Out of the blue, I received a complimentary copy in the mail a few weeks ago. Up until that point, I didn’t even know the book existed. So kudos to whoever is behind the marketing of the book (your strategy worked!). Because after reading through some of the book, I really liked it and think it can be a great help to writers struggling to break in to traditional publication.
Mike is the founder and chief literary agent Nappaland Literary. He’s worked as an acquisition editor for three publishers. In addition, he’s published more than forty books. At the same time, however, he admits he’s personally received more than 2000 rejections for his book ideas.
“It takes less than a minute to reject your book.” Yes, that’s Mike’s first statement in his introduction. He goes on to list all of the reasons why various agents and publishers reject manuscripts in short, easy-to-read chapters.
The No. 1 reason why books get rejected (at least from Mike’s perspective) is because “Your Writing Is Crap.” Although he readily admits crap does indeed get published, he argues that it won’t happen to most writers. In his candid style he says, “If you send me crap writing, I’m going to reject you. And I’m not even going to feel bad about it. I’ll feel like I’m doing humanity a service by keeping your stinky excrement off bookshelves everywhere.”
Mike defines crap writing as:
• Sloppy thinking
• A vain or irrelevant message
• Content that is poorly organized
• Presentation that is clunky
• Word choices that are abysmal
But the question most writers have is this, “How do I know if my writing is crap?”
I struggled with that question before sending my manuscript to agents and editors. We usually finish our books, sit back and wonder, “How does the quality of my book compare with others? What is my skill level? Am I good enough to get published?”
Most of us don’t want our manuscripts to arrive to an agent, publisher, or even a reader smelling like excrement. So, here are 3 ways we can begin to determine our skill level:
1. Find Beta Readers who are willing to “test” your book or idea.
The readers can be anyone really—friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and family—yes, even your mama. At this point, they don’t have to be skilled writers or editors. You’re merely wanting to get feedback on the story itself and the ideas you’ve developed. Let the beta readers know the purpose of the read is just to test your story. They’re not correcting typos or grammar or the nitty-gritty. They’re providing big-picture thoughts.
The most critical aspect of getting feedback from beta readers is this: they must feel free to be completely honest. Often friends and family are afraid to hurt our feelings by telling us the truth. But getting feedback from beta readers won’t do any good unless they know they can be upfront in telling us if our book is indeed crap. And how many people will really feel comfortable being that honest with us?
The best way to solicit some modicum of truth from beta readers is to provide them with a way to give anonymous feedback. Hand them a sample of your manuscript and attach an anonymous questionnaire with easy-to-answer, big-picture questions like: Did you like the characters? Did you like the direction of the story? Would you keep reading? Why or why not?
2. Find other skilled writers who can offer objective feedback.
Feedback from other writers can come in many forms: critique partnerships or groups, blogging, and even contest judges (who are usually other writers or published authors in the first round). Recently, the creators of Ladies Who Critique contacted me to let me know about their new critique matching service. While I’m not using the service, I think it looks like a fantastic resource for writers searching for critique partners.
This week, I'm sharing about my critique partnership in one of my blog tour stops at Keli Gwyn’s blog. Keli critiqued The Doctor’s Lady (my new release), not once, but twice—and in some places even three times. Although I’m a published author working with a top-notch editing department with a large publisher, Keli’s help and advice in shaping my book was invaluable.
3. Use a freelance editor.
Michelle DeRusha had a recent post in which she explained her choice for using a freelance editor. She said: “Let me tell you, that $450 was the best money I ever spent . . . The editor I hired read and reviewed my manuscript and provided eight pages of chapter by chapter notes on sections to cut, rewrite, repurpose and reorganize.” She eventually went on to land her agent and said, “I don’t believe it would have happened without the help of a professional editor.”( Read the full post here.)
The bottom line is that we can’t see all of the problems in our work on our own. We just can't. (Read this post: Why Most Writers Are Blind to Their Own Faults.) If we want to know if our writing is crap, we’ll have to be open to letting others tell us that painful news.
Wouldn’t you much rather have someone tell you your book is crap before publication rather than after?
How open are you to feedback? Are you willing to take the good AND the bad from beta readers and critique partners?
Don't miss out on these blog tour stops! You can WIN my book at both places!
Friday 9/9: Jill Kemerer is sharing 5 Reasons to Read The Doctor's Lady on her blog! (Pick up Puzzle Piece #4 there!)
Saturday 9/10: Kristie Kiessling asks me what preparation I did for the writing of The Doctor's Lady on her blog! Did I take my family on a covered wagon simulation trip as part of my research? Come find out!
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