With some time before my first traditionally published book, 100 Things to do in Riverside Before You Die, is due to my publisher Reedy Press, I sent a draft off to three readers. And waited. The wait gave me time to consider why I asked these three to read for me in the first place. Sharing this here, my hope is that you will consider similar reasons when you reach that point in the process.
Since my book is about recreation, arts, and cultural events in Riverside, I wanted people who know Riverside and do not know Riverside. I would up with one closely connected to this place, and two that are not. One grew up in SoCal and the other “outsider” was from that little backwater up north known as Canada. Always good to get international input should your book release world-wide!
After “Subject Knowledge” came a close second – demonstrated ability to communicate with the written word. Demonstrated by more than completion of an education. Again, I sought balance. Someone with experience writing and editing as their profession is desired, but given the hands-on and casual nature of this book, regular non-professionals could help me more with tone, pace, and voice – the touchy feely part of writing that all of us can experience. One was an avid reader, a second writes and reads regularly as a faculty member, and my third makes a living as a writer and illustrator. Box, checked!
My third criteria was a time concern. When I teach goal setting, time must always be a factor. What can be done in the time required? After letting my “volunteers” know about what I needed and estimated time investment on their side, I gave them a response date that was far enough away from MY editor’s deadline to allow some flexibility and meaningful feedback. This allowed one of my original choices to bow out as they could not meet the deadlines. But it did give that person enough time to help me solicit a replacement.
The result? Three closely noted drafts were in my hands with a full month to incorporate their ideas and corrections with plenty of time to spare. Having three readers helped me on those spots where I just was not sure if I should make the change or not. If a majority or all had a similar note, changing it was easier. But that did not stop me from rejecting suggestions, even when all three said the same thing.
Why? At the end of the day, this is my vision and my book. And that philosophy should drive all of us in any creative pursuit, regardless of the feedback from our community.