by Sam Thomas
For most first-time authors, finding good readers is a daunting and difficult task. In large part this is because – to be honest – most people are liars.
I don’t mean that they are bad people. Quite the opposite, in fact. The problem is that when a friend or family-member (and who else is going to read your unpublished novel for free?) confronts a dreadful book, how likely is she to tell you the truth? Not bloody likely.
I have no advice on this front, nor is it the topic of this post.
The problem of finding readers changes fundamentally once your baby hits the shelves, and you start working on a second book. Because you are now a published author, you can ask (and sometimes convince) relative strangers to read your work. But how many is enough?
I ask this because I recently picked up a well-regarded literary mystery, and – as is my habit – went straight to the acknowledgements. There, the author thanks by name over two dozen people who read early drafts of the book.
There are a few possibilities as to how this is possible. First, these thirty people read the book seriously, and author did a lot of rewriting over a long period of time. While this is possible for debut authors, it’s not really an option for writers who have a contract with a deadline. (Try telling your editor that you’d love to send her your manuscript, but you need a twenty more reads and rewrites.)
The other possibility is that he had the book out to a lot of people at once, and – to my mind – that seems equally insane. I know from my time in academia that different readers want different things, and there is no way that ten – or even five – readers can provide coherent feedback.
Now I will grant that an author is free to pick and choose what advice to take, and to some extent more might be better than less. So I will open it up to you:
How many readers do you have, and how did you arrive at this number? Is two dozen too many, or am I just limited in my thinking?