How to Write a Nonfiction Book: Part III Acquiring Feedback

How to Write a Nonfiction Book

Acquiring Feedback

Good day, dear reader! If you have made it this far with your nonfiction book project, congratulations! You’ve done your research, tucked a few drafts under your belt, and wandered so far into the trees that you can no longer see the forest. It’s time to gather other views. This post is part three of our series on how to write a nonfiction book, and today, we will be sharing one crucial aspect: getting feedback.

Invoke Your Inner Editor

Before you share your work with others, it’s essential to do a self-check. Ask yourself: Was the content clear? Did any areas lack sufficient detail? Did they leave any questions blank? What did they like best? Least? What did they gain from reading your manuscript? Is there anything else they would like to share?

If you aren’t quite ready to share your work with others, trick your brain into thinking it’s reading something new. You’ll spot wrinkles you didn’t notice before. Change the font or font size to alter the visual appearance of your manuscript by forcing the text to fall differently on the page. Review your manuscript in a different form. If you usually read it on your computer screen, print it out or upload it to your e-reader. Read your manuscript aloud. Your ears will pick up problems that your eyes missed.

Recruit Beta Readers

Beta readers are a significant asset in your writing journey. They bridge the gap between you and your intended audience. Choose voracious readers who appreciate your genre, are willing to share their views honestly, and whose opinions you trust. You may be tempted to invite family members or close friends along for the ride, but the potential for bias is too risky.

To support beta readers, let them know what you’re trying to achieve, ask questions, and invite them to point out examples of their concerns. Key questions to ask include: Did they find any parts boring? What did they like least? What questions remained unanswered?

Hire an Editor

Beta reader feedback may not be completely positive, and sometimes it hurts. Give it time to settle before evaluating what to keep and what to disregard. Distinguish between personal preferences and objective remarks. Identify common themes and patterns in the feedback. Recurring observations warrant more weight.

Trust your instincts as you evaluate the feedback but be honest with yourself. View your manuscript’s shortfalls as opportunities for improvement. If you have the budget, hire an editor to help you whip your manuscript into shape. If you don’t have a few thousand dollars or more to spend, consider seeking a manuscript review. Some editors evaluate entire manuscripts for a flat rate and provide a general idea of where to focus revision efforts.

Be careful who you hire. Editing concerns far more than spelling, punctuation, and grammar, so your writer friend or the teacher down the street probably isn’t qualified. A good editor is objective, reviews your manuscript in astonishing detail, offers constructive feedback with suggestions and encouragement, helps you maintain your voice, and recognizes editing as a collaborative process.

Your early drafts are all about you and your ideas, but the closer you come to publication, the more important it becomes to focus on reader experience. Acquiring feedback helps you do just that. In our next and final installment in this series, we’ll explore publishing options.

Write a Nonfiction Book

Get all the details by reading the latest issue of The Bellwether magazine.

By Deborah Froese
Author, editor, and story coach.

Deborah Froese is on a mission to spark change through the stories we share.

The Author, Deborah Froese

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