How To Get Feedback On Your Novel That Will Actually Help

Getting feedback on your novel is one thing, but getting feedback that really makes your book better is another. In this article I will explain the best way to get feedback on your book, and the best way to make this feedback really count. This will help you to avoid wasting hours of your time collecting reader feedback that fails to improve your book.

Get feedback from real readers

The problem is that your mum/dad/husband/wife/friend all want your novel to be great, they also like you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. This means feedback from this ‘inner circle’ is all but useless. For the best, most honest and most valuable feedback you need to break out of this circle and into the big bad world. The key is to make an effort to seek out the kind of people who would actually read your book in real life. It is these people, real readers, who will give you the kind of feedback that really counts.

Ask open-ended questions

When collecting your feedback make sure you listen more than you talk. Getting feedback via email or a word doc is great, but actually speaking with your reader is the best possible solution. This gives you a chance to watch their body language and prompt them for more insightful answers. However, when interacting with readers you must resist the temptation to explain, just listen. Ask open ended questions, it is these types of questions that will give you the best results. Typically who/what/when/where/why/how questions all work well. Asking, ‘Did you like chapter 2?’ will produce a limited response. However asking, ‘What did you like about chapter 2?’ or even better, ‘What didn’t you like about chapter 2?’ will produce the best possible feedback.

Keep calm

If you truly seek genuine and valuable feedback then you need to be ready to face the bitter truth. Not everything you hear will be nice. In fact, if all you hear are nice things then you are doing it all wrong. You want to hear about the bits of your work that are rubbish. You need to know which characters are two dimensional, which scenes don’t work and where the reader lost interest. Will this feedback hurt? Too right it will! It will sting for days… But it will make you a better writer.

Filter the feedback

Not all feedback is created equal, and not all readers are capable of giving you the kind of feedback you need. It is therefore essential that you are able to filter the feedback, be it good or bad. Resist the temptation to leap into action. Instead of reacting instantly to one comment, take a step back and assess. The first step is to make sure you get enough feedback. One reader is not enough, you need at least three readers to have assessed your book before you go making major changes. If you get enough feedback then you can concentrate on looking for trends and patterns in the reader’s comments. If all the feedback says Chapter 1 is too short, then its time to revisit Chapter 1. However, if one of ten readers says Chapter 1 is too short, its probably best to ignore this comment and make no changes.

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  • Pat Frank

    Exactly right.  My friends and family have all said wonderful, flattering things about my new novel.  Finally, a fellow writer did a helpful and honest critique.  She put into words the problems that troubled me-but ones I couldn’t put my finger on.  Beginner writers do not welcome any criticisms about their “baby,” but veterans do. Strengthening your manuscript is the goal.

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  • BubbleCow [Gary Smailes]

    *****Beginner writers do not welcome any criticisms about their “baby,” but veterans do.*****
    Amazing - this should be the title of this blog post.

  • Ciara Ballintyne

    A few more people could do with the ‘keep calm’ advice. I have been lucky enough to have appreciative writers, but I know people who have critiqued work for writers who have run the full gamut from abusive to silent treatment.

  • cooltipsfinder

    “Listem - Listen - Unil you Die.”