This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
Last week I wrote about not having much time and learning to say no to some requests and opportunities. One of the comments on that column actually reminded me of something that has been happening to me recently. You see, aspiring authors have been asking me to read their work. It makes me wonder, is an author really the best choice when it comes to having someone read your writing?
The first thing I struggle with is how do you know you’re asking the right person to read your novel? Just because you like an author’s books, does that automatically make them a good bet to read yours? How do you know they have any skill in nurturing talent or spotting something good between the weeds?
Reviewing and critiquing books is so subjective. Look at the reviews for Fifty Shades of Grey on Amazon, for example. There are almost 3,000 five star reviews and over 2,000 reviews with just one star. It shows you how divided opinion can be over one book. What makes you think the person you’ve asked to read your manuscript – the person you don’t really know – would ‘get’ your book?Authors also aren’t agents or publishers. They themselves are hoping they’ve written the next big thing; that they get the next contract, that they set or keep up with new trends in their genre. Often, when a novel is rejected by an agent or publisher, it’s because they think it doesn’t fit the market; perhaps it’s too commercial, not commercial enough or too similar to something else. These are all things that an author might not know or even think to contemplate.
I like to review books – finished books – but that’s very different to reviewing a work that hasn’t had the beady eye of an editor cast over it. I’d be afraid of giving my opinion as I wouldn’t want to damage someone with little confidence, or to give them false hope if I liked it. Not to mention, even if I did really like someone’s manuscript, how would it help them going forward?
Or maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe the hope is that the author will read the book and fall in love with it? Maybe they would then become so enamoured by it, they would recommend it to their agent or publisher? Perhaps the author might recognise a little sparkle between the lines and become the aspiring writer’s mentor? Or is it merely to gain feedback so, on approaching a publisher or agent, they can quote you as having liking it?
I’m not saying don’t ever ask an author for help, but they often offer assistance in their own ways already. So many authors share ‘how to’ guides packed with writing tips. Miranda Dickinson, for example, organised a wonderful mentoring scheme last year and now hosts ‘Write Foxy’ courses. Novelicious’ own Cesca organises ‘Book Camp’ days and retreats, where aspiring authors can write alongside others, with editors also on hand to share their knowledge. The Romantic Novelists’ Association runs the New Writers’ Scheme and also has industry panel events, which are really enlightening – not to mention its annual conference. That’s on top of the massive number of author talks and ‘how to write’ courses you could uncover yourself with some basic research.
I think what I’m trying to say is, a great way to learn how to improve your work – or to get published – is to listen to what authors are saying (wherever they say it), read other books and ask people – ordinary, book-loving readers – to tell you whether they like your work.
Is this the wrong attitude for me to have? Have any authors read manuscripts from aspiring authors they didn’t know? Or are you an aspiring author who had an author to read your work? Were there benefits to this? Would you recommend other aspiring authors do the same?