Long before you reach out to agents with your query letters, you will want to have your book reviewed by others. I have heard that less than 5% of authors submit successfully to agents without completing this crucial step.
There are multiple categories of people who should review your book.
There are pros and cons of having reviewers in each of these categories, so I urge you to use some from most (if not all) of these categories.
Friends and Family – This is likely where you will find your first reviewers. Yes, they may be somewhat biased, but they can be invaluable. You can increase their value if you ask for constructive feedback and create a short questionnaire so they can give you the type of feedback you desire. Plus, at this point of the game, you want people to give you encouragement. If your friends and family don’t have anything positive to say, well, then you have a problem.
In my case, I had over twenty of these people read my book. In all cases, I received the positive praise I’d need to handle the criticism ahead. But I also received many suggestions that I integrated into the manuscript. Included in this group were teens and tweens. They too gave me specific feedback, and more importantly, showed me that my story was engaging enough to read by my target audience.
Fellow Writers – These can be friends or people you find in a critique group. I am actively trying to find more reviewers in this category, particular in my genre. It is one of reason I signed up for my current writing class.
Most likely, you will get more valuable and unbiased feedback from these reviewers. But be prepared to put in the time to help them as well. A side benefit was I found that editing my friend’s book made me a better editor of my own.
Literary Agents – Agents are the gatekeepers to publishers. Therefore, they have great advice. Unfortunately in today’s busy market, you are unlikely to get their unsolicited feedback. However, there are ways. In my case, I signed up for a couple of Writer’s Digest webinars where part of the cost included an individualized feedback on my query letter and first pages. Although they only reviewed a small subset of my work, I was able to integrate it through the entire novel.
Editorial Services – This is the one area I have yet to use because I was fortunate to have many good reviewers in the above categories. The downside is cost. Depending on the length of your novel, an editorial service will cost you upwards of $2,000 and possibly much more. However, you will get a professional opinion. If you take this approach, do your research to hire the right person. Also, edit the book as well as you can first. Otherwise, you may need to pay again later in the editing process.
Whichever route you pursue, take a hard look at your feedback. If it makes sense, integrate it. But don’t blindly assume all feedback is good. You know your book best and whether the feedback is on target.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you found it helpful.
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