I've received my fourth and final reader's report from this press, and am delighted with the results. My initially skeptical and challenging reader was really won over by my revisions, and now enthusiastically recommends my book for publication, though not without a fair amount of fine tuning. This report is excellent: it pays close attention to the argument and is scrupulous in its attention to clarity and style, making several pointed suggestions for further stylistic improvements. The reader felt the book's argument was a bit speculative, but now believes strongly that the book should be published because it's still important to speculate about the things I've speculated about, and I seem to have speculated quite well. I kind of disagree, but I like that this reader readily admits that she (or he) can disagree with me but still appreciate my work and want to see it in print.
Thus I must write one more response--to this report, and the others, detailing what I've already done, and how I would prepare the book for publication--and even if it's really good, the editor tells me that it's not by any means a shoe-in with the press's internal board and its faculty editorial board because the readers still want a bit more polishing. But it sounds like I might be allowed to foster a bit more cautious optimism than I had before. I mean, come on: would it even be possible for this reader to recommend a book for publication without suggesting more edits and changes? This reader pays attention to everything. And that's a good thing because it means that this book will be polished ad unguem (to the fingertips. Horace, Ars Poetica 294). Everything plus an updated CV is due Monday.
Happy fourth-of-July weekend response-writing to me. This is my third to this particular press, by the way. And I still want them to take my book. (Please).
That said, I am relieved and a bit elated because my toughest and most critical reader appreciated and liked my revisions. Her (or his) comments were much friendlier, even a little bit chatty, while at the same time detailed and precise, noting everything I'd done in direct response to her (or his) notes, and even adding several positive comments about other changes I'd made. And despite the many critical suggestions for final draft polishing, it is clear that this reader is now invested in the project and convinced of its merits. More importantly, many of the comments seemed to be engaging in a kind of dialogue with me, something I really feel I have earned. I'm sure over the next two weeks I'll care whether this press takes my book, but right now, what suffices is knowing that my revisions worked, not only for me, but for my most critical reader.