Asking a Published Author to Read Your Work
I’m a bookstore owner and have developed a pretty good rapport with an author with whom we’ve done numerous booksignings. I want to show him some of my work to get his opinion, but I don’t want him to think that I’m just using him to get signed with an agent.
My question is this: What is the proper method to approach an author to ask them to assess your work? I would love a referral, obviously, but mostly I just want to see what he thinks. At the same time, I don’t want to damage our relationship. What’s your advice?
Dear Conscientious Writer,
This is an important question and I suspect every author will have their own unique take on it. Many of my clients report that they get approached regularly by other writers who want an agent referral, and most agented and/or published authors frequently get approached by writers who want their opinion, advice, or feedback. It gets overwhelming for them at times, but I know for the most part, they’re kind and considerate and want to help, so they usually try their best to do so.
The problem with asking authors for feedback is that you put them in a no-win situation. They’re not in the business of assessing manuscript saleability, so they may love your book or they may hate it, but either way, they still might not have any idea whether it’s viable in today’s market. Plus, what if they don’t like it? Things would then become quite awkward, as they try to figure out how to tell the truth, which might ruin your friendship, or lie which could be equally damaging to the relationship.
It seems to me the best approach would be not to ask. Wait until the fact that you’re a writer comes up in conversation naturally. Then you could throw something in like, “I’ve finished my manuscript and now I’m in the place where I need some outside input, but it’s hard to find qualified readers. Do you have any advice for me? How did you get feedback on your work before you were published?”
That way, the author is free to offer to read your book, but they don’t feel pressured. As someone who has lots of experience working with authors, I can tell you they feel pressured all the time and while they may want to help, it’s not always realistic for them to do so; in addition, they worry about hurting friendships by being put in a difficult position.
It’s better to search for a critique partner or group. That way you have people who have already volunteered to give feedback on your work.
But I’d like to put this question to my blog readers. Perhaps we can get some perspective and good advice from those who’ve been there.
Readers? What are your thoughts? Published authors, your perspective is especially valuable so chime in. Thanks!
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent