5 Tips for Evaluating Writing Feedback and Advice

Writing feedback is great–but only if you know what to do with it. A healthy sense of your own Push, a clear mind, and a system for managing feedback will keep you on track with your vision and give you fresh insight and motivation.

I’m headed to the Realm Makers 2017 speculative fiction conference this weekend. I’ll be taking pitches for Uncommon Universes Press and mentoring authors on every stage of the journey.

And one thing I’ll make sure each author know is that they should evaluate every piece of advice and judgment they receive. Including mine.

Naturally, I think I’m fantastic at giving advice and feedback. Comes from being a teacher, coach, editor, and a kind-hearted know-it-all who really loves to fix problems and help people succeed.

But I’ve also been on the other side. I’ve gotten great advice from well-meaning people. I’ve gotten horrible advice from well-meaning people. I’ve gotten great advice from people who could be technically, scientifically classified as “meanies,” and I’ve gotten bad advice from meanies too.

The fact is, nobody’s perfect. The “meanie” person giving you feedback could be giving you good advice, but is just very blunt and/or hasn’t had their coffee that day. Or they could just be spiteful (because those people exist too). The kind and sweet person could be giving you bad advice, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or is just an indirect communicator. Or they could be really inexperienced (those people exist too).

And we’re all human. So even your perceptive of the individual could be suspect, colored by any preexisting relationships, personality clashes, emotional attachment (or lack thereof) to the manuscript, or even whether or not you’ve had coffee.

A healthy vetting process is vital to receiving, understanding, and processing writing feedback. Make sure you’re prepared with these five tips.

5 Tips for Evaluating Writing Feedback and Advice

1.) Take notes. Write everything down. Always save the notes they emailed to you, even if you don’t like them. You might think you’re a fast processor, but it is vital to give yourself time to process and glean whatever you can from their advice after thoughts, prayers, and consideration. If you really figure out later that it’s not useful, then you can delete/erase/burninate the feedback.

2.) Give yourself time. Don’t immediately try to understand everything, especially if it’s critique that points out flaws. Go through it in stages when you’re in a healthy, balanced state of mind. For some people, this might be half an hour. For others, it might be half a month. If you’re getting online help, take a step back and exercise or cook or do something else to clear your head. If you’re at a writing conference or workshop, step back and put the notes away. Have a glass of wine, go out to a coffee shop, watch a movie, or do whatever else you need to give yourself vital distance from your work.

3.) Remember your Push. Return to your notes, your motivation and vision statements, your direction for this manuscript, and the purposes behind its creation. Get clear and solid in your worldview and mindset, not so that you can cling to it excessively, but so you can understand your own biases and preferences. Those biases and preferences aren’t bad, but the purpose of feedback is to be challenged as well as encouraged.

4.) Get a variety of feedback. Publishers. Agents. Editors. Fellow authors. Readers. Feedback from all of these individuals can give you a solid sense of what you have, what you need, and where you’re going. Try to go for people who read and are familiar with you’re writing and trying to achieve. Also, always be gracious to the person giving you feedback, even if you don’t like it or agree with it. Grace is a professional and personal quality that never goes out of style.

5.) Evaluate the person you’re getting feedback from. Hopefully you’re getting feedback from people familiar with your genre and field, but sometimes that beta read gets sent to a broader audience, or you wanted to test out your project with an agent who is curious about your romance, but does more with action-adventure (and they had a free appointment at the conference).  It is fine to step outside of your comfort zone, but be aware that their feedback might not be normative. However, if you’re finding that your work is connecting more with the non-normative readers, then that might be a clue that you’re really in a different genre and don’t know it.

You may not fit into any genre boxes or conventions at all. You may just have to build your own box, tweaking your story’s exterior and setting a little to reach your readers (sadly, online websites and bookstores don’t have a special “steampunk + crime novel + middle grade + pseudo-memoir” section) while still keeping your core Push and stories as strong and as vibrant as you are. Never give up on your book just because it doesn’t fit in. Get out your writing tools and get to work!

Need advice? Sign up for a free 1:1 with me. I specialize in figuring out that sweet spot in drafting and marketing so you can Write Inside Out with freedom, clarity, and purpose.

Above all, keep seeking feedback. Whether easy or difficult, getting critiques is vital to the writing process and improvement in the craft. And your book is worth it.

Greetings Authors! Please share any other tips, thoughts, or feedback in the comments. I love talking with you!

