Quite honestly, there probably aren’t many people who can give you good feedback on your writing.
Before we explain why, think about this example:
If your car broke down because of an engine problem, would you ask a random friend to look at your car and tell you what’s wrong with it?
Of course not. What would you do, they don’t know anything about engines?
You’d take your car to a mechanic, because mechanics are experts at engines. They know what they are talking about.
You should look at your book that way as well. If you want to show your manuscript to someone to get feedback, it should generally be a person from one of these two groups:
- People who are experienced writers/editors
- People who are in the exact audience for you book
Let’s break down each category:
Experienced Writers or Editors
This is obvious. Someone who has a lot of experience in writing and editing can almost certainly help you with your manuscript, and give good feedback.
But remember, many people vastly overestimate their experience and ability in these areas. Many people think they are skilled writers or editors, when in fact they are not.
This is why at Book In A Box, we have such a rigorous testing process before we even begin to work with freelance editors, outliners, and Publishers—even if they are employed full time as writers or editors, we don’t assume they are skilled.
We want to see their work, and we judge their ability by the quality of their work (in fact, we reject about 80% of the freelancers who apply to work with us, all of whom have experience).
We bring this up only because we’ve seen many authors give their manuscript to a friend who claimed to be a “great” writer, only to see that friend give truly awful notes that left the author confused and hurt, and ended up creating lots of problems for the book.
Here’s the hard reality of book feedback:
Most people have NO IDEA what they are talking about, especially with regards to books and writing, and getting feedback from those people is less than helpful, it’s harmful.
So be careful.
Someone in the Audience for Your Book
This type of feedback can be very helpful. If your book is about—for example—how to build an app business, and you give it to two of your friends who are trying to build app businesses, their feedback could be very helpful. They could tell you what really helped them in the book, what parts they wished had more content, and where they got confused or lost. That sort of feedback tends to be very valuable.
One thing to remember about those people though, is summed up in this quote from famous author Neil Gaiman:
“When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
His point is a different version of the one we made above; very few people are good enough at writing or editing to actually know how to do it well. They may know that your book isn’t working for them in some way, and that critique should be listened to. But their ideas for solutions are probably bad, because they have no experience actually solving writing problems.
At Book In A Box, we tell our authors that since they’ve had multiple experts—at least four—help them turn their ideas into the best possible book (our Book Positioner, Book Editor, Copy Editors, and Publisher), they can generally rest assured that they have framed, presented, and polished their ideas in the best way possible.
That being said, most people don’t have a professional publishing team behind them. They might want, and need, other people to give them feedback on their book.
That is totally fine. The hard part is ensuring you get feedback from the right people. Don’t just take it from just anyone. Bad feedback is worse than none.