DESI BOOKS REVIEW GOALS
The goal of Desi Books Review is to provide singular ways to approach and engage with particular books, to explore what the writer has aimed for, and understand whether they’ve achieved it. It is not to tell readers whether a book is good or bad or provide a summary. For more, see this manifesto for literary criticism at Poets & Writers. Also, please read this Editor’s Note from the first issue.
Books by writers of South Asian origin are certainly given review space at many venues, including those that aren’t desi-centric. Occasionally, however, there are what Maxine Hong Kingston has described as “cultural misreadings”, no matter how well-intentioned the reviewer or the editor might be. At Desi Books, we want to place our books within our particular literary traditions (Anglophone and regional language; local and diasporic; contemporary and classic) and explore related sociocultural, historical, and political interpretations in an accessible manner for a general audience.
➤Please click to expand and view the list of reviewers and writers who have worked with us.
WHICH BOOKS TO PITCH
The books being pitched must be by writers of South Asian origin and traditionally published. Apologies, but no hybrid or self-published books at this time. Genres supported right now: adult fiction; literary translations; creative and narrative nonfiction; graphic works; poetry collections. Apologies, but no cookbooks, self-help, business, gardening/home decorating, religion, kid lit, young adult, romance, or horror at this time. NOTE: This isn’t about being non-inclusive but about focusing on the present, limited areas of knowledge and expertise with limited resources. As Desi Books grows, it will be possible to bring on experts in other book genres and compensate them.
Desi Books will always welcome books from big publishers as well as independent, traditional presses. As a starting point, please look through the #DesiBooksReco channel, where new and notable books are listed monthly.
While approximately 70% of the reviews will be for new books (published within the last six months max), at least 30% will always be dedicated to backlisted books (published more than six months ago) or literary essays that look across a writer’s oeuvre or a particular theme or subject. Some books require a certain time and distance before we can do them justice. Some books become even more pertinent in present times than when they emerged.
WHO CAN PITCH REVIEWS
A majority of the reviews will be commissioned but pitches can also be submitted (see the link below.) Desi Books is a small, growing venue with limited resources. Reviewers who’ve already published at professional venues are preferred. Please include links to previously-published reviews in your pitch (see below) as reference.
The desi community of writers and reviewers is rather small. Many of us know each other. Please avoid pitching books where you are friends (or enemies) with the writer. If unsure, be upfront about any connections or potential conflicts of interest in the review pitch. If you’ve accepted any favor or compensation from a publisher or author to blog or share or otherwise write about their work, please do not pitch a review. If you’ve already blurbed a book, please do not pitch a review for it.
Please ALWAYS send a review pitch rather than the entire review at first. NOTE: Longer literary essays may be commissioned at different rates separately.
WHERE TO SEND REVIEW PITCHES
We are no longer publishing reviews.
GENERAL REVIEW GUIDELINES
- Send in a Word docx file: Times New Roman; 12 point font; double-spaced; PLEASE use the Oxford comma and follow the Chicago Manual of Style (see major style differences here.)
- Keep to an 800 minimum and 1200 maximum word limit (you can go over if you need to; it’s just that we cannot pay more at this stage.)
- Add the book title, author, publisher name, main country of publication, and publication date under the byline at the top.
- Add a proposed one- or two-sentence summary of the review under the byline at the top.
- When using quotes from the book, include the page numbers in parentheses.
- Write in an accessible versus an overly scholarly way and for a general audience.
- Foreground the book, not the author; this is not an author profile.
- Do not simply summarize the book. We don’t want the “what” as much as the “so what.”
- Although we all bring our personal tastes and cognitive biases to our reading, a professional review should be about more than our personal response to a book. Also, this is not a bibliomemoir essay, which is a valid and lovely literary genre in its own right.
- Ideally, have a particular thesis in mind so that the review is a detailed, singular response to it. An example thesis: “This book explores the theme of X in a singular way because of A, B, C.” Then, the review becomes an essay-length, cohesive response to that thesis.
- Somewhere within the review, aim to situate the book within the desi literary canon and within the author’s body of work. However, be wary of comparing a thin thing to a fat thing. Not every short story collection is like Lahiri’s and not every magical realism book is like Midnight’s Children.
- A review is a literary form in itself. We want strong opening hooks that will make a reader want to read the entire review and we want endings that leave the reader wanting to know more about the book.
- Include your one-paragraph author bio at the end of the review text.
- Avoid four-letter or swear words unless quoting from the book.
- Avoid italics or other odd fonts for non-English words. Our readers are smart enough to look things up.
- Always aim for specificity versus generalities. So, avoid these and similar book review bingo words whenever possible. 🙏
TIMING, RIGHTS, AND COMPENSATION
Please allow at least ONE business week for a response to a review pitch. Given limited resources, while all pitches will be read, only those accepted will be sent responses. Please do not send follow-ups as all pitches will definitely be read and considered, just not responded to. You can always pitch a different book.
If a review is accepted, a contract will be sent for signatures, etc. It will be valid for two years in case you’d like to pitch more reviews during that period. It will also include information about how you will always own the copyright for your work but you are giving Desi Books first rights to publish it exclusively for a period of one year from the date of publication. After this, you are free to publish it anywhere you like with proper attribution as to where it first appeared.
All reviews, once accepted, will go through an editorial process before publication. However, please proofread for typos, grammar, punctuation, etc., before submitting.
At this time, there is a $50 honorarium per review. Payment will be done via Paypal or Google Pay within ONE business week of the review’s publication. For reviewers residing in South Asia, we can pay via UPI or netbanking. No invoice is required.
Reviews will be published on the Desi Books website for a limited period of time. After that, there will be a migration to a very economical monthly subscription model.
If you have any other questions not answered above about Desi Books Review, or you’d like to share feedback about any of the reviews, please contact us here.