 

5 Basics of Authentic Book Marketing

Marketing. Love it or hate it, it’s how your work gets into the hands of more readers. There are a lot of great marketing books, blog posts, articles, webinars, Facebook groups, and email newsletters to help you sell books and reach readers. I’m not one to reinvent the wheel, but I am a college-educated people-nerd (communications, intercultural studies, ESL), experienced teacher, and a pragmatist who loves doing things better in less time.

So here are some basics to authentic book marketing for encouragement, edification, and enlightenment (alliteration rocks).

5 Basics 0f Book Marketing

1.) Know Your Push.

Your Push is what motivates you to write–what pushes you along, no matter how you’re feeling or what’s going on in your life. You have to be confident of your motivation and your goals before you launch. Does authentic book marketing mean you put everything out there all the time? Nope. But it’s still helpful for you to know it so you can make wise decisions.

Years ago, I had a publisher request a manuscript for a contemporary romance. During final edits before submissions, I started having issues because I couldn’t picture myself selling a contemporary romance. I rarely even read contemporary romance, except out of occasional curiosity (nothing personal, just lacking in dragons or vampires). I’m a speculative fiction, dyed-hair, monsters-and-misfits kinda gal. While the story had misfit characters, that lack of speculative element was a deal-breaker for me in terms of putting the book out there.

When you’re considering your writing goals, have fun imagining where you’d like to see it published and marketed, and who you’d like to be reading your work. Make sure that lines up with your own Push and that you can see yourself going into those areas.

2.) Play to Your Strengths.

Some people do better in text. Some people do better in podcasts. Some people shine in videos. Some can do more than one thing–which is great if you have the time! The goal is to find out where you shine and focusing on that area.

Love pics? Instagram might be your thing. Master of the witty one-liner–or just too succinct for your own good? Twitter might be your spot. Enjoy connecting across a broad array of people and hopping in and out of groups? Try Facebook. LOVE talking? Try podcasts or YouTube videos.

While I think everyone should give a shot at in-person sales and appearances (because nothing connects better than actually meeting with others) and email newsletters appear to be with us forever (and for good reason, if only to allow you step outside of Twitter and Facebook algorithms), everything else is up for grabs. Research, find out where your readers are, and go for it. See what works for you–and don’t be afraid to try something new!

3.) Get Your Name Out There.

As much as possible, put your name out there–or at least the name you write under. Make the Amazon Author Central page, make the Goodreads author page, make an author website (even if it’s just a basic landing page and some links to other places), etc. Anywhere that you can make a static, leave-it-and-forget-it author page, do it. Yes, ideally you’ll want to be active in these places, but even if you can’t be, put your name out there with links to where people can find you. Be available online and on Google if people type in your name (or pen name).

4.) Do What You Can. 

Preferably, focus on a few areas and invest in them. If you’re an indie, you’re a one-person creative machine, so chances are, there will be days when you can’t get on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to post. That’s fine. The worse thing you can do is beat yourself up over it. Just be as consistent as you can and relax about the rest.

Now thankfully you can set up posts in advance using Buffer or Hootsuite, but if you’re crazy busy, those time-savers still require you to sit down and spend precious minutes and/or hours organizing the posts–plus, you’ll want to get online sometime to engage with others and maybe put up something spontaneous in response to a current event or new development in your writing.

Authentic book marketing means acknowledging that you can’t be everywhere or everything all the time. And that’s okay.

5.) Make Your Product Good (Enough).  

Whether you’re indie publishing, going through a small press, signing with one of the large traditional presses, or something in-between, it’s important to have a good story, solid editing, and a good book cover that meets the conventions of your genre and readership.

But it won’t be perfect. Your ebook or print copy might have typos, because even at publishing houses, people aren’t perfect. Your cover may not look the way you imagined it (because you’re on a budget, because of poor communication, or because it’s literally impossible to transfer the most glorious image from your head onto a cover image–yet).

Authentic book marketing isn’t about perfection. It’s about doing the best you can, where you are, with the tools you have and the passion inside you, and always seeking to improve.

I’m always looking to level up as well, so post in the comments with your favorite marketing books, gurus, and articles!

And if you’re looking for free, personalized, one-on-one feedback on your book marketing ventures, sign up for a free 30 minute video coaching session! Lots of getting to know how your brain works, what pushes you, and fresh ideas on your future, plus notes and encouragement to give you a jumpstart.