So a niche is picked out. The cover is fantastic. The book is ready to be launched and promoted. However, there may be a crucial step that was missed along the way. A step so obvious that forgetting it may require an exasperated sigh. Did anyone read it yet?
I am not talking about the author reading it, or a service looking for grammar/spelling errors. I am talking about an outside party, that has no stake in the book, giving an opinion. A significant other, friends, and family members may mean well, but their opinions are jaded. They have a stake to maintain a good relationship with you. Even subconsciously, they may over-emphasize how much they like the book.
Getting an outside party to read the book, one without any stake in it, helps provide the same feedback you are going to get from other readers. What did they like? Was there a part that you lost them or they didn’t understand? How did things flow? Knowing how the book looks to another party is not just about the cover. You want to know how others are going to view the book once reading it. After all, knowing weak points allows a quick revision or two to build a better book.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. My favorite method is to use writing groups. Most writing groups are filled with other authors trying to figure things out. The book may be ripped apart, but don’t look at it as if the thing was a labor of love. Look at the book as a science experiment. The formula needs to be documented and tweaked to perfection. Take in their criticism, but don’t take all of it to heart. Instead, look for patterns within the criticism. If one person doesn’t like a scene in the book, it could just be that one person. But if a group of ten or more don’t like the scene, a revision is necessary.
The flip side of a writing group is that you have to read and contribute your opinion too. While this takes time, it also helps shed some perspective on what works and doesn’t. Knowing how another writes, and providing feedback, helps unravel your own tone. Every writer has their unique tone and message – it just may require a bit of discovering. Tone becomes obvious as you see others discovering their tones.
Another great thing about writing groups is that many are timed. You have to finish something before a deadline. That may be reviews or writing a short story. Either way, it needs to be completed before the group meets. That allows the slacker and dreamer part of the writer mind to meet with the fingers on the keyboard. Needing to achieve a requirement helps motivate more than articles about the potential.
There are two main places I would use to find writing groups. Meetup is one place I would use. What is great about that organization is that you can talk in person and write notes in person. The interaction is greater when you can have an in person conversation. However, for many authors, writing groups are not available locally. Another option is to use Scribophile. This online group is fantastic because they are low cost and can provide line edits. My favorite method is reviewing while I read. That way the author can know exactly how a potential reader feels. The only downside to Scribophile is in how long it can take to get feedback. The great thing about Scribophile is that you can solicit “anytime” feedback. That means that feedback may occur over several days, not just in one giant burst. This slow drip method allows an author to meditate and soak in each batch of critiques.
A book is not fully ready for publishing before it meets all the requirements. A great cover and interesting hook… An under-served niche… and the content to meet the need. After all, that is what a writer is attempting to complete. They are trying to serve a need that the reader has. Go beyond expectations and you’ll have a loyal fan who will come to you again and again.