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You can't unhear feedback

Everybody has an opinion and most are far too willing to share it. Unfortunately, what I call amateur feedback is among the most costly potholes on a book writing journey. It typically comes from a close friend, colleague, or family member, and it’s typically just plain wrong.

Why is it so costly? Because once you hear that feedback, you can’t unhear it. That feedback rattles around in your head like dice on a craps table in Vegas. That feedback distorts your vision, your clarity, and your momentum.

Early in my ghostwriting career, an author asked her colleague to read our manuscript in progress. We were only halfway through the writing stage. “She knows me so well,” was my client’s reasoning. Her colleague, of course, was happy to pick apart almost every damn page. The result was a dead stall of the project. My client was now frantic, believing that we were not capturing her voice and message, that maybe her ideas were wrong, that everything was wrong.

I realized the meeting was simply an ego party. My client needed someone to bolster her ego and her colleague was happy to bolster her own by telling both of us what to do. Instead, my client’s confidence tanked, and the project was in a ditch. All of this mayhem from someone who had no experience with books beyond reading a few, hence the title amateur. She hadn’t been involved in the hours of brainstorming, visioning, research, or outlining we had done months prior. It was an important lesson learned for me.

This issue is so disruptive that I address it in a clause in my ghostwriting agreement. It restricts authors from sharing early versions of the work in progress and states clearly that I will only incorporate feedback from an industry professional i.e. editor or publisher.

I know that feedback is critical. But the timing and source of feedback is as important as the feedback itself. Once a manuscript’s first draft has been through a round of editing, then my clients are free to share it with whomever they choose.

It’s your book. I want you to be happy with the finished product. I don’t give a rip what your best friend, your spouse, or your mother thinks. Not sorry.

A couple of parting thoughts:

Just because someone “knows me well” doesn’t mean their feedback will be helpful.

Just because someone is an avid reader does not mean they understand what a manuscript needs in the early stages of development.

Just because you are a strong, confident woman doesn’t prevent feedback from igniting impostor syndrome.

Do yourself a favor; keep the lid on your manuscript until you complete the first draft and a round of editing. Your book project and your sanity will be better for it.


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