. (I usually do not refuse anyone simply because their English isn’t perfect; provided that the author is or seems to be knowledgeable, and the subject is good, language is not the most pressing of problems, even if it means that I end up rewriting significant portions of the final text.)

The introduction and “Source”-article are the easiest to pick. There are usually only one or two proposals that fit the bill for the latter, and most of these are also of good quality. Rarely do I receive proposals specifically for the historical introduction, but when I do, they tend to be really good; if more than one author applies, I take the approach that they wish to take, as well as their personal backgrounds and expertise into account in order to make a decision. If no proposals have been put forward for the historical introduction, I usually pick an author from those that have submitted proposals that I think would be able to produce a good article for this purpose; usually, that turns out fine.

As regards the remaining articles, I often receive more than one proposal on the same subject, especially when the issue’s theme is more focused, as in the case of Marcus Aurelius. In that event, I try to pick the proposals that seem to offer the most detail or that introduce an interesting twist on the subject. New authors also pique my interest, and I always try to include one or two fresh names in every issue.

Hopefully, this makes clear how I go about picking proposals for new issues of Ancient Warfare. I will contact those that have submitted proposals for issue VII.6 next week to give them the good or bad news. But even if you don’t get published this time, don’t be shy of submitting another proposal in the future.

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