Make sure your advice-givers are qualified to advise you
Everyone’s a critic. The prompt for Day 13 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks input on critique groups. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.
Day 13 writing prompt:
Have you participated in a critique group? If so, how did it work out for you? If not, why have you avoided joining one to this point? Is your critique group online or does it meet in person? What is the most useful thing you get out of your participation? How do you think a critique group could help you improve your writing?
Smart authors will agree that they need feedback in order to publish the best books possible. YA author and fellow member of the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion group, Patrick
Hodges, recently wrote a post for our group blog where he exhorted authors of every level and genre to use beta readers to improve their books. I couldn’t agree more – critical evaluation by those qualified to do so is essential if an author wishes to make a good book. Period.
There’s a key phrase in that last sentence, though: “those qualified to do so.”
I recently overheard a conversation between an aspiring author and a couple of self-published authors, one an award-winner and the other newly minted. The advice to the aspiring author was flowing freely. One problem: it wasn’t all good advice. Just because someone has already published a book does not mean they’ve published a good book, a polished book, or the best book they could have released. It would behoove a person who’s seeking advice on publishing, book marketing, or just about any other subject to pay attention to the skills and experience of the advice giver.
Take a casual survey of the authors you know. Chances are you’ll find some who love critique groups, some who hate them, and a few who could take them or leave them. I find myself in the take-them-or-leave-them category. I tried a couple of groups in the past – probably 10 years ago – and found them to be alternately hyper-critical, to the point that nothing constructive came out of the advice, or so focused on the social get-together that critiquing each others’ writing took a distant second place on the priority list to gossiping and dishing. I think I quit trying after visiting four groups.
This is not to say that critique groups can’t – and don’t – offer invaluable input that can immeasurably improve WIPs (works in progress). But, as LM says above, if the advice-givers are unskilled, the recommendations can be from middling to terrible. Not the kind of input most authors need when it comes to improving their manuscripts.
In short, definitely get input from readers who are qualified to give you feedback. This does not have to be in the form of a critique group. Accept the feedback graciously. Consider it before dismissing it – even the responses that initially make you ask, “Delete that scene? What – are you out of your mind?!” Act on the suggestions that actually improve your manuscript, and dismiss the rest.
Choose your beta readers carefully. Don’t hand your book over to Nancy Nitpick and then act surprised when she’s ripped the whole thing to shreds. Don’t ask for feedback and ignore all of it – especially if you receive the same advice/feedback from several sources. Don’t give your book only to readers who will blow smoke up your ass in an attempt to please you. They’re not doing you any favors if they tell you a bad book is good just to avoid hurting your feelings.
Please be sure to check out my next post, where I’’ll be talking about editing. An editor’s input on editing. I wonder where I’ll come down on that…
And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.
Here’s to changing things up every once in a while!
**Blogs from which “pro” and “con” comments came:
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!