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Writing for Booklist

About Booklist Publications

Booklist August 2016 coverBooklist is the American Library Association’s prepublication review journal for public and school librarians. Our editorial content consists chiefly of book reviews (approximately 8,000 per year) written to help librarians with selection, collection development, and readers’ advisory. We also publish top 10 lists, read-alikes, core collections, author interviews, and other features. Our products include Booklist magazine, published 22 times per year; its quarterly supplement Book Links, with content for teachers and school librarians; and The Booklist Reader, a blog for librarians and general readers that is updated several times each day, Monday through Friday. Much of this content is repurposed, alongside select original content, in our rich selection of e-newsletters.

Freelance Opportunities

We do not accept unsolicited reviews or articles, but we do assign freelance book reviews (which may be published in Booklist magazine or Booklist Online Exclusives), articles for Book Links, and blog posts for The Booklist Reader. Most Booklist feature articles are written in-house, so freelance opportunities for such articles are extremely limited. Pay is modest; $15 for book reviews ($5 for rejections and an additional $5 for appended YA recommendations), $12.50 for blog posts, and negotiated fees for feature articles. We value multicultural perspectives and are always looking for contributors from a diverse array of backgrounds.

All contributions will be edited for length, style, and considerations unique to our audience. Editors communicate significant changes to contributors when possible; however, due to tight and frequent deadlines, we reserve the right to edit and publish commissioned work without consulting the author. Our reviews and articles are considered work for hire and Booklist retains the copyright after publication.

Becoming a Booklist Reviewer

Before querying Booklist, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with our publications and our writing style. Sign up for a free trial on Booklist Online or subscribe to updates from The Booklist Reader and other newsletters.

Contact only the specific editor for whom you wish to work and provide relevant samples of your writing. More specific guidelines appear in the following sections.

Adult Books

Donna Seaman, Editor, Adult Books

Books for Youth

Daniel Kraus, Editor, Books for Youth

Graphic Novels

Sarah Hunter, Senior Editor, Books for Youth

Audio

Joyce Saricks, Audio Editor

Video

Sue Ellen Beauregard, Video Editor, c/o Biz Hyzy, Editorial Assistant

Reference

Rebecca Vnuk, Editor, Collection Management and Library Outreach

Book Links

Maggie Reagan, Associate Editor
Daniel Kraus, Editorial Director

The Booklist Reader

Eugenia Williamson, Associate Editor

 

Booklist Reviewing Guidelines

Recommended-Only Policy

Booklist follows a “recommended-only” policy, which means everything we review is recommended for purchase by libraries. However, in critical terms, not every review must be positive. While most of the books we review are works of quality—well-written, well-researched, and artistically successful—we may recommend books based on anticipated patron demand. Mixed and even negative reviews can still qualify as recommendations if we anticipate reader interest. This is especially true with series fiction: often the very fact that a book is part of a popular series is reason enough for recommendation. If a title is recommended for reasons other than literary merit, the basis of that recommendation should be made clear in the review.

Length

Booklist reviews are the haiku of book reviewing. Reviews should be no longer than 175 words. If a book is outstanding in its genre and the reviewer wishes to recommend a star, the reviewer may, subject to the editor’s approval, write a 200-to-225 word review.

Review Content

Within our tightly limited word count, reviewers must somehow do all of the following:

  • Place the work in context. Is it a highly anticipated debut novel? The seventeenth entry in an increasingly formulaic series? Is the author known for richly atmospheric settings, labyrinthine plots, or genre-blurring experimentation?
  • Suggest the plot without giving too much away—think synopsis, not summary. Often it is fully sufficient to share the premise, suggesting the primary conflict and sometimes the first plot twist. Convey the plot in present tense.
  • Identify the audience. For whom is the book intended? Who will actually like it? Suggest, if you can, the ideal reader and describe the appeal of the book. Naming a well-known, similar title can help our readers make quick recommendations. A note about "mature content": It is Booklist editorial policy that a character's gender identity and sexual orientation do not qualify a book as having "mature" content, regardless of the gender or orientation being discussed. This is separate from explicit descriptions of sexual behavior, which, depending on the context, may or may not warrant a mention in the review. Reviewers with questions about these matters should contact the review's editor.
  • Write in a lively and engaging fashion. A well-crafted first sentence will capture our subscribers’ attention and ensure they keep reading. Booklist encourages reviewers to inject personality into our bylined reviews. They should not read like jacket copy.
  • Offer a judgment. The reviewer’s job is to evaluate the quality of the writing and artwork, if any. If the book is fiction, is it entertaining? If nonfiction, is it credible and well-researched? Brief quotes and/or specific examples should be used to make your case. What are the book’s strengths and what are its problems? Most reviews should conclude with a final sentence, memorably phrased, that summarizes the reviewer’s opinion.

Starred Reviews

The Booklist star indicates a work that is outstanding in its field and that succeeds in doing what the author set out to do. Romance novels are judged against other romance novels, just as literary fiction is judged against similar titles. Reviewers may recommend that titles be starred, but all stars must be approved by an editor.

