Will You Read My Book?
Last Sunday, while I was praying that God would forgive me for missing church because I was working to meet a tight deadline, my husband was served with an envelope and told to deliver it to me. Upon opening the envelope, I slumped.
It contained several pages of handwritten poetry on lined notebook paper. The poet had given them to a friend and asked that she deliver them to me (a mystery writer) to offer my opinion in order to help her get published.
When my first book was published in 2004, I was surprised by the number of writers asking me to please read their books. I totally understood where they were coming from.
I once paid a hundred dollars to a writer’s conference to have a published author critique my work in progress. She ripped it apart without even a drop of compassion. Then, I found out this same author had shown my manuscript to another author and made fun of it.
I was so devastated that I didn’t write for a year. When I returned to writing, I swore that I would never forget what it was like when I was an unpublished writer looking for help from those who had managed to succeed in the world of authorship.
However, now that I have “broken thru” and am now a best-selling author, I can see why many published authors refuse to read other writers’ unpublished books.
Many writers think that it only takes an hour or two of the author’s time to read their book—so they think they are asking the author for “a favor” to read their book. Frankly, it takes more than a couple of hours and the writer is asking for more than a simple favor.
The author’s insight and advice is not going to be worth anything to the writer unless it is a detailed critique, which takes time. It takes me no less than three days to critique a book. Yet, time reading unpublished manuscripts takes time away from my own writing career.
Now, this post is not to tell writers refrain from asking published authors for advice or to even go so far as to ask them to read your book. I love offering advice to new writers. I simply want to educate writers about what is happening on my side so that you’ll understand why authors may make certain requests or even refuse to read unpublished manuscripts.
I’d also like to offer advice for published authors who find themselves bombarded by requests from new writers.
1) Never Forget: Published Authors Are Professionals. Their job is writing and their knowledge is based on their professional experience.
a) Writers, expect to pay for their time;
b) Authors, your time is valuable, so charge for it.
2) Make sure the work-in-progress is in digital format! No publisher I know will take a book in hard copy. So your book is going to have to be in digital format anyway. Get it in proper format before asking an author to read it.
Every time I see someone walking toward me with a three-ring binder in their arms, I cringe. I’ll ask, “Don’t you have it in digital format?”
The answer will be no. (Don’t laugh. I once took a survey in one of my writing classes. Half of the writers said they write in longhand!)
So then, I’ll ask, “Is this your only copy?”
“Oh, no,” the writer will swear.
Over a year ago, in the middle of yet another tight deadline, I spent a whole morning returning two original manuscripts to writers who had both sworn to me that I did not have the only copies of their books. For one, I had to drive an hour away from home to return her book. The other, I paid over fifteen dollars in postage to mail it back. I hadn’t charged that writer for a critique—so that fifteen dollars was out of my pocket!
3) Don’t be expecting a quick turn-around on your critique. I tell writers to expect their critique in four to six months. If your author is successful, then they have deadlines—editors, cover designers, proofreaders, tour coordinators, hungry teenagers, demanding dogs—depending on them. Authors—give the writer some timeline of when they can expect their critique and try to stick to it. It’s a professional courtesy.
4) Don’t expect the author to say your book is perfect. If the author is truly sincere about helping you, then he/she will point out your mistakes. Better the author than readers and reviewers!
Every professional author has their own books critiqued before it goes to editing. I have written sixteen books—all of which have made Amazon’s best-sellers in mysteries. Still, I have my books critiqued by a fellow author before it goes to the editor. One hundred percent of the time, I end up doing a rewrite based on her critique.
a) Writer: When the author points our flaws, or even if they rip your book apart, remember this—everything is subjective and this is your book—not that author’s. It will be your job to determine what advice the author is giving you will work best for you and your book.
Don’t take a bad personally and don’t seek revenge. I know of more than one author who had a disgruntled writer go onto Amazon or Goodreads and post one-star reviews for one or more of their books after a bad critique, which is why many authors won’t critique books. This is not a good idea. The writing community is a small town. Word will get around and the help you are seeking from those who have broken thru won’t happen.
b) Author: Treat the writer with respect and compassion. This writer is looking for your help. Be honored that he/she came to you. Also, as a professional courtesy—no matter how much you may not like the book—do not discuss it with anyone else.
Now, I feel better after getting that off my chest. Time to go to work on my next mystery novel. I think my next victim is going to be a poet.
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Open Season for Murder is the tenth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.
In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.
Three Days to Forever introduced Lauren Carr’s latest series detectives, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday in the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Look for Kill and Run, the first installment in this series, to be released September 1, 2015.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. Visit Acorn Book Services’ website for more information.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.