ECH Publishing: After Publication

1 October 2014


Unlike with journal articles, you are almost guaranteed to get some feedback, at least within the first year, in the form of book reviews. Your publisher will ask you for a list of journals that are relevant to your book – you’re entitled to give them a reasonably long list, though make sure that they really are relevant and do publish book reviews. Include online book review sites.

You’re entitled to check up to ensure that the publishers have sent copies of your book to at least a healthy selection of the journals that you have specified. Most book reviews are pretty anodyne. They’ll tell the reader what the book is about and give it a general recommendation. Sometimes they’ll be more, or less, enthusiastic. You may well feel that some reviewers have been unfair, perhaps protecting their turf or their own interpretation. That’s the luck of the draw. You have to hope that across the spread of reviews you get justice.

It is almost never a good idea to write to a negative reviewer (or to the journal) to claim a right-to-reply. There is no such thing, unless you can prove malice, in which case you ought to be in court. The economics of book publishing are not changing as fast as they might. Most academic monographs are now selling under 400 copies each. They will sit in a limited number of libraries, where they will not be read by many (if any) people. This is partly because a lot of monographs are being produced more for hiring and promotion purposes than out of intellectual necessity, and partly because monographs are the part of the publishing landscape least accessible to online users.

It may be that the spread of e-books and the development of open-access options for monographs (still only in their infancy) may address this latter deficiency. Regardless, you can take heart from the knowledge that, as with journal articles, their shelf-life is very long indeed. If anything you write is still read at all 100 years from now, it’s likely to be a book.