Procedures & Style Guide

How It Works: The Production Process

  1. If your pitch is accepted, an ARB editor will reach out to you! They will ask you to read our style guide (this document), set a draft date, and set up a review copy if needed.
  2. Due dates for a draft are generally about 8 weeks from commission; depending on the release date of the book and ARC availability, we may shoot for an earlier or later draft date. ARB is very flexible with dates, but please alert your editor if you need to change a draft date—we are an all-volunteer organization, and need to plan how to allocate our editorial time.
  3. Once you have a draft written, share it with your editor—any format is fine, but we do most of our work in Google Docs.
  4. You will receive an invitation to join ARB’s WordPress, so you can be properly credited as an author. If you have or create a WordPress username that is not obviously your name, please let your editor know.
  5. One of ARB’s editors will send you a Google Doc of your article, with suggestions and comments. You should accept, reject, or otherwise rewrite these suggestions; if needed, you and your editor can do a few rounds of this.
  6. Once basic edits are complete, your part is finished! The review or essay will go on to be copy edited and formatted for web publishing.
  7. ARB generally shoots to publish reviews close to the books’ release dates; however, publication of your article may depend on other factors in our publishing schedule.

Review Copies

ARB will attempt to secure reviewers advance reader copies (ARCs) whenever possible. To facilitate this process:

  • Let your editor know if you already have a copy of the text.
  • If you can only work with a certain format—digital or print—please communicate that right away; some works may not be available in some formats.

Please be aware that:

  • ARB is not always able to secure ARCs, for a variety of reasons. If we can’t get you an ARC of the work you’d like to review, we invite you to pitch a review of something else, and we’ll try again!
  • We generally cannot get ARCs for fiction after the publication date; academic titles may have some leeway.
  • Publishers do not always share tracking/shipping updates with us, so please be patient if it takes a review copy a while to show up.
  • ARB may need to share your mailing address, email, or social media handles with publishers in order to get you an ARC.

Reviewers are strongly encouraged to create accounts with Edelweiss+ and Netgalley. These services allow you to see and request digital ARCs from publishers.

Basic Format

  • Word Count
    • Reviews: 750-1,000 words.
    • Essays: 1,000-1,500 words.
    • If you think your piece needs to be longer, talk to your editor—we may be interested in a longer essay, or in breaking it into a multi-part article. With reviews, we generally shoot for a hard cap of 1,000 words.
  • Every article needs the following production information pasted at the top of the document:
  1. Title of Piece:
  2. Author Name (pronouns in parentheses):
  3. Bio (c. 100 words):
  4. Contact email:
  5. WordPress email (if different from above):
  6. Websites (if any, to be linked in bio):
  7. Twitter, Instagram, or other social media to be linked to:
  8. Transparency statement (ARB editors will add, but please note anything here if you think needed):

Review Guidelines & Tips

  • ARB is an online magazine devoted to witty, incisive criticism that is readable to a broad audience interested in our tagline: “literature, culture, power, speculation.” We focus on both speculative fiction and critical nonfiction in literary and culture studies—whatever writing targets the utopian political drives behind ARB and our editorial collective.
  • Avoid recaps and plot summaries, except for the minimum necessary to set up your review. A summary is not a review.
  • Your review should have a point or through-line, an opinion or a theory: it should have a take of some kind! Someone reading your review should come away with a sense of what you thought about the book, and what it made you think about.
  • Book reviews can have differing, sometimes contradictory purposes. The most basic level is to help potential readers decide whether or not they want to pick this book up. At ARB, we want our reviews to focus more on criticism: “opening the book up” by examining its themes, its connections to other works and ideas, and by personal reflections.
  • Critical does not (necessarily) mean negative, but we are here to review the book, not to sell it. You’re encouraged to talk about things you loved, but don’t feel like you need to drench every review in superlative-laden hype. Negative reviews are welcome, but should be grounded in the book’s issues. Similarly, positive reviews should highlight specific aspects of the book which are particularly excellent, and should be grounded in a sense of literary practice and culture, not simply what you enjoy or prefer.
  • Review the book you’re reading. Not the one you thought it would be, or wanted it to be.
  • ARB reviews are for a general but interested audience. Don’t write for specialists. Many academics assert they write to make an impact on the world; ARB takes seriously the idea that criticism can do just that, and so we want the reviews and essays we publish to make sure these are intelligible to everyone regardless of whether or not they went to graduate school (or undergrad!). 
  • When reviewing, try to give a sense of the work’s scope, newsworthiness, or interest. The overwhelming majority of humans will not read this book (that’s true even of giant blockbuster best-sellers); why should ARB’s readers have this book on their radar?
  • The best ARB writing will not only comment on the works discussed, but teach, and inspire further discourse. Nonfiction reviews, for example, should communicate the import and impact of an academic work on the world at large.
  • Be careful with statements about how “you”, “we”, or “the reader” will engage with the text. It’s generally safer (and more engaging writing) to just state your point directly, or to frame it with your reactions. (“It’s a shocking but satisfying twist” is much stronger than “readers will be shocked and satisfied by this twist.”)
  • If at all possible, avoid the use of footnotes and parenthetical citations—use links where possible, and a final “further reading” section is always welcome. We generally discourage page number citation: we are often working from non-final review copies, and trying to avoid an overly-academic look and feel.
  • If possible, make the ARB connection: what about this book might be of interest to ARB’s readers? How does it connect with issues of systemic injustices and/or utopian impulses? Don’t feel like you need to stretch the book to make it fit ARB—we’re interested in a very broad range of topics. But, if you can highlight some of those connections or themes, that’s great!

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