If another author asked you for advice and you checked out the other author’s book, would suggestions come to your mind? Maybe you would comment on what you do or don’t like about the cover. You might have suggestions for the blurb. If you found something in the Look Inside that put you off, would you mention it?
People generally love to give out advice. That’s why everyone tends to receive a lot of advice, even when it wasn’t sought. People form opinions easily, and many people don’t hesitate to share them.
Even if you don’t share your opinion so freely, you still form opinions. Suppose you’re checking out a book. You’ll know in an instant if you like or dislike the cover, if the blurb attracts your interest or not, and if there is something that you do or don’t like about the book.
But a funny thing about advice is that while people love to give it to others, they often don’t take their own advice.
- Evidently, you don’t have to have a good track record in your own relationships in order to give dating advice to others.
- Apparently, you don’t need to have any skill in a sport yourself in order to give tips to others.
- Clearly, you don’t have to make the best work-related decisions in order to advise others about their career paths.
Here’s my point. If you’re looking at someone else’s cover, you might find yourself wondering, “How can you put that on your book?” But if it’s your own cover, you don’t tend to be as critical. If you’re shopping for a book, you might think to yourself, “That blurb doesn’t try to catch my interest at all.” But when it’s your own blurb, you’re already interested in it. When you pay five bucks for a book, you tend to get disappointed if you catch several typos. But when it’s your own book, you often read what you meant to write instead of what you actually wrote.
There are two things you can learn from this:
- You need to try to step aside and evaluate your work critically. Take a break from it and try to approach it as if you were seeing it for the first time, and try to evaluate it as if it were someone else’s book.
- No matter how hard you try, you can’t see your own work as if it were written by someone else. There is no substitute for external opinions. Getting this before you publish is invaluable.
I know a few authors who will think that they judge themselves more harshly than anyone else – i.e. you feel that you are your own toughest critic. Many of us feel that way.
But we’re our toughest critics only in certain aspects. You’re not your own toughest critic in every aspect. You judge yourself harshly only in the areas that you care about most. You give yourself a large allowance in areas that you don’t care much about.
However, those areas that aren’t so important to you might be very important to shoppers. So even if you are your own toughest critic in some regards, honest external feedback – if you can get it – is still very likely to help you find ways to improve your book.
You shouldn’t necessarily change everything based on external feedback. But first you need to know what that feedback is before you can decide whether or not you feel it merits attention.
Have you ever come across books where the cover, blurb, Look Inside, category selection, or something else probably could have benefited from a little advice? Of course, if you send advice to all of those authors and publishers, some of them won’t want it. I’m not telling you to go advise others about how to publish their books. I’m suggesting that we all need to evaluate our own books more critically, and especially to benefit from more external feedback prior to publishing.
We just don’t look at other books the same way that we look at our own. In this regard, books are kind of like kids. Your book is your baby. It’s not like other books, is it?
Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)