The answer isn’t complicated, it’s those people who you ask to read your book before you publish it. I’ve touched on this subject a few times in my posts so why write about it now?
My latest book, A Concrete Case of Murder, took quite a while to write. Too long for my liking. Writing is never an easy process but, due to a confluence of adverse circumstances, writing became impossible for some months. Since retiring, I have been publishing two books every year, however, A Concrete Case of Murder took over eighteen months to complete. Having a series of ten books already published, most of which were well-received, I found myself getting a little paranoid about this latest one. I think that my paranoia was mostly triggered by an offhand remark someone made which was something to the effect of, ‘If it was hard to write it will probably be hard to read’. It was not a comment I appreciated all that much.
And so, the seeds of doubt were sown. All I could do was carry on writing and then trust to my readers.
The person who always gets the first look at my books is my wife, Kathleen. As she’s the first reader she feels that the most important input she can give me is about the storyline and the characters. She’s always looking out for plot holes, implausible events and badly written characters. In this latest book she found a part of the storyline to be far from what she would have expected in a Mac Maguire novel. I realised fairly quickly that, as usual, she was right. So, in a way, my doubts had been well-founded. After a two weeks spell of rewriting and having her read it again, she finally gave me the thumbs up.
The book then went out to my panel of five readers – Jean, Kay, Patricia, Helen and Jennifer. They came up with myriad instances of areas needing improvement, strangled syntax and the inevitable typos but, thankfully, nothing requiring a major rewrite. Their overall positive reception of the book restored my confidence that I wouldn’t be letting the series down when I finally pressed the ‘Publish’ button.
Years ago, if you were a published author, it would be standard practice for an editor, copy editor and proof-reader to all pore over a book before publication. Indeed, it is rumoured that some very well-known authors were actually very poor when it came to grammar and spelling. I believe that very few published authors are as pampered as that today but they will have support and someone who knows what they’re doing reading their books before they hit the public. We self-published authors do not have that luxury but we can make up for it by recruiting good readers ourselves.
So, what is a ‘good’ reader? It is helpful if they read books from your genre. I’m lucky in that most of my readers are prolific readers of crime fiction and so they can compare my books to those they have read. You also have to trust them to give you an honest assessment of your book. Readers who never report a fault are as bad, or worse, than those who constantly nit-pick. Having at least some of your readers who can pick up on typos and strangled sentences is a real bonus. I’m lucky in having all the above.
One of the hardest jobs as a self-published author is pushing that ‘Publish’ button. Once it’s pressed then your book is out there for everyone to comment on. Having dependable readers makes that job so much easier.