Welcome to Book Country! You just activated your Book Country account. You filled out your profile, complete with an inviting picture, the genres you like, and links to find you on social media. You went over to the Introduce Yourself area on the discussion forums and said, “Hi.” Now, you’re thinking about sharing your manuscript for feedback.
We’re a writing and publishing community, and that means that we want you to get involved and support other members. In that spirit, we ask that you read and review one other book on Book Country before you can post your own. If you’re not that experienced at workshopping, this may seem intimidating, but don’t worry!
Here’s how to get involved in the community and get your book on the map:
There are several ways! You can explore the Genre Map, a representation of all the literary categories on Book Country. Every category has its own page, where you can look at Landmark Books, important published books in the genre, and search for Book Country projects to read.
You can also find books by going to the Books Page under “Read and Review.” There, you can find books Waiting to Be Discovered, which are brand-new projects to Book Country that haven’t gotten any reviews yet. Show them some love!
Or you can just browse. Use the search Books tab to look through all of the books on the site.
How to Give Feedback
Apply the golden rule to your reviews: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Give the kind of feedback you want to receive from others. Be specific. Use the new quote feature to refer to specific passages in the member’s book; make it easy for the member to understand and act upon your comments and suggestions.
The Book Country community’s manuscripts are all works in progress: writers are here to hone their craft, so they want real feedback to make real progress. Find the balance between constructive and honest.
Even if you’re not an experienced reviewer, keep this in mind: you are a voracious reader in a certain genre. A writer who wants to be successful in that genre will find your insight immensely valuable. Trust us.
Members ask us sometimes if they need to read an entire project uploaded to write a review. Not always. If a writer uploaded a full-length piece, it’s okay if you don’t have the time to read all of it. If you don’t finish the entire manuscript, let the writer know your review is based on the first “x” chapters so he or she isn’t confused.
Read enough to get a sense of the writing and be able to give overall feedback. The other feedback criteria are optional, but these are the ones requested by the writer. It’s always helpful for the writer to receive as much feedback as possible.
How to Give Book Country Ratings
Book Country ratings are not a reflection of how much you like or dislike a book. Ratings show the readiness of a manuscript for publication. Think of them as a scale of rough draft to final draft!
Here are the “official” Book Country ratings:*
1 nib — piece needs significant redrafting as well as reconceptualization
2 nibs — piece needs several more drafts and maybe some reconceptualization
3 nibs — piece needs significant revision, perhaps another draft
4 nibs — piece needs some editing and minor revisions
5 nibs — piece is publication-ready: you’re a star!
*One of our members, Herb Mallette, who also writes great reviews, articulated our thoughts about the ratings. Thanks, Herb!
Step 2: How to Upload Your Manuscript and Get Feedback
You’ve given feedback to another Book Country member, and you’re ready to share your manuscript.
From your Dashboard, click the “workshop a book” button. This is where you’ll upload your manuscript, give your book a title, designate chapters if you have them, select the feedback you want, and add a cover and book details.
The tool will ask you to upload your manuscript. Find the file from your computer and hit upload. You’ll see your text appear in the window.
Select your Feedback Criteria. Fellow Book Country members will always give you overall feedback. You can also ask for: pacing, character development, dialogue, continuity, plot, setting, voice, and point of view. The kind of feedback you’re looking for will depend on the type of book you’re writing and the stage of the manuscript. Have you just finished a first rough draft? Comments about mechanics and language are probably not as useful right now, while feedback about point of view, character development, or voice could be more meaningful. Are you about to shop your book to an agent or self-publish? Consider asking your readers for the more granular feedback to cover all of your bases.
Next, work on your Book Details. Add the title, how you want your name to appear, the genre, keywords that you think will help people get to your book, and a little bit about you so your readers can get to know you and put your work in context.
Fill out the About the Book section. It’s important to write a solid synopsis explaining your book. (Think of it as the book jacket copy. A well-written synopsis is the #1 way we personally decide which books to read. )
If you’re looking for specific feedback, about your cover, for example, or if you want to let your readers know what stage in the writing process you’re in, mention that in the Author Notes.
Finally, the only thing you have left to do is design or upload an attractive cover for your book, and you’re good to go.
Okay, ready? Click the “post” button to make your book visible. Now share the news with the community. Every Genre Talk forum contains a thread for new projects. For example, if you’re a fantasy writer, go over to the fantasy topic and drop a line in the Have a new fantasy project on Book Country? Need readers? Share here! thread to let other members know that you are new to the site and would love some feedback. Include a link to your book so that it’s easy for people to find it. Upload your cover to Pinterest. Get the word out on Facebook and Twitter—it’s the first step toward building an audience. Tweet a casual announcement about your new book or draft using the #bookcountry hashtag to welcome readers and their input.
Talk to people on the site! “Connect” with other writers so you can exchange private messages. That’s what the community part of Book Country is all about. Participate in discussions and write good reviews — it’s how you’ll get members to want to get to know you as a writer. (Please connect with us, too. We want to read and help your work.)
That’s it! Are you ready for some feedback? Take a deep breath.
Step 3: How to Use the Feedback You Receive
You’ve gotten a message that the first feedback of your manuscript is live. It feels strange and kind of surreal to see a stranger writing about your book. You scan every word and punctuation mark for the underlying message, “You’re bad! Your book sucks.” Nah, that’s just your insecurity talking. You’ll be fine. Give the feedback a read through and pat yourself on the back for putting yourself out there and letting other people dissect your work. I know there will be compliments there with the criticism.
It’s nice to thank your reviewers in the comments section under the feedback, even if you’re not going to take all of their suggestions. They donated their time to read your book and write about it, so it’s good to acknowledge their efforts. If there is something you didn’t quite understand about their feedback, feel free to ask for clarification in the comments. That’s how you’ll make new friends, too!
Be gracious about the feedback you receive. You want to be an author. You need to grow a thick skin and let things roll off your back. If you think the feedback was mean-spirited, still find a way to say “thank you” and let the reviewer know you didn’t appreciate their tone. (You’re not the only person new to workshopping.) We’re a community based on the foundation of support and respect — if someone insults you, please report them through the abuse button on the page or email us.
Once, you’ve gotten a few reviews, it’s best to think about what to do with all of the great feedback you’ve received. Book Country members approach that in different ways. To quote one of our members, GD Deckard, “You could save yourself time if you pay the most attention to the criticism you most dislike.” So ask yourself: does the feedback feel true to you? Is it something you’ve been ignoring? Or does it take you in a direction that’s not where you want to go?
Often, if you hear the same theme multiple times, your readers are picking up something you may have missed. Pay attention to that. If, after careful deliberation, you disagree with the feedback, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, it’s your book.
Further Reading for Brand-New Members
We’ve covered the basics. If you want to keep reading about how things get done around here, this is a compilation of great posts that will steer you in the right direction:
• Our Community Guidelines
• Member RJBlain talks about how she gives feedback
• Author Michael R. Underwood’s advice on how to use feedback
• Member GD Deckard discusses how he uses feedback when revising his work
Are you a visual person? Then check out these instructional videos; they will give you general overview of Book Country and help you get started with workshopping on the site.