See that manuscript in front of you? It is time to share it. Now, don’t be afraid, you knew this day was going to come. You and I both know you wrote this book because you wanted to share it with the world. Now it is time to share it with a few readers. Readers are people who agree to read your early work and understand you are still in the rough draft phase. “Rough Draft Phase?” you say. Yes, I am afraid so. Even if you think your book is perfect in every way, trust me, it is far from perfect. It is not humanly possible to step back from your writing and make an honest assessment of the time line, awkwardness of words, or edits. You need a pair of fresh eyes to read it and be honest with you about the broad strokes of your masterpiece.
It is very hard to find honest readers. Your mother or cousin is not going to be honest with you if your book stinks. I am telling you from experience, they love you—therefore they will not crush you. You must find three people who love to read. They should be readers in your genre. If person loves to read biographies and you have written a self-help book on snail mating, they will not enjoy your book. I repeat—they will not enjoy it. A person who is an avid reader in romance would be okay reading a biography but you need to stay within a person’s normal preference range of reading, if possible.
When you ask someone to be a reader, you need to be specific about what you need. Tell them you will be publishing this book and need to know what works and what doesn’t. Tell them to be brutal. Tell them you will spend countless hours editing and anything they can do to help you now will save so much time later. Tell them you have a thick skin and not to worry about hurting your feelings. Make them promise to be honest.
Print the book out for your reader (two page format), give them a big red pen, and slowly back away. If the reader comes back in a week with a few red marks and says, “The book is great, I love it!” say, “Thank You” and find another reader. The copy SHOULD come back with all kinds of red marks, questions, and suggestions. I don’t care who you are, or how many years you have under your belt as a writer, you will have some problems with your manuscript. A good reader will point out it is impossible for a character to pick a tick off of a dog in chapter 14 when both her thumbs were severed in the tragic accident in chapter 2!