Asking for Feedback on Your Book
By Alexandra O’Connell, Your Resident Wordsmith
There’s only so much writing we can do before our questions—Is this any good? Is this clear? What should I change?—take up an endless loop in the echo chamber of our heads. If you are at this point with your book, you need to recruit outside feedback.
You especially need outside feedback if you’ve gone back and revised your opening chapter more times than there are repeated days Groundhog Day. If this is you, stop. Ask for help.
Below are guidelines to help you get the most out of outside feedback. You first must choose your readers wisely.
People you should ask for feedback
- Members of your writer’s group
- A writing instructor
- Book editors
These people are familiar with your genre, professional best practices, and your style of writing (in the case of your writer’s group and any instructors you have had). They also have experience in sharing writing insights with authors.
People you should NOT ask
- Your immediate family
- Your best friend
- Writers who work in a completely different genre
The personal relationship your family and close friends have with you will color how they give you feedback. Not everyone has experience in the field, and writers of other genres often operate under vastly different expectations.
How to get good feedback
- Be intentional. Choose readers you know can provide useful information. People you know who will only gush, or people you know will hate it, are not useful to you.
- Be selective. Don’t splatter the manuscript across the countryside of your connections. Too many opinions are counterproductive. Choose two to three readers, at any one time, max.
- Ask for specific, yet open-ended feedback. For instance, “I’d love to hear what you think about the beginning,” or “I want to make sure this concept is clear” gives your readers direction. Make sure your questions are NOT yes/no answers.
- Realize that this is a favor. Respect the fact that they may say no—for many reasons. They don’t have time; they don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with you; they don’t feel like it.
- Don’t argue. Listen to their answers and ask clarifying questions if you need to, but don’t try to prove your point if you disagree with what they say. You are receiving information. What you do with that is your business, not theirs.
What to do with this information
Don’t rush to make changes. Read through your manuscript, or pertinent sections, again.
If two of your three readers make the same points, pay attention. Investigate.
Give yourself time. You may need to let the work sit for a while after you receive the comments. You can kill a manuscript by overworking it, and the easiest way to overwork your book is when you fail to take a break. The process is like baking cake: you need to let it cool first, before slicing it up.
Alexandra O’Connell, Your Resident Wordsmith, provides coaching for writers in the early stages of their book manuscript, and works with authors on developmental/conceptual review, and copy and line editing. Make sure your book stands out for all the right reasons! Find her at www.alexoconnell.com.
The views expressed herein are not those of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, its officers or directors. They are solely and completely those of the author. The Colorado Independent Publishers Association will not be held liable for any legal action resulting from information published in this newsletter, and the organization’s insurance will not cover any such action.