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Friday, April 27, 2007

The Book Review Submission Process

Although law bloggers have written a fair amount about the article submission process, there is much less about the submission process for book reviews.  How does this process compare to the article submission process?  Not all reviews publish book reviews, and those that do usually have fewer slots for them.  Additionally, some (many?) book reviews are solicited, cutting down the number of available slots.  On the other hand, fewer book reviews are submitted, so the pool is smaller.

In addition, I have heard contradictory advice on the wisdom of taking on a book review project as a junior prof or prof-to-be.  I have heard of junior faculty members being warned away from book reviews because they don't "count" as much for tenure.  On the other hand, I have heard junior folks encouraged to write reviews because of the odds of a more prestigious placement and the opportunity to engage with another scholar's work. 

So here are some questions:

  • What is the market for book reviews?
  • How many journals publish book reviews?
  • Looking at the submissions-to-slots ratio, are the odds better of publishing a book review?
  • How many book reviews are solicited?
  • How do journals choose solicited reviewers?
  • What "credit" do you get for a book review?  Does your school have an explicit measure for comparing articles with book reviews?  (E.g., a book review is worth half of an article for tenure purposes.)

Thoughts from senior profs, junior profs, profs-to-be, and law review editors would be much appreciated.

Posted by Matt Bodie on April 27, 2007 at 10:51 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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Aspiring Prof:

(1) The number one piece in the three I was allotted on the FAR form was a 10,000 word "essay" that was placed in a peer-reviewed journal.

(2) When I did job talks, the piece about which I was talking was at the time a ten page thought piece I had posted on SSRN, and which had not progressed much beyond that. I wasn't sure as I was giving the talk whether it would end up as an "article" or an "essay," the definitions of which are largely determined by word and page limits in student-edited law reviews. I wouldn't worry about the classification of the resulting piece as between a 15,000 word essay and a 25,000 word article, as much as I would demonstrating (a) the depth of your thinking, (b) your mastery of an area, (c) your ability to convey a coherent concept to a group knowing nothing much about your topic or your entire field and still comply with a strict 25 minutes time limit so they don't start squirming in the chairs and not have a chance to pepper you with questions, all of which you should meet with charm and open-mindedness, and (d)your ability to stand in front of a group of students and teach.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Apr 29, 2007 6:25:15 PM

There are a few book review reprints in the section of my library I call "Published But Never Read By Anyone." I had to take an early reprint out of that section one day, 25 years after it was published. I was at a social gathering, and was introduced to the distinguished professor whose book I had reviewed so many years ago. "Hi," he said warmly, "it's nice to meet you. You weren't all that generous in your review of my book, were you?"

Posted by: Anthony D'Amato | Apr 29, 2007 8:53:21 AM

This is off topic, but I'd love to know if wanna be profs can use an Essay as (1) one of the few pubs they apply with; (2) their job talk paper.


Posted by: aspiring prof | Apr 28, 2007 1:10:39 PM

I like writing book reviews - they're concise, the pressure is off, they can let you be a bit experimental. I say this on the experience of having done one half of one book review in my career. My sense is that not many journals run many book reviews, and many, e.g., Penn, don't run any. Michigan is the big exception. They now want a few pages of the review in deciding whether to run it. So I wouldn't recommend it as a primary tool in the writing arsenal, but as a supplemental one, I'm a big fan. I like reading them too, as long as they're the kind with footnotes and theses.

Posted by: David Zaring | Apr 27, 2007 11:35:55 AM

I published a few book reviews in my first years of teaching, mostly because of a friendly advisory that Ian Ayres was circulating at the time. If I remember correctly, Ayres recommended that junior faculty publish one book review a year IN ADDITION to their main article(s), because 1) they are shorter and take less time, and 2) they often place "higher" than the otherwise-unknown author might be able to get published, because the relative shortness of the reviews means the prestigious journal did not have to turn away or reject another article in order to accept it (and sometimes they are trying to fill pages when a celebrity author has failed to submit something that was promised).

I did find that they placed better than my full-length pieces, as Ayres said, and this may influence future editorial boards in deciding whether to publish my submissions - when they glance at the CV and see these journals represented there. Nobody on my PTR committees has ever criticized these "short" pieces, but I was not offering them as substitutes for full-length articles. They were presented as additions to the list of publications, and everybody seemed to like that.

Another benefit, I think, is the value of building one's own intellectual foundation early on - to become more well-read. It is a way to make yourself read (carefully) more of the new books coming out, instead of skimming dozens of journal articles that are tangentially-related to one's own work, as we often do in preparing articles.

In spite of these benefits, however, I have now decided to stop writing them, for two reasons: 1) I would rather spend a little more time and have a full-length article instead, and 2) nobody seems to cite book reviews, but they do cite articles. It is very nice to be cited by other authors and courts, so I have decided not to spend any more time on publications that are likely to go uncited.

Posted by: Dru Stevenson | Apr 27, 2007 11:34:27 AM

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