“My book is ready to go to the printer, but I’ve asked a few people to read it, and I’m getting some mixed feedback. What should I do?”

I will be frank: if you respond to the tastes and opinions of other people at this stage, you could end up rewriting your book 20 times and stop there only out of exhaustion.

Below are three Goodreads reviews for The Wealthy Barber, the best-selling Canadian finance book of all time. Most of the reviews are very positive, and I’ve picked out only the two worst I came across, but my point is that absolutely nothing is universally liked.

It is easy for people who have never written more than a college essay to point to the flaws they perceive in the books that sell the most and are the most useful.

Patrick rated it:  did not like it
Hard to get through as it is horribly written fiction even if it has good advice.
Victoria rated it it was ok

Shelves rated it: it was ok.
Blerg. A useful summary of financial planning liberally wrapped in a sugary
confection of trite, cheesy, misogynistically conservative nonsense that made it a fast but unpalatable read.

Denis Berman rated it: it was ok
If you are under 30, you will find this book depressing. Heck, the narrative of this book will make you think 22 is old. Everyday is a blessing and be thankful. This book makes you want to puke. Made me nauseous. Planning for retirement is the name of the game. But reading it in 2016 really made it irrelevant in today’s day and age. 2 stars for the fast flow and me literally killing it within a day. Don’t use that credit

We often think that our family and friends will be overwhelmingly positive and will only point out anything that might embarrass us. However, in my experience, the most pointed (and often uninformed, in terms of what works and doesn’t work in a book) opinions come from close family and friends who can’t help but think what they would do, say, or write, versus what works for readers.

In other words, our closest family and friends can be TOO close, and it can be good to keep in mind that our colleagues are also often our not-quite-unbiased competitors.

Here is a terrific list by writer Elizabeth Gilbert outlining who she has learned to trust to read her work and provide feedback:

    • Do I trust this person’s taste and judgment?
    • Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?
    • Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?
    • Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?
      I would add to this: Has this person read at least 10 and preferably 20 or more books of this type?
    • Are they capable of being objective?

Here is the whole article:

That is not to say that feedback at any point is a bad thing at all, but it is important to remember that each bit is just one person’s perspective. Ultimately, I urge you to weigh it all carefully and then decide what resonates with you and what doesn’t.

If you’re working with a publishing professional (agent, publisher, editor or publicist) that you trust because of their record of success and demonstrated expertise, they can also help you wade through the thicket of other people’s taste to identify and gems that will improve your book.