How to Look for Feedback When You’re a Self-Published Author

These are good times for self-published authors. The audience is growing, and the stereotypes are slowly going away. The market is giving all of us a chance to share our literature with the world. That’s when we get the most valuable feedback – when we share the work with readers.

Those reviews, however, may be brutal. They can be so devastating that they can sometimes crush our desire to publish anything else in the future. The answer? Self-published authors need to get feedback sooner, before their manuscripts have been published.                  

“Where and How Do I Look for the Feedback?”

Asking for feedback and appreciating other people’s opinions means you’re serious about getting a good book out there.

We’ll give you a few tips that help you look for feedback in all the right places.

1. Set up the Essentials

You just got your first (or second or third) draft ready and you would like some feedback on it. What do you do? Do you just start sending the draft all over the place? No.

Here’s what you need to prepare:

A pdf file of the draft

You don’t want the person giving you feedback to change anything. The purpose for this isn’t a formal edit. Feedback is something different, so you have to protect your work from the person’s urge to make improvements based on personal preferences. They will give you their feedback by email or through a conversation, so send your manuscript as a pdf file.

Printed copies of your work

Not everyone likes reading on screen. When you’re asking for feedback, you should ask what format the person prefers. Many will opt for print, so make sure you have it ready.

The cover

Hire/barter with a graphic designer for your book’s cover before you start looking for feedback. Work together with them, so you’ll get a cover that conveys the essential message of your book. The cover is important for the overall impression the reader has.

Include a cover letter, too. This should include a brief bio of you as an author, as well as an introduction to your book. Keep it short and sweet.

2. Look for Reviewers at the Right Places

Here’s the main thing to remember: you want feedback from people whose reading interests are related to your niche and/or genre. If you’ve been properly active on Goodreads, you probably have such contacts. Suggest your book to some active members of the community, so they will give you their honest feedback.

Try writers’ communities such as Professionals Writing Community or The Writers Community. Many writers can give you insightful feedback that helps you improve the impression for your usual reader.

3. Paid Feedback Is Still Relevant

With all those options that get you free feedback, it seems like paying for reviews is not necessary. Nick Morgan, a professional writer with UK Essayontime, doesn’t agree: “Your usual readers don’t know much about pinch-points, three-act structure, character arc, and all other important things a real pro will notice. The readers are looking for the magic, and the professional editors see the details behind that magic. Reviewing is a skill. Not everyone has it. The readers focus on the emotions, and fellow writers will usually do the same thing. The editor is detached. You need that kind of of feedback to make your work stronger.”

The good news is that paid reviews don’t cost much these days. Check out the options IndieReader offers to identify the problems early enough to justify your efforts. Consider this an investment that will pay off. 

4. Guide the Feedback

If you’re like any other writer, you’re insecure about precise aspect of your work.

Is this character strong enough? Is this scene pathetic? Would a woman really act like this? Does the reader understand the point I make here? You need the feedback to answer these questions.

Martyn V. Halm, a published fiction author shares his opinion, “One way to avoid receiving vague feedback is to ask readers to point out scenes they found boring or wanted to skip, which is the most important emotional response. If someone starts to yawn halfway through your book, you’re in trouble. So, most of the time I ask for emotional response to my writing.”

5. Select Up to 10 Good Reviews

When you’re looking for feedback, it’s important to get as much as possible. However, you don’t want to get lost in this feedback process. When you get 10 reviews that are insightful enough, you’re done. Analyze them and improve your work accordingly.

6. Define Deadlines

You don’t have all the time in the world to wait for feedback. When you send your manuscript to someone, negotiate the dates of getting feedback. Ask them how much time they will need to review your work. If they are too busy, find someone else to replace them. The sooner you get your feedback, the sooner your book will be ready to see the world.

Everyone needs feedback. We live in the era of connections, so you can get reviews easier than ever. All you need to do is ask. Hopefully, the tips above will help.

What’s your experience with this part of your work? Are you always getting and considering feedback? How does that work for you?

Rachel Bartee is a professional educator and a freelance writer who enjoys writing about things which are on her mind and can be of use to others. She feels inspired by her morning yoga and the oil painting art course. Talk to her on Twitter.