Critics making suggestions in what changes are needed in your book

Got one of my books on Authonomy. com being looked at. It's a historical detective novel about an art thief. It's a detective with lots of action and a fair amount of World War One histroy thrown in. Here's the problem; it's the three thousand or so readers in the site who have the potential of reading the book and voting for it up or down. And many make suggestions on how to improve it. But for every ten people who say they love this or that inclusion of fact . . . or writing style . . . or description . . . there are five who say they absolutely hate the very same thing.

And I've come to the conclusion there are lots of readers in there who love to read. But there are quite a few in there who prefer to . . . what I call . . . nitpick. "This comma shouldn't be there," or "Change 'that' to 'which'. "

So who do you believe?

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Yes, but...

The good ones that are being overlooked are the books that stick in your mind. There is some godawful stuff out there, things that make you wonder how even the author could look back at it a year later and not gasp. Unintentionally bad syntax, misspellings, typos. And those are before you even start to talk about the lack of plausible plots, believable characters, or stilted dialog.

I've read things in critique groups and thought "Where to start?" when looking for ways to improve it, and know writers who have submitted those manuscripts essentially unchanged. We all talk about how much crap is published out there. but it doesn't even scratch the surface of the Mother Lode we rarely see.
Dana, oh I agree, buddy. The slush-piles are mountainous with dregs.
Autonomy is not what I call a good place to find qualified people to critique your work. There are other sites (Litopia for one) that require you to contribute to the forum and also post some polished work to become a full member. Once you are a full member, you can post work for critiques. Those critiques are hard hitting and very accurate. In addition, on Litopia, an agent will do a critique once you have been through critiques by members. These are not gentle and reflect an actual agent and how he would handle the Query/Synopsis/First few chapters.

There are people out there who can contribute to improving your MS via critiques. They are not to be found on Authonomy or Absolute Write (there are a few there that can do a good job, but it is hit and miss).

Ultimately the lure of Authonomy is not the readers critiquing your writing. The lure is HC editors taking interest in a manuscript. HC editors, and very possibly editors from other publishing houses who cruise the selections looking.
I know a few authors who tried Authonomy and hit the top ten, a couple hit top five. Nadda, nothing at all from agents, publishers, etc. On the other hand, at Absolute Write and Litopia I know a number of authors who have gotten requests for fulls and publishing deals using the traditional methods, both with and without agents. I am talking publishers here, not POD or vanity press.

Regarding the luck/timing good/good enough discussion, I think if we're talking strictly the major publishers, then the keyword is "commercial." Publishing at that level is a business, pure and simple. Sure, an editor has to fall in love with a story to *want* to publish it in the first place (because it takes a real commitment to shepherd it through the process, get others onboard, get the book past the marketing committee, etc.) but beyond that, virtually all of the decisions made are driven by a novel's commercial potential.

Writers tend to get hung up on the idea that quality writing is synonymous with publishing success, but that's not necessarily the case. More important the great writing is a great story. Readers can forgive a lot in the writing that would drive writers crazy as long as the story engages them and sweeps them along.

This is also where luck and timing come into play. The market is constantly changing. If an author has that great story that hits at the right time in the market, it's extremely likely that it'll get picked up. If it's out of synch with the current market (or what publishers envision the market will be two years down the line, since it generally takes that long to bring out a book), then it won't be considered commercial, and it won't get picked up.

Not speaking specifically to B.R. or anyone else, I submit that if an author's hitting a brick wall with the major publishers (and obviously, if getting published with the majors is their goal), they should take a hard look not at the writing, but at the stories they're telling. If the major publishers aren't interested despite the writer's confidence that their writing chops are up to snuff, then it's because the publishers aren't seeing the stories as commercial. Ramp up that quality - make your *stories* commercially irresistible - and you'll be far more likely to see success.
Oh, Karen. With everything you said about the commericalism in publishing I agree completely. The point about my novel not being commercials. . . well . . . hell. An art thief in world war one who is stealing a renaissance masterpiece AND solving a homicide? Can't see how more 'commercial' that could get.
What, no vampires?
Hell, if I thought it'd help, I throw in horny anemic vampires!!
Sexy virgin vampires is what you need, I'm pretty sure. I'm putting them in all my stuff now. And cats. Lots of cats.
I think a smart critic, even one who doesn't like your book, can be valuable. My first book, THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD, got three bad reviews out of 28 reviews that I found. One of them didn't like the book because the reviewer felt that an important plot point rested on an unbelievable coincidence.

He was right. And when I read the review I knew what the problem was. The book was based on a true story and took place in real locations that I am very familiar with. The "coincidental" plot point was that my hero got conked over the head and woke up on a fishing boat that just so happened to be going to the very island in the South China Sea that he needed to get to.

The thing is, in real life, if someone was conked over the head in the Chinese city of Zhuhai and thrown onto a fishing boat, that island is most likely where they would end up. It is in the middle of the primary fishing grounds that are used by the boats in that harbor. I knew that when I wrote it. My readers, however, didn't, so it just seemed like a lucky coincidence.

Luckily, I had time between the hardcover and paperback printing of the book to fix the problem in the paperback. I added several establishing sentences that made it clear why the boat ended up where it did.

An example of a bad review that turned out very good.
Eric--wonderful example of a good critical reviews.


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