What do reviews do?

The last post was on options for people seeking review outlets for their publications on SF, or alternatively, looking for outlets for whom they might write such reviews. What it didn’t address was what those reviews actually do.

When you’re slogging through the writing of a book, it can be difficult to remain motivated sometimes, especially if that book is an academic text. Once upon a time, I was a journalist, and I would spend a few hours writing an article I knew literally millions of people would read. Now? I spend years writing something that perhaps measures its readership in the hundreds.

So, you find motivation where you can. Imagining a positive response from that small but focused readership is one way. You may dream, perhaps foolishly, that the book once finished will be truly understood by the few who encounter it. That it might persuade, change their thinking, provoke thoughts of their own.

Sometimes, if you are really very fortunate, your book will find such a reader. If fortune compounds itself positively, they may even be motivated to review it. And then you might have that extraordinary experience of seeing someone engage positively and constructively with your work.

I am thankful therefore to Rhodri Davies for being such a reviewer: critically astute, carefully analytical, and positively engaged in his encounter with my book on Science Fiction and Catholicism. I’m also thankful to Foundation, the journal of the Science Fiction Foundation, for publishing his review.

Unlike reviews of, say popular fiction, which are aimed at either enhancing or eroding sales, reviews of academic studies aren’t going to tilt the dial of books sold, and in any case, no academic ever made their fortune out of book sales. Few make anything at all. Rather, when you see your book reviewed, what you’re hoping for is that someone got what you were saying, whether they agreed or not.

Rhodri got it. I hope you will too, if you choose to read it.

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