• J. Woken

Review Reads & Pretty Paperbacks: 3 Reasons to Have Your Manuscript Reviewed (Before Publishing*

Last fall I was presented with the opportunity to review a book written by an indie author in Tennessee named Kayla Lowe.

We connected on LinkedIn. I was a LinkedIn suggestion, nonetheless, when Kayla was new to the platform. Unlike many other “connections,” the connection with Kayla immediately turned out beneficial for the both of us, though I think I got the better end of the deal. Kayla got her book reviewed and I got, well… to read a good story, make a new writer-friend, get some business promo, and most recently received a free signed copy of Maiden’s Blush! Score!

Holding my (signed!) copy of “Maiden’s Blush” by Kayla Lowe.

Kayla Lowe writes Christian fiction and poetry. She’s recently been releasing some of her poetry as memes on her blog, some of which may even pull this anti-poetry editor into the magic of prose poetry.

But, back to the book review…

Reading the original version of Maiden’s Blush was less work and more a pleasure. True to form — what with her various recognitions for her talent as a writer — Lowe’s story was complete from start to finish and her writing was easy to peruse, a small blessing an editor doesn’t commonly get to enjoy.

There were only a few problems I caught onto when reading the book, and those were passed to Lowe in a head-to-toe Mountain Owl Ink manuscript review that involves notations on…

  1. dialogue,

  2. setting,

  3. character development,

  4. tone,

  5. believability,

…and more. Of those issues, a number of them were writing habits I see commonly in others’ works. Little things like overuse/preference of certain words and phrases, pronoun ambiguity, and character trait vagueness are common issues that writers often don’t see in their own work but can present as problems for readers.

Which leads to my reasons for

3 Reasons To Get Your Manuscript Reviewed* (Before Publishing)

Reason #1: Self-Blindness

Self-blindness is the concept of being blind to what we do wrong. Sometimes our errors are pretty obvious (thanks, Spellcheck), but from time to time we can all use a second pair of eyes — not only in writing, but in life — to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

Nobody is immune to self-blindness, not even the most diligent writer or and editor (yes, including me!). That’s why I always say that “even editors need editors.”

Writing errors common in self-blindness include…

  1. the overuse of “that”

  2. comma overuse (or under-use)

  3. pronoun ambiguity

  4. setting confusion

  5. vague transition(s) between action, speaker, point of view, and/or setting

The only way we can learn to recognize our bad (and good!) writing habits — and learn from them — is by having the help of other people pointing them out to us. Remember…

#2: Avoid the “Whoops!” Re-Release

While there are a number of good reasons to do a re-release of a book, you don’t want to feel compelled to do so in order to fix (um… hide) writing mistakes!

Other than being an expensive and time-consuming way to fix mistakes,

In Lowe’s case, her re-release of Maiden’s Blush also included the integration of a brand new, simplified cover. Other good reasons to re-release, other than integrating a new cover:

The first edition cover of Maiden’s Blush.

  1. Addition of a new chapter (e.g. a different ending that leads into a sequel);

  2. Addition of artwork within the book itself (e.g. illustrations);

  3. As part of a promotion for another product (e.g. with the release of a sequel);

  4. Changing author’s legal name to a pseudonym; or

  5. Addition of an introduction penned by a guest writer.

One reason an author may not opt to have their manuscript reviewed prior to publication* is the cost. It can cost $200+ to have a manuscript reviewed by an editor

However, get creative and you may be able to get a review done on your manuscript for free (or close to it). For instance, see if you can strike up a bartered deal, as in the case of Mountain Owl’s review of Maiden’s Blush. Our simple barter involved me doing the review in exchange for a little promotion on the new review service I was offering. Win-win!

#3: Don’t turn off new readers.

Especially if you’re an indie or self-publishing author, you don’t want to run the risk of deterring new readers before you’ve even begun building an audience.

Readers are critical folk. They like pointing out (sometimes cruelly) errors and problems they see in books they read. They tell their friends, their Facebook pages, the bookstore clerks, Amazon reviews… And a bad review can hurt sales of that particular title as well as your future releases.

Start your audience off on the right foot with a well-written, strong, positively reviewed book to gain their respect, loyalty, and future business.

And that’s today’s #HappyWriting advice about #seeingfarther.

Have a manuscript that could use reviewing or questions about the review process? Send me a message at Jessi [at] MountainOwlInk [dot] com.

*Ideally, manuscripts should be reviewed prior to publication so as to prevent putting sub-par writing out into the world to be read (or, in the case of bad writing that gets published, not read).