Have you heard the expression, "a camel is a horse designed by a committee?" It's because they're lumpy and bumpy and funny-looking and inefficient, and, well, you get the picture.
One thing that's NOT meant to be "designed by committee" is a children's picture book.
But I sort of went and did it anyway. I created a page using Google Forms to help me collect feedback from pre-readers about a Jewish children's picture book I wrote.
And you know what? It really helped.
Here’s the biggest thing I learned:
Even the greatest book in the world is still written only from your perspective. Other people’s views can make it much broader.
Your book reflects you and YOUR world and YOUR point of view. By opening it up to feedback, though, you let other people behind the scenes, into your creative process… and sometimes, their ideas and their perspective, are exactly what you need to broaden your book and make it more universally appealing.
Sure, some of the feedback I got wasn't helpful at all, like one person, who suggested I rewrite the whole thing in verse because she likes rhymes. But some really was, and it helped me figure out what the first draft of the book had been missing.
When you're asking for feedback, be specific. Don’t say “did you like the book?” Use questions that are specifically targeted to things that are within your power to change about the book.
For example, one of my questions was
Would you say the pace of the story was...
- Definitely too slow; wouldn't hold my kids' interest
- A little slow
- Just right
- A little fast
- Definitely too fast; would confuse or annoy my kids
Another one – and this one terrified me, but I threw it in anyway – was
My children (grandchildren, students)... *
- Would probably enjoy this story
- Would probably not enjoy this story
(Yay, most people said YES!)
Finally, you should always wrap things up with a general question that lets them write down anything else that's on their mind. Here's what I used:
You’ve got the feedback… now what?
Of course, those people weren't rewriting the book - that was MY job once all the feedback was in.
You don't want to end up with a book that reads like it was designed by a committee. You want a book that shares YOUR strong, powerful voice.
So go ahead and collect as many comments and as much feedback as you can get your hands on. It’s worth its weight in gold!
But then, stir it all up in the cauldron of your imagination, let it stew for a while if it has to, and only THEN can you sit down and start reworking the story so it offers a more wonderful reading experience.
Thanks to feedback, you can pull that story out of YOUR head, YOUR world, YOUR life experience and make it a truly UNIVERSAL experience that’s all about the kids and families who will share it together.