IWSG 79: We are Part of the Publishing Team


This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



 Ronel Janse van Vuuren | J Lenni Dorner | Gwen Gardner | Sandra Cox | Louise – Fundy Blue


Being a writer, when you’re reading someone elses work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other peoples books?

All of us need to remember that all books are a team effort: writer, editors, and artist.

Substandard copy

I’ve closed books because the copy was substandard. In not talking about a couple of mistakes. I’m referring to every page has an error. The story is incoherent. Because the team who should have cleaned it up to a squeaky clean finish, didn’t do their job.

After it’s published, there really isn’t much left to do. But before it gets out there? We should rally and help whoever asks us for honest input.

Yeah, I’m looking at you. 😉

Lots of work doesn’t get published because the critters didn’t bump it up.

What makes the difference?

Us. We are a community, and we are also on the publishing team. We are the critters, the beta readers and critique partners.

I warn everyone I read that I’ll be brutally honest because I know no matter how gentle I try to be, what I’ll say could hurt. I want the writer to be prepared—to strengthen their resolve—before they read a word of what I have to say.

Truth is truth. Being honest is hard. And each writer deserves nothing less.

No one is perfect. We all have weaknesses. For me, it’s mostly homophones and spelling. No editing program can point out all of them. Only my brave critters can save me there. I depend on them more than they know.


We all want to improve our craft. That takes bravery. Baring our soul and our words. So when agreeing to give feedback. Remember two things: be honest and be as gentle as possible. We trust you to be there for us and not stroke our egos.

Have you ever been let down by a critter? What did you change the next time around?

55 responses to “IWSG 79: We are Part of the Publishing Team

  1. That’s like with the submissions I receive. I don’t want to crush the writer’s dream, but I have to let him/her know what didn’t work and why. If not, they’ll just keep making the same mistake.

  2. Hi and Happy New Year”
    I agree that no one is perfect. Personally, I miss words. My eyes trick me. So I hire a good proofreader to read my text. I am in a critique group, and for a couple of years, I have been working with a great developmental coach. The qualities that I don’t like about critique groups or editors are the ones that sometimes tend to push a writer to write like them. For me, that is not the purpose of the group or and editor.

    Wishing you all the best.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    • An editor should cut your work like a raw diamond. Only letting out the works true beauty and meaning.

      Some don’t get it, but hey, they are only human too. 😉

  3. It’s crucial as a writer to have critique partners who can give you an honest opinion so that you submit the best project you can for submission. I agree with you that we this team. Most of mine have been very helpful.

  4. Honest but gentle – definitely! And pretty much always finding something positive to say. 🙂

  5. Good point about the team affecting the quality of the work. I love your term, “brave critters” 😀 So true that it’s hard to offer critical feedback. When I receive it, I get angry, then after I calm down, I often feel grateful for the help in improving my writing.

    Happy New Year, Anna!

  6. Honest and gentle – key words for life and not just critting! Excellent advice!
    Wishing you all the best for 2021!

  7. The best critique partner is one who shares your vision. Unfortunately, most critique partners I’ve encountered so far all had different visions for my stories and tried to tell me how they would write them.
    My advice to the writers would be: any critique is helpful, but you have to approach it with a healthy dose of self-assurance. It’s your story and your writing voice. Use the helpful critique but discard the rest.

    • Ah, I usually start with something like:

      This is just one person’s opinion. Only you know where you want your story to go, so keep what helps and toss the rest.

      I never feel bad if they don’t use a word; I’m comforted that I tried to help. 🙂

  8. You’re right. Honesty hurts, but it’s necessary. If writers can’t take constructive criticism, they’re never going to survive after publication. Even great writers have had scathing reviews.

    Here’s to another year of honest criticism and some good writing.

  9. Ah yes, homophones (I had to look up the definition, ha ha). They stump me, too. Which is it: “by” or “bye?” and a few more.
    Awhile back a new writer requested comments on his memoir. He included several prejudicial descriptions. Unfortunately, he jumped up and down when these offending descriptions were pointed out to him.
    Confusion and hurt feelings on both sides. I believe he needed to hear the message.I still wonder if there was anyway to avoid hard feelings.
    Thankfully, most of us welcome input and are grateful.

  10. Adrienne Reiter

    It takes a village to write a book. – I forget who to quote on that.
    I’m much better at taking and utilizing criticism now. With my first published work I was prickly about it. I read some of my earlier stuff and cringe.

