Step by Step Guide to Submitting a Book Review

Slashdot is a great resource for lots of technical news and book reviews but I have experienced problems submitting book reviews and the Slashdot book review guidelines could be presented in a clearer way (with some pictures).

Even though I have had book reviews published, I have been unable to get a submission that shows up in the pending list of book reviews, so although this is a guide for first-time book review submitters, its also become a request for improvements from Slashdot.

Creating a good book review can take a while when you include reading the book. You should also plan to spend up to an hour (or more) formatting the review text and preparing for your submission, as it can be a bit of a fiddly process.

once you have submitted the review to Slashdot you are unable to edit it in anyway, so you need to get it right first time.

Writing the review

As mentioned there is the Slashdot book review guide, a long page on how to write a book review that has lots of useful suggestions. I suggest you read this page and make your own notes on writing a review

The Slashdot book review guidelines also include a few lines on how to submit a review, but some information seems out of date and the overall process is not as clear as it could be. So here are my additions to guide you through the submission process more smoothly.

Format of your review

Its recommended by Slashdot that you write your submission in plain text editor as only simple HTML formatting is allowed. There is no way to cut and paste rendered HTML as part of your submission, eg. You cant copy a web page, only the text will be pasted into the slashdot form and you loose your links.

Allowed HTML tags include:

  • P - use paragraphs and not link brakes (br tag is not welcome)
  • a href - use for hyptertext - dont just include URLs in the text
  • cite - use this tag when referring to the book title
  • " " - use quotation marks around chapters and section titles (dont include Chapter x or Section x inside the quotes)

Alternative approach: write your review as a WYSIWYG editor that will show you the html - most blogs will do this. Keep formatting very plain and ensure that only the above hypertext is used. Blogs tend to put styles, divs and br codes all over. If you have simple html code, then copy and paste from the HTML view of blog / editor into the “Your Scoop” section. If your code is messy, copy the html into a simple editor and do some find/replace work.

What to hypertext / link

Dont go crazy with your hypertext links in your review, only hypertext the essential parts of your review.

The review should link the book title to the books page on the Barnes and Noble website, unless the book is not available from them. Slashdot has an arrangement with Barnes and Nobel and will change any links you include that point elsewhere (or remove those links)

Submitting the review

Reviews are only accepted by submitting them via the Slashdot submissions page, any emailed reviews are ignored.

1) Open your browser at the Slashdot submissions page

I dont recommend using the submit a story link that is on the top navigation bar. The submit a story link (eventually) pops up a form within the page, but I find it very slow to appear. Also, if you accidental click away from the form onto the browser window behind, then the form closes.

2) Before adding any information, enter bookreview as the tag followed by a comma or press the preview button to update the submissions form.

Adding the bookreview tag changes the form layout, so you can enter the book details. Those details will be used to create a table of book details in the final review, however you dont see that table in our submission until your review has been published by the Slashdot team.

Be wary of entering any other tags than bookreview. Other tags can confuse the form and mean your submission does not get classified as a book review on Slashdot.

3) Fill in the book review form fields.

The book review form fields are fairly obvious, although you should take note that there is a Story Title field and a Book Title field.

The story title is usually “Book Review: Book title”, although if the book title and sub title is quite long, then you should use a suitable abbreviation for the book title. You can then put the full book title in the Book Title form field.

The URL form field is for the original source of a story. I am not sure if this is relevant to a book review unless you want to include a link from your Slashdot submission to a copy of the book review on your personal blog. I included the review on my own website, but this seems to have been removed by the Slashdot editors.

4) Dont save yet

Only use the Preview button until you have completely finished. Once you press save, you cannot do anything more with your submission so wait until you are finished!

Add your review to the “Your Scoop” text box using simple HTML formatting tags from a simple text editor

The first paragraph of the text in this “Your Scoop” section is the text you will see on the main page of the Slashdot page (if published). The following paragraphs will be included in the full page review “Read More” link.

Remember - only press the Preview button until you have completely finished. Once you press save, you cannot do anything more with your submission.

5) Make sure your review looks right before submitting it.

You can switch between preview and editing screens until your submission times out, which will happen sometime after an hour. Its important to keep a copy of the html text for the review outside of the browser, cutting and pasting a new version into the submissions form.

Only press save when you are absolutely sure everything look good in preview mode. Once you press save you cannot change anything about your submission and will have to resubmit if there are errors.

Keep a copy of the html code you have submitted, just in case. Also you can use that as a reminder for the next review.

6) Check your book review has been submitted

Click on your account name in the top right hand corner, this will take you to your logged in view of Slashdot.

Click on the submissions tab in the left hand navigation bar and you should see your submissions. There is a status message at the top of the page, but I have not actually found it accurate. Currently I have one book review published and a few duplicate submissions whilst I was working this submission process out. However, the status message says I have no stories accepted and two rejected, there seems to be no more details available about which posts have been accepted, pending or rejected.

7) Wait. Be patient. Find something else to do.

It can take quite a while for your review to be published. I suggest setting your expectations at around 2 weeks. If your review has not been published by then, perhaps it may never be published.

If there is something is incorrect or missing from this guide please let me know. Thanks to to Bob Roberts of the Slashdot team for helping me understand the process.

Thank you.

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