Who decides if a book is good? I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first two don’t count. I’m certain you don’t need 3 guesses. Just in case you’re exhausted, running a high fever and the walls are talking to you, or you just woke up from surgery and you’re still groggy from the anesthesia, I’ll go ahead and say it very clearly. The readers. The readers ultimately make that decision.
You can write that first book that you think is great. You can market the hell out of it. You can learn all the tricks to get that book to top ranking on Amazon and you can even use all the ways to manipulate that book to the NYT Bestseller list. In the end, if readers that love the genre(s) of your book don’t like your book, that may be the only one you ever sell.
What does any of this have to do with getting and giving critiques, reviews, and feedback? Absolutely everything. Identifying your target audience is the first step in getting and giving critiques that have real value. These are the people whose opinions matter.
In this post on review and critiques, I am primarily referring to those performed before publication. The value I’m speaking of is the quality of the feedback in helping you improve your craft and your book.
Once you have identified your target audience, the next step is to identify individuals within the target audience that like or write books that are similar to your book. This is the pool of people you want to recruit from for critiques and reviews. To identify these people join some reading and writing groups in that genre if you don’t already belong to some.
There are no local groups available to some writers but there are plenty of reading and writing groups available on the internet. You may want to join some internet groups even if you are in local groups. Granted, some groups are better than others and some groups require membership fees. Those fees can vary greatly. Get to know the readers and/or writers in the groups. Look at what types of books within that genre individuals in the reading groups like most. Do the same with the writers.
Most importantly don’t join the groups just for this purpose. Be an active supportive member of these groups. You could enjoy it and learn a lot in the process.
There are also beta reader groups and reviewer groups. You do want to make sure that you get reviewers that love the type of writing you want to be critiqued or reviewed. I read and love a wide range of genres but there are a couple of genres I will not review for two reasons. First, I would rather poke myself in the eye with a needle than read a book in either of those genres. Second, I know I would be doing the writer a disservice because my bias would affect my review. Also, remember writer etiquette: Get a review, give a review.
There are at least 4 points in the writing and publishing process where a writer might want to seek reviews or critiques:
- After the first or maybe the second draft, when the manuscript still has typos and grammar errors but the reviewer can still follow the plot and evaluate the other important aspects of the novel. This is done before any major time is spent performing line editing. Why waste time doing line editing of sections that may be cut or in need of major re-writes?
- The writer, at this point, has possibly done several rewrites and the manuscript has been polished and edited.
- Advance reader copies (ARCs) may be sent to advance readers when the writer thinks the book is almost ready for publishing.
- Reviews after publication.
In my next posts on critiques and reviews, I will discuss each of these types of reviews and how they differ. I’ll address what the writer can do to improve their chances of getting the feedback they need. I’ll also give some tips on how reviewers can provide helpful and useful reviews at the different stages.
I mentioned marketing earlier in my post and I in no way mean to diminish the importance of marketing. Before you spend countless hours and invest money in that marketing, it’s important that you at least have feedback from your targeted audience.
I do not claim to be an expert on this topic. I just want to share some of the things that I have learned. If you have thoughts on this topic, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’m interested in hearing any thoughts you might want to share.