How to Review a Book

When looking for a strong way to expand your professional network and get the most visibility from your prospective publishers, a book review is an excellent solution. By reviewing a recently published work in your field, you:

  • Pair your name with the names of other academics who you want to be associated with. Meaning, people will begin mentally categorizing you as part of the same field as the person whose work you are reviewing…not to mention the author of the book will likely read it.
  • Snatch a quick line for the non-peer reviewed publications section of your CV.
  • Get the attention of the review editor of a scholarly journal that aligns with your interests.

So, you’re asking, “well what’s a good way to go about that, anyway?”

First, figure out what book you might like to review. Most scholarly journals won’t publish a review of something that’s been published more than a year ago.

PRO-TIP: that actually translates into finding a book that’s been published in the last six months because it will take awhile for the review to actually appear in print.

pid_28625It’s August 21st, 2018 and I found a book I’d like to use as an example of the review process — it is scheduled to appear in May 2019. This is very promising time-wise. It is on the Stanford University Press webpage – the title is The Hijacked War: The Story of Chinese POWs in the Korean War. So this would be a great fit for me if I want to get David Cheng Chang’s attention or be associated with his research.

The next step would be to figure out where I would ideally like my review to appear. Let’s say I’m interested in The Journal of Asian Studies. Start by clicking on their “Contact Information, Books for Review, Permissions.” Now we need to decide if we want to reach out to the China 1900-present scholar or the Korea scholar. Let’s go with the Korea scholar…

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.28.07 AM

Now I compose an email addressed to Dr. Kyung Moon Hwang; subject line — Journal of Asian Studies — Book Review Query:

Dear Dr. Hwang,

I hope this email finds you well.

Let me start my introducing myself: my name is JuniorProf and I recently completed my PhD at the University of X. This fall, I am beginning an appointment at Brand New State University.

I write to you today to inquire about the possibility of reviewing an academic text for The Journal of Asian Studies. I have identified a text that is related to my research interests that I believe would fit well within the scope of the texts The Journal of Asian Studies reviews:

The Hijacked War: The Story of Chinese POWs in the Korean War, by David Cheng Chang (scheduled for publication in May of 2019).

Alternatively, I would also welcome the opportunity to review another book of the journal’s choice that pertains to my research interests. More information about my research is articulated on my website: [insert hyperlink to professional website here.]

Please let me know if you believe my review could be of interest to The Journal of Asian Studies and, if so, how I should proceed from here.

Respectfully,

JuniorProf

Pretty soon, Dr. Hwang is going to reply and tell you how excited he is to see your review! Not only that, you’ve made his job easier, because now he won’t have to bug the tenured faculty member at Prestigious University he always bugs about sending in reviews. Maybe he’ll have bad news and tell you that someone has already snatched that book up, but here’s another one! If that’s the case, don’t feel obligated to accept the review he proposes…remember the whole idea is to get your name linked to the names of scholars who you respect.

Let’s follow this thread as if we had gotten great news! Dr. Hwang wants our review and he’d like it by January 1st. Now we’re going back to the Stanford UP webpage, but we’re going to go to the “Requests” tab at the top of the page and see what that holds. Bingo!

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.29.53 AM

There’s a “Review Copies” link. Looks like we need to email publicity@www.sup.org. Sadly we didn’t get a name. Here’s a template email:

Dear Ma’am/Sir,

I hope this email finds you well.

Let me start my introducing myself: my name is JuniorProf and I recently completed my PhD at University of X. My area of study has mostly do to with the transnational implications of the Korean War and, more specifically, the influence the conflict had on China. This fall, I am beginning an appointment at Brand New State University.

I write to you today because I found your information on the Stanford University Press website. I am interested in obtaining a copy of The Hijacked War: The Story of Chinese POWs in the Korean War, authored by David Cheng Chang, to review it for The Journal of Asian Studies. Dr. Kyung Moon Hwang, who is the review editor for the “Korea” section of The Journal of Asian Studies has already expressed interest in the book and the review. The current deadline for submission of the review is January 1st, 2019.

I am familiar with Dr. Chang’s other work, which is closely related to my own research.

Please let me know how I should proceed as I seek to gain access to the book.

Thank you in advance,

JuniorProf

When Stanford UP gets your email, they should tell you that they need you to fill out a form with your address so they know where to send the advance copy of the book. Also, they’d really love it if you would send them a link to the review once it’s published. Nice! Now all you have to do is wait for the copy.

When it comes to actually writing, that’s going to be largely up to you. NOTE: Unlike submitting work to your PhD advisor, note respecting a publisher’s deadline could mean that you miss the boat altogether. Also, your book review could get kicked back with edits and the publisher WON’T push back the journal’s print date so you can keep polishing your writing. I’d recommend sending in what you consider your finished product several weeks before the due date; in this case, December 15th might be appropriate. That way you have the margin you might need to make publication specific adjustments.

My personal MO and recommendation would be to do annotated readings of 5-6 recent  Journal of Asian Studies reviews. Why do you like them? Why don’t you? These readings can help you decipher the appropriate length and content of your own review.

Next thing you know, you’ve gotten a free book, a quick CV line, and the potential networking opportunity of having your name associated with 1. the Korean War, 2. Chinese-Korean affairs, 3. Dr. Chang (whose work you’ve been a long-time admirer of…) and 4. the Journal of Asian Studies. Who knows! If you do a good job, Dr. Hwang may start asking you for help with additional reviews instead of continuing to bug the aforementioned tenured professor at Prestigious University he’s tired of bugging.

Ready to get started? To date I haven’t found a better way of searching for forthcoming publications than browsing publisher websites. Let me know if you know of a better one.

PRO-TIP: to narrow down the number of publisher websites you’re checking out, see if you can find a common thread among the books you usually buy and/or read. Maybe if you look at your shelves more closely, you’ll notice that half of the books that interest you came out in a particular book series. Start there!

Happy reading and review writing!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “How to Review a Book

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s