The only way to know whether you research is publishable is to ship it.1
You can and should ship for feedback. And good shipping for distribution is still shipping for feedback.
That’s true before publication because it will help turn any “no’s” you receive into improvements in your research.
But even after publication, the best shipping for distribution still includes an openness to feedback.
Shipping for Feedback after Publication
After a piece has been published, responses might be positive, or they might be negative. Often, they’ll be some of both.
But you’re shortchanging yourself if you only consider either the positive or the negative responses.
The positive ones are most encouraging. You need that. The negative ones are probably be most educational. You need that too.
Just like when you ship for feedback to improve your work before seeking publication, it’s nice when critical responses aren’t trolling. But even when they are, it’s possible to read past that.
And the more you open yourself to look past the emotions bound up with having your work critiqued, the more you’ll be able to learn from those reviews and use them well.
Your openness to feedback even after publishing might even give you new ideas or help you produce better work in the future.
An Example of Using Feedback after Publication
One example is Tom Wright’s Justification.2 In that book, he’s responding primarily to John Piper’s Future of Justification, whose subtitle makes its critical stance fairly apparent, A Response to N. T. Wright.3
But Justification doesn’t just restate arguments Wright had previously made. It includes some distinct, new approaches to the debate about justification in Paul.
Justification shows an openness to provocation, an openness to critique, that leads to adaptation and attempts at refinement.
You might fall on either side of this debate between Wright and Piper, or you might take the choice for “none of the above.”
But in any of these cases, Wright’s Justification provides a helpful example of the kind of adaptability that can and should go along with shipping, even when you’re shipping for distribution.
A Concluding Encouragement
So, there are two ways to ship your work. You can ship it for feedback. Or you can ship it for distribution.
But even when you ship for distribution, shipping well means being open to feedback you might receive, whether before or after publication.
Shipping for feedback is primary. Yet that shouldn’t be the only shipping you ever do.
By continuously shipping only for feedback, you avoid shipping something for distribution that isn’t entirely perfect. But you also miss out on actually contributing to the discussion.
Shipping only for feedback doesn’t allow you to help the who that your research is really for in the first place.4
So, don’t get stuck. Work, write, rewrite, revise, and ship—ship both for feedback and for distribution—recalibrate and revise where necessary, and ship again.
Header image provided by Bench Accounting. ↩
N. T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009). Since its initial publication, the volume has also been re-released with an updated introduction (2016). ↩
John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007). ↩
For a similar point, see Stanley E. Porter, Inking the Deal: A Guide for Successful Academic Publishing (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 160–162. For the principle of the priority of who over what, I’m particularly playing off of and adapting the discussion of Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t (New York: HarperBusiness, 2001), 41–64. ↩