The timing of this post is important, as the proofs for my next book, Treadmill Tales- The Hilarious, Ridiculous, Sometimes Mind Boggling Things People Do While Working Out, arrived a few days ago. I ordered five copies- one for myself, one for my husband, and one each for three friends who I know are going to "red pen it to death", just like I asked. These are people who I know aren't just going to tell me, "Oh, it's fine." They love me enough to tell me the truth.
Sure, you could make the argument that I am giving them a gift by letting them be the first ones to see my new work, but the truth is that I am the lucky one. Their input and opinions are priceless to me.
Learning who to ask is was a hard lesson I learned during the editing phase before An Unusual Path was made available to the public. Before it was published, I asked several people to read it. Some did, and while we discussed over-arching story development, they never bothered to tell me that the things was riddled with typos like a block of Swiss cheese. Others started but never finished, and still more just got busy and never got back to me.
I can't fault any of them, and many of them later had wonderful feedback to give. If any of those folks are reading this now, you know who you are, and I am still grateful for you. But in the moment of trying to get a book out, I needed someone to really plow through it and give me honest criticism. As an independent author, something I am proud to be, I don't have an official editor whose job it is to go through and find my mistakes.
What happened instead was I went ahead and edited the best I could, only to publish a book filled with mistakes. Those of you who have the earliest of copies know what I'm talking about, and I even have a few in my basement that I hope never see the light of day. Will I ever throw them out or burn them? No, because they are a good reminder for me that I need to really make sure my product is solid before anyone can purchase it.
Once the book was available, I suddenly learned who I should have asked to help me. One of them is my husband, who read it for the first time with a pen in his hand and caught all of my typos. Another is the very first person to buy my first book, and both he and his wife eagerly read it.
I also learned who I shouldn't ask. I won't go into specific examples, because I'm sure many of those friends and family will read this blog, but a number of people either didn't say anything to me, or mentioned a specific number of typos they found when there was actually many, many more. Yes, some of them probably just loved the story and overlooked it's imperfections, and I love them for that, but they aren't who I need in this moment. I need someone who will tell me, "Oh no, you need to fix this!"
My fellow authors, find people out there who love you enough to be honest with you. They are truly the best friends you could have.