Humans are social creatures. Even the most self-professed antisocial authors enjoy occasionally communing with other people. This is especially true when we’re feeling lonely, insecure, and unsure of ourselves. In other words – when we’re writing a book.
Well before our book will be available for readers, the questions start tugging at us: “Is my book idea any good? Will people be interested in it? What if this whole thing sucks and I don’t know it?” You wonder if maybe sharing “just a little” about your book with well-meaning friends, family, and others in your inner circle, might not be such a bad idea…
As it turns out – you’re right. It might not be “such” a bad idea. But only if you can make the distinction between constructive writing feedback, and noisy peanut gallery distraction. Here’s how NOT to solicit book feedback, even from well-meaning people.
1. Friends vs. Editors: Don’t confuse friendship with obligatory editorial control over your book. Having rapport with someone, even loving them, and therefore respecting their opinion, is not a valid reason to automatically loop them into your book project. You can still love and respect someone without turning them into your default developmental editor and book coach (leave that to the professionals please; he-hem).
2. Big Picture: Remember, no matter how much you think you are including an outsider in the details of your book project, they still do not have the full picture. Even if you “think” you’re telling them everything, there’s a whole other world of information about your book that is only in your head. Therefore, the opinions they’re giving you are incomplete. The danger here, is that by implementing their piecemeal opinions (tweak this idea here, add that one there, etc.), you risk moving around what are possibly interlocking puzzle pieces in your book’s grand plan.
3. Bias: If they know you TOO well, they will be biased either in favor of your book or, sometimes, against it (while believing in their heart of hearts they’re operating in your best interests). I’ve seen people’s loved ones honestly believing they’re “helping” the book but without professional training in the area of book helping, all they’re doing is judging the contents (story, lessons) of the book – not the writing of that content (other than editing punctuation marks and typos, which outsiders LOVE to do!).
4. Peanut Gallery: Any of the above on a grand scale, with multiple outsiders all chiming in with their “two cents,” especially if you do it on social media (please… don’t) can easily turn into a veritable peanut gallery of public opinion on your future book.
I’ve seen this happen on social media, an author inadvertently turning their book into a chaos of constant rewrites in all different directions, leaving their head spinning as they try and remember what they wanted to write a book about in the first place and why! To clarify, with all of the above I’m not talking about asking for people to vote on smaller pieces like title and cover, marketing messaging and such, once you’re done or almost done writing your book. I’m talking about the crafting of the vision, architecture, and foundation ideas of your emerging book.
Think of writing a book like creating a painting. At the very beginning, as you’re adding the broad strokes and allowing your vision to unfold on its own – what if you invited 50 people into the room, gave them each a paintbrush and allowed them to add little details of what THEY think the painting should be? How well do you think that painting would turn out?
PS: If you WOULD like constructive writing feedback and professional support as you develop and write your book, I offer several varieties – from my monthly informal Writers Club Live! group to my more comprehensive, highly structured, one-on-one intensive Book Coaching Programs. My mission is to help as many authors as humanly possible, write and publish books that make a real difference in this world!