Book Proposal review

I received a request to review a book proposal (my first!) from a well-known academic press–commercial, not university-affiliated, but instantly recognizable nevertheless (you have about 3-4 guesses total here).

I said yes. The subject matter greatly interests me and I think it’s in general a good idea. Looking at the proposal, it’s rather skimpy for now (for my taste)–for example, it does not have chapter synopses (and this is supposed to be sort of a big, encyclopedic book spanning multiple disciplines and with multiple authors). I know of the proposal author/editor–truly, the best qualified person to be putting this together–but I feel more can be done to whip this into shape. I have a couple of weeks to put that into words.

But wait, there’s more: I have a book proposal with the same Well-Known Academic Press, also an edited collection, on a closely related topic (albeit from just one disciplinary perspective, and for a different series). I’ve been in talks with the series editors for months, since May, and it finally went out to external reviewers beginning of July, more than 2 months ago (I am expected to follow a much tighter deadline, myself, for this review). I’ve already changed that proposal multiple times, and worked hard with the contributors to get the abstracts in shape–to say nothing of my own revisions of the body of the proposal. I inquired about the status of the proposal last week, and the editorial manager is on vacation until tomorrow; apparently I am to hear about the reviewers’ comments any day after that.

As I await those comments with trepidation, I realize how serious and delicate my own job is. My proposal had already been rejected after being in review for months with another academic press, after getting actually fairly good reviewer reports–the series editor decided to nix it for various reasons. I shopped it around after that, with one serious prospect (with a fussy initial review, though), but then Well-Known Academic Press swooped in, super-interested (we’re talking Skype calls, lots of back and forth, and a super-complimentary email exchange regarding the last iteration of the proposal). But–it ain’t over until they discuss the reviews and probably put me through the ringer a little more. I can’t complain, this is the academic publishing game, but it makes me super-sensitive to what I will actually put in my report without allowing my own idiosyncrasies, pet-peeves, biases, and narrow interests to take over.

Do unto others, right? I’ll do my best to be a fair reviewer, and hope my proposal will also be treated fairly.