There are two kinds of review processes, the “Critical Comment” review and “Overall Evaluation” review. This essay gives you options you can use for each kind of review.
“Critical Comment” Reviews
To date, the best way I have found to get critical comments from users is to use Dropbox. They have partnered with Adobe, and the review-comment capability is spectacular. Perhaps the biggest advantage of that strategy is that when you upload a new version, previous comments are preserved, which is really handy if the text they applied to hasn’t been changed.
Here’s the process:
- Post it on DropBox.
- Send the link to reviewers, requesting critical comments and suggestions in the online file, rather than downloading it and making comments separately.
- That way, reviewers see what others have said, and even interact in the comment space.
- And all the comments you need to act on are in one place.
Notes on Annotations (for reviewers)
Send these notes to your reviewers, so they know how things work:
- When you highlight a bit of text, an option appears that lets you add a comment. (And you can get emails when people reply to them, the same way I do when you create one.)
- I mark comments as “resolved” when I’m done processing them, which hides them from view, so I can focus on what’s left. (So if you don’t see your comment, that’s why.)
- But there is also an option to display all comments, which includes comments on previous versions, as well as the most recent version.
- Each of the comments is numbered. So if you follow a link that goes to comment #58 for example, but don’t see the other comments in that thread, you may need to select the display-all option and then scroll down to find #58 again.
To make things easier for your reviewers, hide resolved comments only when you’re actively processing comments, and unhide them when you’re done.
Overall “Evaluation” Reviews
This process applies mostly to drafts of a book.
When you are very nearly finished, and are ready to send out your work to a wider audience, you’re looking for evaluation comments, rather than detailed feedback. Most importantly, you want to limit the chances that the work will be downloaded and distributed without your knowledge. (It’s not so much that it’s important right now, but if it takes off and becomes popular, any would-be pirate could use that version — and even defend themselves in court!) The process isn’t foolproof, but like a tiny padlock on a gym locker, “it keeps honest folks honest”.
Sharing a No-download, No-print Version
Here’s the process to turn off downloading and printing, for anyone other than the totally determined:
- Check the Dropbox version for last-second comments, then rename it to “_draft” and archive it locally, so it is no longer available on Dropbox.
- Simply renaming the file doesn’t do the trick. The share link still works.
- So physically remove the file from the Dropbox drive.
- Generate the review-copy PDF.
- In the trade, it’s known as an Advance Review Copy, or ARC.
- Upload it to Google Drive and set permissions:
- Upload the file.
- Allow file-level comments.
- Right click > Share
- Enable comments:
- Make the file viewable by anyone who has the link:
- Change Who Can Access
- Set link sharing to ON, rather than OFF
(When off, only specified people can access the file. Good for early drafts.)
- Turn off downloading and printing:
- Sharing > Advanced
- Turn off downloads
- Turn off the ability for others to change the access settings
- Sharing > Advanced
- Share the file. Either:
- Use the share dialog, putting names into it to send the link, or
- Email the shared-file link at top of the advanced settings dialog, or obtained from one of the other buttons that gives it to you.
- Send the link to reviewers:
- When the review period is over, remove the file from GoogleDrive.
- At this point, anyone who had the share-link was able to give it to others who might be interested.
- That’s a good thing, as it begins to develop viral interest.
- But if that link is good forever, the folks who use it won’t be accessing the final “new and improved” version with its last minute edits and final layout. (Plus, you’d like folks to buy the darn thing, wouldn’t you?)
- So when you’ve published the work, you take down the shared version, and everything is good.
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