Feedback: Ah, just right

A woman seated on a bed sampling foodsUndoubtedly, we all know the story of Goldilocks and Three Bears. The part I have in mind, is when Goldilocks seeks equilibrium: porridge neither too hot nor cold and a bed neither too soft nor too hard.

Many authors seek out feedback or opinions on their work before submission. Of course, peer review will yield comments and likely things to change or address. All this feedback has value, but it is important to cast it in the right light.

Too Hot: A portion of authors, usually newer ones, will have challenges understanding that opinions from readers and reviewers are just that; opinions. Do not feel obliged to follow all of it. Sometimes it even contradicts itself. Read all the comments and really sit with them. Do not dig right in and start to make changes. Ask yourself:

  1. Which changes are essential because they caught true errors (grammar, citation formatting, statistical, or others)? These of course are a must to correct.
  2. Which suggestions help improve the work? Did they bring new perspectives or aspects you had not thought about? Consider how to implement in your own way and make them part of your work.
  3. Which are off base? Some readers may not have gotten your intent and their suggestions may be off base. Without changing your content, look to slightly retool your wording so other readers do not misinterpret it like the reviewer(s) did.
  4. Which comments represent a different approach, but not your approach? Some readers will suggest you look at a problem from the side, while you looked it from above. That is their perspective and does not require you to follow their vision for the topic and rip the work apart. If they are truly off base, reject their suggestions.

With peer review comments that you are not embracing in the categories of number three and four, you will likely have to respond to the journal as to why you are not making those changes with your full reasoning. But remember that you are in the driver’s seat of what comments get embraced and which one’s do not. It is your work!

Too Cold: A different portion of authors may resist any changes, except the most glaring errors. These authors might be dug in, defensive at every turn. Most of the time, comments and suggestions from readers are meant to help improve the work. It is rarely personal or an attack although it can feel like that. Once again, take your time and sit with the suggestions and really be open minded to them. No stonewalling.

Just right: See feedback as a way to improve the work, increasing the likelihood of being published, being read, and making a difference. Your work undoubtedly builds on the work of others. Picture the comments as coming from the key opinion leader in your field. Be open minded to the comments. I am sure they will taste, er, be just right.


John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. Schedule an initial complimentary phone call at Publishing Fundamentals. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.”Contact him at jbond@riverwindsconsulting.com.