Rejects

Rejecting books is just as important as reviewing them. If a book is substandard—poorly written, unclear, unsubstantiated, or unsuitable for public libraries—the reviewer may recommend to the editor that the book be rejected. Under certain circumstances (note Booklist’s recommended-only policy above), the editor may ask the reviewer to review the book while noting its flaws.

Adult Books Recommended for Young Adults

Booklist provides additional guidance to librarians by recommending some adult titles as suitable for young adults. In fiction, this includes titles with young protagonists that are written in an accessible style, exploring situations and issues that will interest teens. Nonfiction must be entertaining, informative, and accessible. Qualified reviewers may append one-sentence recommendations, explaining the book’s appeal to young adults.

Recommended Similar Titles

In addition to any essential comparisons made within the body of the review, we strongly encourage reviewers to provide us with the titles of several books that are similar in tone, subject matter, and appeal to the work under review. We then create links between those books and the reviewed title on Booklist Online, strengthening that database’s use as a readers’ advisory tool.

Reviewer Resources

Reviewers will be trained in the use of Booklist’s proprietary publishing system and will receive a user name and password, enabling them to enter their reviews directly and run reports to see publication status for reviews. Reviewers also receive access to Booklist Online and the Booklist digital edition, for both review research and reading pleasure.

Reference Materials

Reference books are now reviewed in the adult nonfiction section of Booklist; electronic reference sources, such as databases, are examined semiannually in our “E-Reference Update.” While the general principles of Booklist’s selection policy and reviewing guidelines still apply, reference works have their own unique considerations.

Where applicable, reference reviews should include the following:

  • The number of articles or entries and their average length.
  • Specific examples of entry headings or of topics included.

The approach (e.g., popular or scholarly) and the intended audience (e.g, high-school and college students, general readers).

  • The following should be noted: any cross-references, indexes, illustrations, appendixes, etc.

Regular reference reviews should be 200–300 words long and should end with the work’s strong points, major weaknesses, and a judgment of whether the work fulfills its stated purpose and meets its audience’s needs. 

Reference “In Brief” reviews should be 80–120 words long. These are generally either “reference-y” nonfiction titles that could be placed in either the reference or circulating collections, or updated and revised editions that have been previously fully reviewed in Booklist.

Audiobooks

While the above criteria for reviewing books also apply to reviewing audiobooks—especially with regard to review content, starred reviews, and recommended similar titles—audiobooks have unique qualities that must be considered and evaluated. Key among these are the narrator’s performance and production features. Since most audiobooks will have already been reviewed as books in Booklist, plot descriptions should be especially brief, and the review should focus on narration and the qualities, both vocal and technical, that make audio an excellent format choice.


Writing for Book Links

About Book Links

Book Links is not a review journal, but rather the sister publication to Booklist. It comes packaged with Booklist four times per year (in the January 1 & 15, April 1, September 1, and November 1 issues) and assists teachers and school librarians in establishing connections between children’s literature and the K–8 classroom curriculum.

Quick Tips, meanwhile, is an email newsletter supplement to Book Links typically published once per month and including a mix of recent Book Links content and original features.

Submissions

Most feature articles are assigned by editors, so freelance opportunities are limited. However, writers with knowledge of children’s literature and the classroom setting are welcome to submit ideas. We suggest prospective freelancers make themselves familiar with Book Links and Quick Tips before submitting. Payment varies on a feature-by-feature basis, as agreed upon by the freelancer and the editors.

Article Types

Regular feature categories often assigned to freelancers include but are not limited to:

  • Classroom Connections: These focus on a wide range of topics and consist of brief introduction of 200–400 words followed by an annotated list of recommended books that advance the subjects. Overall length typically runs 2,000 words.
  • Books and Authors: These include author and/or illustrator interviews and typically run 1500 words.

 

WRITING FOR THE BOOKLIST READER

Our blog, the Booklist Reader, is where Booklist lets its hair down. While the reviews and features in Booklist follow a fairly rigid formula, there is a home for a much wider variety of book- and author-related articles on The Booklist Reader. And while we still strive to produce material that will be interesting and useful to working librarians, The Booklist Reader also appeals to general readers (who, we hope, are also library users).

Freelancers wishing to contribute should follow the blog (doing so via newsletter, Twitter, or Facebook can be helpful) to familiarize themselves with the style and range of our offerings. Most posts are 350–750 words, but there are exceptions. We are always looking for engaging, entertaining, funny, and opinionated new writing. The Booklist Reader style guide will be provided to contributors.

Particular areas of interest are literary tie-ins to other media (TV, movies); trend pieces (industry trends, trends in books); op-eds (e.g., “Why I Wish Everyone Would Stop Talking about Amazon”); visually engaging posts featuring book covers and illustrations (especially cover trends and comparisons); and book club–friendly content.

 

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