We all need feedback – in fact, we crave it. We want to know if what we’ve done is okay, that it’s acceptable and that we have got our message across as we intended.
We want feedback but often what we get is criticism. And we don’t want or need that, thank you very much!
There is a fine art to giving feedback. When it comes to getting help with your book you need to have help that moves your forward, not criticism that sets you back. Writing makes us vulnerable. Even if our book is relatively safe and practical we are still taking a risk by putting ourselves out there. We feel exposed – a bit naked.
How do you get the feedback you need?
There are various ways to get the help you need:
- ask a professional associate or other trusted colleage;
- hire an editor, mentor/coach or other expert;
- ask family or friends.
All three options have their pros and cons, and to a large extent that depends on the individuals in question. Having said that, I would almost always counsel against asking family and friends for feedback unless (and this is a big ‘unless’) they have expertise that is of value. Our usual support network of family and friends are best left to doing what they do best: cheering you on from the side-lines and giving you a hug on bad days.
The other two options: professional associates or hired help can both be useful at different times.
These can include mentoring buddies, business contacts you have a closer than usual relationship with and work colleagues. What you are looking for is someone with whom you have a mutually supportive relationship. Ideally, they will be a business contact who is also a friend. They are able to be detached enough to be honest and sensitive enough not to be destructive.
The benefit of hiring a coach, mentor or editor to help you with your book is that they are experienced and (hopefully) expert at giving feedback. This means that any personal elements are avoided and you can receive their comments and ideas knowing they are given in a professional and detached manner. That doesn’t mean that the exchange between you should be cold or distant, though.
Criticism or feedback?
Criticism is usually provided by reviewers of some kind. Their job is to entertain, comment and give an opinion (not necessarily in that order). Their comments do not take into account what the person who created the thing they are critiquing will think or feel. Their job is to be objective. You probably don’t want this when you are working on honing and improving your book.
The purpose of feedback is far more positive. It is intended to support and help by fostering change and improvement. Feedback might be tough to hear at times but the way it is delivered should enable you to make the changes that will improve your book and not be deliberately destructive or upsetting.
Do you need it?
You probably don’t need criticism, but feedback is extremely useful when you are stuck or need to solve problems with your book. So welcome feedback when it is delivered with the intention of supporting and helping you. You may not like everything you hear, especially when you first hear it, but take a breath and listen. Even if you decide not to take the comments on board, do it after proper reflection otherwise you may miss the golden nugget that feedback can be.
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