Dear all,

This blog post is all about the value of readers. It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that when you’re a writer your thing of value is your readers, especially if they go on to do that bit extra and leave a review. But this blog isn’t about those types of readers it is about the ones you put your trust in before your work is placed on the bookshelves (whether that be virtual or physical). This blog post is all about the types of readers I refer to as literary guinea pigs.

So what is a literary guinea pig?

No they don’t squeak although they do sometimes tweet. They don’t fill their cheeks with food for later, although they do fill their heads with ideas and suggestions for your work. They don’t live in cages, although they are so important you could be forgiven for wishing they did. (You’d always know where they were then and they couldn’t go booking holidays without your say so). Are they cute? I have to say mine are and the fantastic thing of all is that they all have their own personalities, attitudes, opinions and styles. A diverse group of literary guinea pigs ensures you are getting a well rounded picture of how your book might be accepted by others. I call them literary guinea pigs (and please be aware that none are harmed in the process) but you may have heard them being referred to as readers, proof readers, beta-readers, editors, friends…perhaps if you have an alternative you could let me know.

So why have them?

Are you suggesting we get rid of these people? 🙂 I think that’s against the law but I will definitely do some research…yep it’s against the law, they’re here to stay. And thank goodness they are!

Upon writing my very first novel I was scared of letting anybody else read it. Reading your own work is very important, I mean if you don’t want to then why would anybody else, let alone part with their hard earned money for a copy? Eventually I plucked up the courage and passed my work on to someone else and they really enjoyed it. I passed it to another and they enjoyed it too. Before long I had a nice group of people who were all willing and happy to read my work, all people I trust to talk about the novel without giving away all the twists and turns and to be honest and open with me about what works and what doesn’t.

There is nothing as valuable as a fresh eye.  

It was fascinating to see what people picked up on, things that I hadn’t even noticed, even after reading it SO many times. In Poker Face I had one of the main character’s names wrong on the final page of the final chapter! Imagine that! I’d managed to miss it every single time I’d read it and that’s because my brain read what I had intended it to read and not what I had actually said. That is where literary guinea pigs come in very handy.

Patience is a virtue – keep your readers happy

I don’t mean clean their car every morning before work or serenade outside their office window I mean give them some space. When you have a group of people willing to read your work don’t be too eager. Be patient and use each one in turn, use them wisely. Find out who is free first (what things might be coming up that might get in the way of someone’s ability to read sooner rather than later?) and decide in what order you are going to use them. Give your work or creativity to your first reader and then LEAVE THEM ALONE! (Easier said than done) If they provide feedback on their progress voluntarily then be happy to leave it at that, they are working through and they don’t need you to pester them. Some readers go quiet for what feels like an eternity and, in those cases, it’s seems only fair to check in and make sure you haven’t bored them to death. Usually things have cropped up but you’ve got to expect delays, waiting is all part of the business – unfortunately!

Taking it all on board –v- throwing some of it back into the sea

I tell you this having discovered it the hard way myself. Once your first reader has finished arrange a time to meet up (if it has to be by email because of distance then arrange a time you can have a conversation like that so things can be clarified and discussed). The process needs to be open and informal and you, as a writer, need to keep an open mind. If your reader has ideas over your plot or characters then go away and really think it through before you make any changes. In my very first novel I took on board the advice of everyone and made changes accordingly. I did this because I wasn’t at all confident about my abilities as a writer. What I ended up with was a story that had changed so much I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m still working on how to put it back together again. All feedback will be valid, some will make things work better and some will need to be considered, appreciated and then declined. It is up to you as a writer to make that decision. It’s your work so be confident and bold in your choices. Once you have gone through and made the appropriate amendments and alterations then pass to your next reader and repeat the process (It’s like washing your hair).

The proof is in the guinea pig pudding – Yuck!

If you use your readers in this way then you will get the best out of them. I have seven literary guinea pigs and I know by the time my book hits the shelves it has been filtered by a total of eight different pairs of eyes (to include mine) and it has been read by me over ten times. Amazingly mistakes still seem to get through, but imagine how many more there would be if that process hadn’t happened. It would be like a piece of my homework from my school days! (Look at me pretending I did homework!)

Cheers for reading guys & I hope you all find yourselves some special literary guinea pigs too, if you haven’t done so already.


Jess 🙂 x

PS it’s actually good fun reading for others, I love it, so if you haven’t done it before perhaps try offering your services. Indie authors should work together; there is much to learn and much to share. Sharing is caring!