Proposals for potential books are subject to review, and editors at publishing houses usually write to experts in the same or similar fields, introduce themselves, and request the aid of those experts in commenting on the value of the proposal and its potential for investment as a book project. Book proposal reviews tend to precede book manuscript reviews and are almost always two separate processes.
An editor will usually include or attach a brief written proposal and a draft table of contents for the new book if they contact you to conduct a book proposal review. If you do not receive a table of contents with a proposal, it is advisable to ask the editor to send one.
The editor will ask you to read through the proposal, keeping an eye out for strengths and weaknesses. They will ask whether you think that the current structure of the proposal is the most effective way of approaching this material and whether the proposal covers the major aspects of its subject adequately.
In particular, editors and authors often find it helpful if proposal 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 you are contacted with a request to perform a proposal review, 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 proposal review, it is important to return your feedback by this deadline.
If you do not think that you will have time to review the proposal by the deadline offered, tell the editor at your earliest convenience. It is also advisable, if you think you may be able to conduct the review with a little more time, 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.