When an author gets close to completing a book, it is smart to put that book through a peer and/or reader review process.
Sending the manuscript to objective professionals in your industry—at least three and maybe up to ten, respected for their feedback—will save an author from making serious mistakes that the author may be too close to his own writing to realize. If peers like the book, then they are in a pivotal position to give a testimonial or recommend it. There is nothing more flattering to professional colleagues than asking them to review a manuscript. It shows you consider them at the top of the profession and value their judgment, and it is important the letter requesting the review reflect that.
It is also critical to get feedback from members of the target audience on how readable the book is and whether it fills their needs in a number of aspects.
Please note that at this stage of the writing process the author is not looking for testimonials or endorsements. That comes later (see Section 2-2).
Coordinating a Review Process
The author should select as many as ten peer or audience reviewers, and personally ask them whether they would be willing to review the book and give them an approximate time when the book will be ready for review. This should be done months in advance of the time the review is needed. A reviewer may ask to be paid for his or her time, particularly if he or she is a highly-paid subject matter expert. The author will have to decide if that review is important enough to pay for. It may be that this well-placed person will be in the position to endorse the book and may be worth paying for.
The author should collect the relevant contact material with the initial request and ask if the reviewer would prefer a printed or electronic version of the manuscript (or both). When the manuscript is completed and ready for review (completed in this context means the chapters, introduction and table of contents are finished and the manuscript may or may not have been edited), then it is time to email the prospective reviewers and let them know that the manuscript is on its way, with an appropriate cover letter or email.
Review Request Letter
The cover letter or email sent with the manuscript should come directly from the author and contain the following:
• A sincere thank you for taking the time to do the review.
• A deadline that you need to have the review returned (usually 2-3 weeks) with a reason for that deadline (publisher commitment, publication schedule).
• Specific questions or concerns the author would like to have the reviewer address that pertain to what you are concerned about.
• See the suggested letter, questions and review tools or create your own to help reviewers rate the book.
Tracking the Review Process
You may want to create a log of everyone who has been asked to provide a review and include contact information, date sent and follow up information. Unfortunately, considering what a big job it is to do a review of a book, you can expect that some of these individuals will never get around to doing it and you may never get a response. That is okay – that is the reason you started with ten. If half come back this is plenty of information for you to use. Follow up very gently on or about the day you’ve requested the review be returned and again every week for the following two weeks. If you don’t hear anything after a month, just drop it.
Send a Thank You
Send a thank you by email at a minimum. It is customary to send a signed copy of the book with a thank you note for anyone who took the time to review the book.
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