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What Is Book Evaluation?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 23, 2024
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A book evaluation is an assessment of the suitability of a book for a particular purpose. Most books are evaluated by an editor before they are deemed fit for publication. Books from major publishers and those selected for research and university libraries may be evaluated many times. A book evaluation includes analysis of the author or authors, publisher, subject matter, and bibliographic material. Older books are often evaluated to ensure that any information they contain is still up to date.

All books begin as manuscripts that have been created by an author and submitted to a publisher. If the author has an agent, the agency may have an in-house editor evaluate the book before submitting it. Otherwise, the book will first be analyzed by an employee of the publishing house. If it is deemed suitable for the house’s needs, it will be passed on to an editor or series of editors. These editors will prepare a more thorough book evaluation to determine if the work is worthy of publication.

Once the book has cleared these hurdles, it is published and marketed either to the general public or to a specialized audience. For many books, particularly fiction, there is only one final level of evaluation, reviews from professional book critics. In many cases, a review consists of a critic’s emotional and subjective response to the work rather than a formal book evaluation. These reviews can determine a book’s financial success, particularly if they appear in an influential source, such as Publisher’s Weekly or the New York Times Book Review.

Works selected for a university or public library are subject to further book evaluation. This evaluation is very formal and systematic; it takes into account the available publishing data and contrasts it with the needs of the institution. In a university library, for example, books are often used as references for academic research papers. If an author, book or subject is determined to be inadequate as resource material, this can result in the book being removed from the library.

Often, this happens because the information in the book is out of date. Scholarly materials, particularly in the sciences, must be updated frequently as new discoveries are made. This is why researchers follow academic and scientific journals that document these new discoveries. If the information in a book is outmoded, the book may be removed from the library to prevent errors by students or researchers. Whether a book is accepted or rejected, the book evaluation is kept on file, so the information on its suitability is available for future evaluations.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Dec 17, 2013

@browncoat - I think it depends on the book. If it's a historical novel, for example, you might want to get an evaluation of the historical accuracy of the book. Or if it's a military book or something that involves a lot of facts mixed in with the fiction it would definitely be worth getting it evaluated. Although that might be something a publisher would be willing to do if they bought the book.

By browncoat — On Dec 16, 2013

@MrsPramm - There is no need to get your manuscript evaluated before submitting to a publisher. Generally if you've got a book that can be knocked into publishing shape someone will want it. The kinds of problems you can remove with an evaluation are generally not the kind that stop your book from being picked up by someone.

If you've got extra money and you want some feedback on your writing an evaluation by a professional with lots of experience in your genre won't hurt, but I don't know if they will offer anything that a few beta readers can't and they will do it for free.

By MrsPramm — On Dec 15, 2013

If you are a fiction author you can also choose to have a manuscript evaluated before submitting it to a publisher. You can only submit once and you've only got that one chance to get your book published with each place, so it might be a good idea to ensure that your book is the best that it can be before submitting it to agents and publishers.

A professional evaluation can help you to fix up any issues with pacing or plot holes that you might otherwise not notice.

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