How to respond to peer reviews of your book manuscript

Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press, and Jessica Gribble, acquisitions editor at Lynne Rienner Publishers, share their advice on how to best handle the peer review process:

Don’t take it personally. “Remember that the purpose of this review is to help you make your manuscript the best work it can be,” said Gribble. Also, reading criticism, even constructive criticism, of something you’ve worked on for so long can be emotional, so it is wise to wait several days before discussing it with your editor.

An inside look at peer review

Academic presses invest a lot of effort in the peer review process. While most academics understand the process — either from personal experience or tales shared at conferences — less understood is how editors and publishers view peer review.

“The primary reason for peer reviewing manuscripts is to reinforce the publisher’s reputation as serious and professional,” said Jessica Gribble, an acquisitions editor at Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Individual editors also value peer review, she said: “We can’t be experts in every subject we acquire, so we rely on reviews to help us know whether the content of the manuscript is high quality.” Another goal of the peer review process is to confirm what the press believes to be the market for the book. “We’re getting both a content analysis and a market analysis,” said Gribble.

How to get the most out of peer reviews

Rather than seeing the peer review process as negative, veteran academic authors William Stallings and Francine McKenzie encourage authors to see it as a valuable opportunity to improve their work.

McKenzie, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, said authors should see peer reviews as part of a process of improving a piece and one’s writing skills in general. “Think of peer review as more an intellectual exchange than a judgment,” she said. “With this mindset, authors can approach peer review with enthusiasm instead of apprehension.”