Thursday, August 9, 2007

Book Reviews for Journals

The deadline approaching for the publication of my vaccine safety book, my co-author and I are readily thinking about sending out review copies for the media and some medical journals.

Have you noticed that most journals have a 'book reviews' section? As medical writers we tend to focus on research articles, and our bylines are usually subject to collaborating on other people's research and helping to write a paper.

But another way to get published in a medical journal is by submitting book reviews. Look for a new book on a medical topic and write to a journal's book review editor, offering to prepare a review of the book for the journal.

A great article that talks about this is A Strategy for Reviewing Books for Journals by Barbara Gastel (BioScience Vol. 41, No. 9, 1991). According to Gastel, book review editors tend to appreciate when someone offers to review a book.

“Calling their attention to little-publicized but valuable new books can be especially useful. And anything that helps editors expand their pools of qualified, willing, reliable reviewers is likely to be welcome.”

A good book review should describe the book contents and evaluate its strengths and limitations. Here are some tips for writing a book review:
  • Describe the stated purpose of the book and whether it was met or not
  • Provide information about the context of the book—for example, is it about a new treatment or does it follow up on previous works?
  • Discuss the qualifications and expertise of the author
  • Note any special features of the book such as illustrations, exercises, or glossaries
  • Tell who will benefit more from the book—health care professionals or patients?
Thanks for reading!

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