Reviewing Book Proposals and Book Manuscripts - From Consumer to Producer of the Literature - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Reviewing Book Proposals and Book Manuscripts
From Consumer to Producer of the Literature
Writing as Professional Development

One way to prepare yourself for writing books is to review them. It is not necessary to be a widely published scholar in order to serve as a reviewer. Many times, textbook sales representatives will invite you to review a book that you have been using when it is ready to go into a subsequent edition. Or, if it is a new book for a course that you teach, they might seek your input while the manuscript is being developed. You also can volunteer to provide this service to publishers by sending them a letter and your curriculum vita. While each publisher has guidelines for the review, Table 10.1 identifies some of the most frequently asked questions about book proposals, chapters, and entire manuscripts that reviewers use to critique the work. Internalizing these criteria is a good way to prepare yourself for book of your own someday.

Table 10.1

Questions to guide book reviewers

Do you know the proposer of the book? Do you consider him/her/them to be qualified to undertake the project?

Would the book make a significant contribution to the field? Is it worthy of support?

What is your overall opinion of the material? Does it appear to meet a specific need?

Is the title appropriate? Does it actually describe the book’s content?

Who is the primary audience for this type of material? Will the intended audience find the book useful? How do you see the book being used?

How does the philosophy behind the book fit into current thinking in the field?

Is the book well organized? Is its structure helpful?

Are there any topics that have been left out? To your way of thinking, will these are these omissions adversely affect the sale of the book?

What is your opinion of the writing? Is the author writing for the intended audience?

What are the book’s greatest strengths? Please be specific

What are the greatest weaknesses, and what would you do to strengthen those areas?

Is the book well organized? Are there any organizational devices that would make the book more useful?

Are there any particular chapters that are exceptionally good or, on the other hand, any that you find lacking in comparison to the others? What ones, and why do they stand out to you?

Are there sections in the proposed contents of the work that would need expansion and/or development? Are there important views that the editor(s) failed to consider in his/her/their proposed content?

Do you notice any redundancy across chapters? Is there material that could be condensed or deleted?

Do you think you would use the book based on the material you have seen? How? Would you recommend the book to your colleagues? Why or why not?

Which books, if any, do you see as this book’s primary competitors? Does this project compare favorably? Unfavorably? How?

What is your recommendation: to proceed with the publication of the work, to request revisions, or to decline to pursue the publication?

Adapted from Springer’s Guidelines for Book Manuscript Review