Editors usually write to request the aid of external experts in reviewing manuscripts for forthcoming books prior to official publication. Book proposal reviews tend to precede book manuscript reviews and are almost always two separate processes, so if you have been contacted for a manuscript review, a book proposal review has likely already taken place.
If you are contacted by an editor to review a book manuscript, it is usually because of your expertise in the topic on which a book manuscript focuses. Editors usually provide a set of prompts or suggestions for conducting the review, but at any point, often value your input and appreciate any additional comments you have on how to improve the work.
One of the first major areas of focus during a manuscript review is the general quality of the book. Editors often ask for general feedback on the overall quality, scope and readership of the volume and whether the presentation and accessibility of the book is suitable. They will work closely with the specific editors or author(s) of the book to adapt your feedback whenever possible.
In particular, editors and authors often find it helpful if manuscript reviewers address the following questions in their responses:
In return for your time and input, publishers often provide honorariums consisting of payment in dollars or local currency and should confirm this amount prior to your agreement to conduct a manuscript review. An equivalent worth in books from the publisher’s current list is also often offered.
If contacted with a request to review a manuscript, it’s best to let the editor who contacted you know as soon as possible whether or not you would be willing to take on the project. Editors should provide a timeline of the project for your reference and a deadline by which they would be grateful to receive your feedback. If you agree to conduct a manuscript review, it is important to return your feedback by this deadline.
If you do not think that you will have time to review the manuscript by the deadline offered, tell the editor at your earliest convenience. If you think you may be able to conduct the review with a little more time, it is also advisable to let the editor know so that a new deadline might be agreed. Let the editor know as soon as possible if at any time during a review in progress it appears that you will not meet an agreed deadline.
Alternately, if you do not have time at all for the project for which you have been contacted but are interested in reviewing future projects, let the editor know.