NEVER ask for feedback (on your book title or cover)

The flawed truth about seeking feedback.

1. The REASON you ask is flawed

It’s flawed because you are unsure, unconfident and want someone else to take responsibility. When I see budding authors ask this question, I can feel the desperation… the fear… the confusion. They have no idea and just want to hand it over to someone else. Then if it fails they can sit back smugly thinking it was down to someone else’s mistake. Man up. Own it. It is your work and it will stand or fall on by your efforts alone.

They have no idea and just want to hand it over to someone else

2. The PEOPLE you ask are flawed.

They are flawed because 99% of the time those who weigh in are NOT your ideal readers anyway. They are well-meaning, but uninformed friends, fellow authors, or random ‘disinterested parties’. All of whom are more than happy to pass judgement on your work (while floundering on nailing down a name for their own). It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind. (People are happy to weigh in when THEY have nothing to lose (or gain)).

It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind

3. The WAY you ask is flawed.

It’s flawed because you don’t have a clue. I have seen – fancy ass polls, mix n match title/subtitle combos and complete blank slate ‘throw me a lifeline – I don’t have a clue’ requests. What I have rarely (if ever) seen is someone who first explains 1) The purpose of their book and 2) Their ideal reader. So the feedback they get is based on misinformation (or worse – NO information), and the fickle personal likes and dislikes of various bored Facebook ‘friends’.

The feedback they get is based on misinformation

4. The PLACE you ask is flawed.

It’s flawed because Facebook is the world’s biggest data mining operation. But the way Facebook mines data is NOT the way you are mining it with your polls and ‘tell me what you thinks’. Facebook’s mining process is akin to the most high tech, robust, invasive, thorough, gold discovering operation out there. The way you are ‘mining’ is like a happy-go-lucky prospector showing up to the gold fields, wandering about, hands in pockets, hollering out “Gold? Gold?”, while gazing at the stars, in the hope that good fortune, fate and the gods will smile upon him and the next rock he kicks will be a giant ass gold nugget.

5. The FEEDBACK you get is flawed

Any feedback that is not from your ideal reader is useless. If you get 20 answers and 17 are from people who are not your ideal reader (IR) – put a ‘0’ next to the ones that are not your IR and a 1 next to those that are your IR. Add these numbers up. Multiply by 1000 and then divide by a teacup. That is how many dollars you won’t make based on the title.

Multiply by 1000 and then divide by a teacup

6. The ANSWERS you get are flawed

Nobody is honest. We all have an agenda. We all lie. If people don’t know your objective they will put their own objective in place and the answer you get will be through the flawed prism of that.

We all have an agenda

7. The PEOPLE PLEASERS are flawed

People are too NICE. They will tell you what you want to hear. Or worse: what they think you want to hear. You may as well as a puppy. Pay no attention to it.

You may as well as a puppy

8. The DISRUPTORS are flawed

People are too NASTY. They want to get noticed and your question has provided them with the perfect platform to flex their muscles. Their feedback has more to do with their objective than yours.

People just want to get noticed

9. What people LIKE is flawed

People will tell you what they LIKE. A good title rarely has anything to do with likes or dislikes. People grow to like a title because it gains meaning to them – once they have read the book. Before they have read the book they have no association. They will base their action (to buy/to not buy) on a myriad of reasons, zero of which are if they ‘like’ the title.

A good tiitle rarely has anything to do with what people ‘like’

10. The method is flawed

It will leave you more CONFUSED than you started. And you will probably just go and do whatever you wanted to in the first place anyway

5 reasons why you should ALWAYS ask for feedback

…on your book title or cover (& the best way to ask).

  1. You are not the best judge of what will do well – it is impossible to be objective when you are obsessed. And if you have just spent the last 3 months, 6 months , 2 years…. believe me, you are obsessed.
  2. Your IR is the only one who knows what will really work. And by work I mean make them click.
  3. Listening to others will help you see a slice of the market you were unaware of. You might be surprised. You might be unsettled. You might have to change a few things. This is good. None of us should ever get complacent. That’s what the traditional publishers did. That’s what Kodak did. That’s what Video Ezy did. And look at them now.
  4. Consensus is king. Listen to the feedback. If they all hate it, you may have to rethink things. Even if you love it.
  5. Kill your babies. Ernest Hemingway told us to do this. And as authors we hate the thought of infanticide. But murderers we must become.

Asking for feedback is an art.

Unless they are trained in the art of market research the answers they will give you will be vague, conflicting and useless

  1. Be clear on your desired outcome of the book and explain this in your request.
  2. Be clear on who your book is aimed at and explain this in your request.
  3. Ask WHAT you want the title to achieve.
  4. Explain HOW you want it to achieve this
  5. Ask for 1. Instant gut reaction 2. Brutal honesty 3. If you want them to weigh in with other suggestions or not.

The WRONG way

“Which do you like best out of the 3 titles?”

The RIGHT way

“My upcoming book is a teen fantasy novel, aimed at disgruntled, middle school, girls who are wise beyond their years, yet highly vulnerable and mostly clueless to the reality of the world. If you have one or are this person – please give me feedback on my title!

The book is a mixture of empowerment, entertainment and education, told in a way that the reader (my aforementioned disgruntled lass), will be laughing even as she is arming herself for a dangerous world that is waiting to trick, trap, tease and tempt her. The aim of my title is to be catchy, memorable and give a sense of ‘cool’. Because of this I have used words that will date, but will appeal to the current market.

When you read these titles if you are not my IR – please put your mind into that body and answer from her perspective.

Please give me your immediate reaction – (not the one that come hot on the heels of that).

I do NOT want to know the one you ‘like’ best. I want to know which one jumps out? Grabs your eyeballs? Makes you pause for a second?

I have 3 titles for you to vote on… (and if you have such a lass in your vicinity – PLEASE ask her to weigh in!)

  1. The sickest guy at school
  2. Boys and bunking in Birmingham
  3. Don’t tell Sara Smith


Here's the thing: opinions are like a-holes...

Everyone has one. And everyone thinks theirs is the best…

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