June 13, 2005 spout writing

Love Reviewers; Hate Reviews

I took a quick glance at some reviewer feedback for the Avalon book and already I’m trying hard not to hate the folks that send it in. Mean, hateful things like who is this guy?!?” and well, he’s never written a book” spring immediately to mind.

The thing is, reviewer feedback, especially harsh, blunt, spit-in-your-face reviewer feedback, is an extremely critical part of the book writing process (although, ironically, I most hate the reviews that sound like stuff I would write when I review…). Without reviews, authors don’t have any idea how their writing will be received til it’s published and we’re bound to do all kinds of stuff that’s reader or subject hostile that need correcting. Please, feel free to hit me with both barrels when you’re reviewing my stuff; I won’t promise to act on all the feedback, but I promise to consider all of it seriously.

I do have one request, however. This is something I try to do when I’m reviewing (and I’ve been known to make grown men cry): please start with something nice. This does two things:

  1. Gives the author a little ego boost before you chop his legs out from under him.
  2. Establishes your credibility as a reviewer. If you say something nice, especially if it’s insightful, e.g. Avalon data binding is a large topic, but I really love how this chapter presents practically all of it in an easy to follow manner,” then I’m much more willing to take feedback like, don’t let the sample app drive the chapter, make the technology coverage drive the sample” (not to pick on anyone in particular : ).

Of the two things, establishing your credibility as a reviewer is by far the most important because w/o it, there’s a good chance that the careful thought you put into your reviewer comments will not be fully considered (who wants to listen to a curmudgeon?).

Anyway, if you encounter me in the next month and I’m grumpty, it’s cuz I’m spending my weekends dealing with reviews. I might be crabby and violent, but at least I’m slow and easy to see coming. : )