1. Friends and family: You need and deserve encouragement; let your friends and family give it to you. They will tell you they like your work because they like you. What are friends and family for?
2. Writers: Offer to critique their work in exchange. What you learn from the work of others and from others about your work will help you improve your prose and build a community of writers.
3. A writing group: Join or start a writing group, online or off—that meets regularly to discuss its members’ work, so you can get feedback as you write. Working with more experienced writers than yourself will be more productive than working with less experienced writers. Being able to give and receive constructive criticism is crucial. You may have to try more than one group until you find one that gives you what you need, and whose members will benefit from your advice.
4. Potential buyers: Would they buy your book if they found it in a bookstore? Try to enlist knowledgeable booksellers—you also want them to buy your book—to render an opinion at least on your idea, title, and promotion plan. The better customer you are, the more likely they’ll oblige by at least reading the first chapter.
5. Well-read, objective readers: Even if they’re not familiar with books like yours, they know good writing.
6. Experts in your field: Approach people who know what you’re writing about, including experts, academics, influencers, and authors of books like yours.
7. A devil’s advocate: Find a mentor whose taste and judgment you respect, and in whose knowledge you have absolute confidence. A devil’s advocate is a word wizard who can combine truth with charity, analyze the structure and development of your book, and spot every word, punctuation mark, idea, character, and incident that can be improved or removed.
8. A freelance editor: Find a developmental editor who has either worked for the kind of publisher you want or who has edited books like yours that were published by the kind of house you want. But don’t rely just on an editor; the more knowledgeable readers you have, the better. Your book will also need line and copy editing.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love the recordings from our previous Nonfiction Writers Conference events. Check it out!