    Happy New Year!

  11. I’ve had some good relationships and some bad ones. There were ones that didn’t give me anything except “I like it.” and others that were blunt with not much feedback beyond “frankly, it was boring.” But I’ve had some good relationships that have lasted for years and are still going. And then there’s my critique group who are wonderfully constructive, even if they are brutal.

  12. It takes some time to find comfort with critique–both giving and receiving. But I agree that nonspecific praise isn’t any more useful than hurtfully intended criticism. We should all come to the process with a heart to help and learn. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

  13. Happy New Year Anna! There is always a balance in feedback and I do believe it can be achieved. I like the “Us” break down. It does take a team of writers and editors to make our work sparkle. 🙂

  14. Yes, I love my current critique group because they give me gentle, but definitely honest feedback. Our rule: positive, negative, question, and then more positive. So, we layer in the good stuff, but we don’t forget to give real critique. My last piece I sent in was so bad, I was embarrassed, but they did the right thing and gave me critical critique. And then, they told me I would get it next time. 🙂

  15. Great answer.
    It isn’t always easy to understand the critiques of an editor. One told me a thing didn’t exist, an actual thing that I know does exist because I’ve used it. At first, I wanted to just reply with a link to where to buy the item. Then I realized the better idea was to add words to my story so that others would be able to better search for the item, in case anyone else thought it wasn’t real. (It isn’t cheap. But it’s real.)
    It’s always best to sit with edits for a few days and think about how the suggestions could be used to make the story better for the reader.

    • I remember my first line edit. They told me right out that when I read the changes to remember that they loved the story.

      The whole experience was exciting and frightening all at once. I dream of doing it again like an adrenaline junkie. 😉

  16. Great article, I agree with your words and your reflection of what it means to be a good critter. I gave back the first MS someone asked me to beta read, because there were too many mistakes and I wasn’t ready to be that person who’s harsh but gentle. I didn’t have the time or the skills to help the writer. I hope they found someone who did. Nowadays, I treat critting seriously, and I welcome crit from others. I think that’s part of being ready to learn, and being part of a community. 🙂

  17. Homophones trip me up too. Made it a point not to rely on spellcheck. If it’s the wrong word, but spelled correctly, they won’t catch it. Always go back to a sentence and re-read to ensure whether that was the word I want to use.

  18. It is important to be gentle when critiquing. That’s the only way to get good books out there and to have writers be the best version of themselves.

  19. Those critters are essential to a good book. IF they do their jobs. Sure, the occasional typo can get past us, but page after page of errors will pull me right out of a story.

  20. Authors don’t do themselves any favors when they get defensive with critique partners, beta readers, and editors. Sure, not every bit of advice will ring true, especially from self-appointed writing experts whose expertise goes no deeper than having read Stephen King’s On Writing. I try to phrase most of my feedback as specific reader questions. Most authors I’ve beta-read for appreciate that, but some don’t. Our books are not our babies, they’re a product we’re asking people to pay for. We need to give them the best reading experience we can.

  21. Great post and I found the responses enlightening.

  22. I am eternally grateful for the authors who have critiqued me and my editors I’ve worked with. It’s not always easy, but their input always helps.

  23. Our editors are the last bastion before going to digital or print format and on to the public. I appreciate everything they do or tell us to do. It’s tough to accept criticism, but the more you write, and the older your get, their input becomes a gift, rather than a disheartening critique.

  24. Thanks for these honest and heartfelt thoughts. I haven’t published any fiction in a while, kind of gave up in it, and this gives me something to think about. Happy New Year Anna!

  25. How I would love for you to be my beta reader one day, Anna! Honesty is soooo important. When I picked my team of beta readers, I chose people from different backgrounds, cultures, and writers/non-writers who I knew would be blunt with me. Like you said, that’s what we need. The changes and improvements have to happen before publication. When you provide honest feedback, you HELP the author. When you say everything is great, you provide no value. The only thing I’d do different next time would be to involve beta readers after the third or fourth draft instead of the second draft. 🙂

    Speaking of being brutally honest… that’s how my book Plunge has been described and I am noticing that this either makes someone love or hate the book. There is no in between!

  26. melissamaygrove

    Yes, yes, yes! Excellent post. There are so many substandard novels out there. I don’t expect perfect, but I do expect polished.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m tardy in making return visits for IWSG because I was helping my mom move last week.

  27. Having critique partners and/or beta readers, as well as an editor and proofreader are extremely important.

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