ask a scatterbrain: getting your book reviewed

So, the book comes out in January. And I’m thinking, “how do things get reviewed in journals?” Obviously, there is a matter of choice involved (the book reviews editor decides what is review-worthy). But I’m guessing there’s more to it than that. I mean, the editor has to know the book exists before they can send it out for review. So step one might be making sure the journals you want to review the book actually get a copy. And there are, no doubt, things that might encourage said editor to send out vs. throw out a book. So I’m curious, any advice for getting your book reviewed by journals? I know that your press can help. My press has been great. But advice on working with your press on this as well might be helpful too.

5 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: getting your book reviewed”

  1. When I was book review editor for Social Forces, I tended to choose books to send out that were on reputable intellectual presses and were by sociologists and/or of direct interest to general sociologists. In general, I also preferred books that were a single argument over books that had collected separate chapters, whether by a single author or several; and books that were by junior scholars. You’re right that the editor has to decide to send it to the appropriate journal (we virtually never requested books). One more hurdle, though: we had to find someone willing to review it who would do a good job, and that person had to do the review!


  2. It’s easier to first create a list of receptive journals than to make editors choose the book. My press (Hopkins) did a great job in just mailing my book to a whole mess of soc, education amd history journals. I also urged ASQ, since it’s about org behavior. The strategy was successful (14 reviews!). The only failure was getting library and popular journals to review the book.

    Once you hit a sufficiently large number, a few more will pop up that weren’t solicited. They want to review what’s hot in a certain area. A third point is that people may volunteer to review your book. They can get a review copy if they have a real conncetion to a journal. Or you can give them a copy and they can submit it to the editor.

    Finally, in building your CV, look for reviews in unexpeted places. I found three reviews/mentions on blogs and a sort of mini-review inside a journal article (the author singled out my book for discussion).


  3. I’m more familiar with the world of trade publishing, but a big (read: huge) mistake that authors frequently make is assuming that it’s solely up to the house to keep on top of this stuff. Your publisher will be doing some of this, but it’s unlikely that that they have as wide (or deep) of an understanding of your subfield as you do.

    I’d think about creating a list of the journals that might be interested in reviewing your book. I don’t think a short and pleasant email of inquiry to the book review editor would hurt (although Andrew may know better). I suspect it may be a mistake to spend more than a couple sentences going into the contents of the book (shorter is better), as your institutional affiliation and the press your publishing with (both of which definitely should be noted) are already doing a lot of “signaling” for you. After saying who you are, who you’re publishing with and what the book is about, you can inquire if the editor would be interested in having a review copy sent. The balance here is tricky, but you might also say you can provide a list of potential reviewers who haven’t read the ms. but who also work in your field. In the very least it means your book won’t be coming in “cold”, which should be avoided whenever possible.

    Oh, and of course, if you do this, you should check in with your acq editor at Princeton first. Chances are he/she will appreciate your dedication and active involvement. If not, no loss.

    Lastly, from what I know of your book Princeton might be thinking of it at as a crossover title (into the trade market), so it’s worth shooting a brief email to all of your contacts who work at trade publications with book reviews (particularly big ones, particularly ones that may have come up recently…)


  4. Make sure your publisher sends the book quickly! Nobody wants to solicit a review of book that’s already been out for more than a year. By the time it comes back and gets into print, it’ll be two years past the copyright.


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