Thursday, 1 October 2015
Author asks for, and receives, feedback
A month ago, I launched an experiment. Having sent my manuscript to Unbound, and received encouraging comments from two esteemed editors, I decided to ask for input from subscribers - before the book is published.
I wanted to know what people liked, and what they might like even more - a careful formula for feedback that I learned a few years ago, when training as a coach and a performer. By telling me a) what they already liked, reviewers would give me encouragement, and by b) suggesting improvements they might help me to make the book better.
(As a formula, this is very different from the ad hoc approach I took as a young newspaper reviewer. Then, I was more interested in making myself look clever than in helping the author or would-be readers. But I changed my ways after receiving a review of my own first book, written in that unkind spirit. Immediately, I understood why many authors and artists don't read reviews.)
On this blog, and elsewhere, I offered to send proof copies of the book to the first seven subscribers to get in touch. I doubted that I would get so many, but in the event I was overwhelmed, and only stopped accepting requests when I had printed off and posted 25 glue-bound proofs, and mailed them all over the world.
Now, after a month, I have received back most of the reviews.
And I'm grateful to everybody for their time and thoughtful consideration. It has been variously moving, encouraging, funny, ego-boosting, disappointing and painful. I have come to see (yet again, but it's such a hard thing to remember) that everybody is entitled to their opinion, and that I don't have to agree with it. (Several reviewers considerately reminded me of that in the email containing their review.)
As I told each of the reviewers, I have no idea yet what I will do with their work. I may post it online, or print it in the book, entirely, or in edited highlights, or not at all. I may take up their suggestions, or seem to disregard them. (I can't satisfy everyone, because some people strongly liked what others didn't.)
In publishing and other sectors, producers like to take the "best" (most complimentary) parts of reviews and use them to sell the product. I will almost certainly do that! I hope I will also have the courage to publish insights that I found less appealing - but I'll need to check this with Unbound, who have a stake in this book's success too.
Reviewers: thank you!