My new book is finding its fans. I know this because I’ve been receiving feedback from people I’ve never met. It’s no longer my mom, sister, and friends giving me feedback. I’ve relinquished control over where my words will go, and this knowledge that strangers can read my book is both exciting and nerve-racking.
I’m a shy person by nature, and sharing my book has been an exercise in courage and sheer bravado. Most of the remarks I’ve received have been positive. The negative feedback really stings, but all the comments taken together have taught me these lessons:
Voltaire has been credited with saying, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” I would interpret that this way: Perfection is the enemy of done. Your work will never be perfect, so don’t be paralyzed by fear.
My book was ready months ahead of when I finally put it out, but I held back. Did it have typos and minor errors in spite of all my efforts? Yes. But in the end, it was good enough. I waited too long to publish my first book; it could have been in the hands of readers months before I put it out there.
By all means, learn all you can about the craft. Get outside help from critique partners, editors, beta readers, ARC readers, and proofreaders. But there comes a time when what you have produced really is good enough. It’s time to forget perfection.
If you’re an indie author, let go of the perfection ideal and publish. If you’re and author seeking a traditional publisher, submit. Fear holds more people back than lack of ability. Seeking perfection becomes an excuse to procrastinate.
Always respond to sincere criticism with humility. I’m not talking feeding haters and trolls. I’m talking about the reader who takes the time to write the helpful email or less-than-stellar review. Having that typo on page twenty-three pointed out hurts your feelings. You shrivel inside when offered negative feedback on your pacing or character arcs.
But when your reader cares enough to write about such matters, the soft answer — the humble answer — can win you a friend and a fan for life. The defensive answer or excuses will turn that potential fan into someone who avoids your next book. That brings me to the next lesson.
I know many authors say they don’t read their reviews, but I think this is a mistake. Reviews are direct feedback. Sometimes they aren’t candy-coated, but even harsh reviews can offer a kernel of truth.
After a while, themes develop and trends rise to the surface like “slow beginning” or “flat character arcs” or “needs better editing.” That information is priceless, and you need to listen carefully because your readers are telling you what they want.
You aren’t Harper Lee, and neither am I. We cannot afford to write one book and keep our next book under wraps for several decades. Sadly, neither could she.
Our readers have so many choices of how to spend their free time and their money. If we want people to follow our work, we need to move ahead with the next project.
If it takes persistence to write the first book and get it out to readers, it takes true grit to repeat the process. Don’t stand still; your readers want more, and it’s your job to deliver the next book.
What lessons have you learned from your readers?
Texas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship. Her debut novel, Mardan’s Mark, is available on Amazon.
Once upon a time, Kathrese worked as a systems engineer for EDS and various oil and gas companies. Then, she taught Reading and ESL at the middle school level. These days, she edits fiction, home schools her children, and turns a blind eye to the feral dust bunnies lurking beneath her desk. Connect with her at kathresemckee.com.