Over the years, I have received this comment from frustrated authors when a work didn’t hit the mark with me. As someone who penned many books in the past myself, I understand and sympathize with these authors. However, this argument will almost never get an author another read of the same manuscript — at least in my office. This is because though they are important, crit groups usually start out as a gathering of new authors banding together to help one another. Rarely is there a professional writer in the bunch.
But before you protest that isn’t so…
Yes, sometimes critique groups do have professional authors as members. But in the course of my 20 years in book publishing, I’ve only encountered a couple of groups where I could say, “Okay, if this went through your crit group, I can pretty much send your work to every editor I know without a second thought.” These crit groups are very rare and special things, and usually come about when one or two authors become successful among a group of genuine friends.
I wish I could set out a list of bullet items outlining how to form a crit group that will wow an agent. As suggested above, I can’t. My best advice is to make connections with people writing your type of book and enjoy the friendship, fellowship, and exchanged knowledge. After all, no one should choose friends based only on what they can do for you.
But I have a big name author in my group!
If this is the case, I believe it’s perfectly fine to mention that Bestselling Jane has is one of your critique partners, and there is a good possibility she will endorse your book. (Or maybe she has already promised, since she has read the book and would only need to write a blurb). Better still, perhaps Bestselling Jane could write a blurb to include in your proposal.
Even Bestselling Jane won’t ensure you’ll secure Dream Agent. However, her involvement with your work should give you an advantage with the right agent.
Back to reality…
For writers in newbie groups, just know that yes, it’s great to send a proposal out with the confidence that it’s been gone over by other writers. And if your work doesn’t resonate with one agent, keep trying. Keep writing. And have fun!
Are you in a critique group? Why or why not?
What are the advantages of critique groups, in your opinion?
What tips can you give other writers on forming and maintaining a successful critique group?