For as long as i’ve read books (which admittedly isn’t actually nearly as long as most people in this line of work), i’ve had a strong preference in the whole endnotes versus footnotes debate.* I actually read them. So, i find it incredibly annoying when they’re all tucked away in the back of the book somewhere, nowhere near the content to which they actually apply. I’m sure there are folks out there who prefer endnotes, if that’s you, can you share why? I’m genuinely curious.
Over this break, i’ve had the chance to catch up on a handful of books that have been sitting on the “i really should read that” pile for a while. And in line with the above, i’ve found that the footnotes in John Levi Martin’s Social Structures add nearly as much to the quality of the book as does the text itself. And that’s saying something. Thus far (i’m only about half done with it at the moment, but still have a plane ride back to Phoenix from the east coast tomorrow night) i’ve found it to be a really good, well written book. In fact, i’m considering it for my grad theory class for next year, and even thinking about what role it might play in any new grad networks classes i might get the chance to offer here in the next few years.
So, my question (for any of you book writers out there) is this. i know that publishers have strong tendencies for only footnotes or endnotes. And i think i have a hunch as to why they do. But isn’t it mostly legacy, and not really that relevant for the way publishing actually happens today? That to say, if i were to write a book and land a contract with a publisher who prefers footnotes, could we negotiate to get that one “right”? Or, in this (as of now) highly unlikely future hypothetical scenario, should i shop my manuscript with a publisher’s previous practices in mind?
*I’m not actually talking about their use for in-text citations (for which i actually think i really like the ASA approach). I’m just talking about the cases when they are used as asides/elaborations/divergences/etc. from the main text.