Ask for constructive criticism—First off, here’s a piece of advice for indie authors: Don’t read reviews of your books. The reviews of the book aren’t for the authors; they’re for the readers. Most of the time, the reviews aren’t even meaningful. The reviewer has found something they like or don’t like (most often the case) and focused on that. That doesn’t help an indie author; it only leads to hard feelings and self doubt. It weakens your confidence in yourself. Remember, most of the critics have never written a book; they don’t have the skills, the discipline or the interest. They’re simply looking to criticize you in an effort to make themselves feel better about their own inadequacies.
However, every writer needs to have someone to turn to for feedback about the manuscript. Constructive criticism only makes our work better. A good editor will often provide constructive criticism. Friends and family do not provide constructive criticism for fear of hurting your feelings; they tell you what they think you want to hear. Find some people who are willing to provide you with constructive criticism. It will only help you strengthen your work and your skills. Constructive criticism can be about plot, flow, character development, tone, style. But remember that you can’t have just one person to provide you with feedback. You need two or three people. I’ve set up a bit of a small group to review each of my manuscripts. They come up with various critiques and then I assimilate those and decide if I want to make any changes or alterations. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but it does provide me with an opportunity to get an opinion from impartial parties. Murder at the Ocean Forest is still one of my most divisive novels. The focus group either loved it or hated it. Some said the sentences were too long. Some said it was too slow moving. Some didn’t even want to finish it. On the opposite side, others just loved it and couldn’t get enough of it. They said they couldn’t put it down. At the end of the day, I had to make a decision on what changes to make. Today, I’m still proud of that book, and it still generates strong feelings on both sides.
Constructive criticism is something every indie author can use. Remember, the focus group you choose is not here to be your friend or preserve your feelings. They’re here to give you the honest truth. Take what they have to say, assess it, and then decide what to do.