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The Pros and Cons of Joining a Critique Group as a Self-Publishing Author

Writing can be a lonely business, and that is even truer for the self-publishing author who doesn’t have the support of an agent and traditional publishing team. Some self-publishing authors may join a critique group, whether online or in-person, to get support and feedback on their writing. Like many things, critique groups have pros and cons. Here are a few to consider:

Scales with question marks symbolizing weighing the pros and cons of a critique group


1. Community

Joining a critique group puts an author in touch with other authors, which can make the work of writing less lonely. Self-publishing authors may share information and learn from those around them. While this can be a huge advantage for an author, joining a regular writing group rather than a critique group offers many of the same advantages without some of the shortfalls.

2. “Free” Content Editing

The nature of a critique group is that authors share their work to get feedback. For authors wary of the cost of publishing a book, free content edits can be a considerable advantage over hiring a content editor. Members can point out plot holes, flat characters, and logic leaps for submitted works when a critique group works properly. They might also highlight distracting stylistic choices such as excessive description or clunky dialogue.

3. Read Like a Writer

Critique groups give self-publishing authors practice at reading a variety of manuscripts and dissecting what works and what doesn’t. Equally important, they must dissect the why. Does the dialogue feel clunky? Is a character using language inappropriate to the time and place of the story? Is the page and a half of the backstory boring to read? Practicing reading other writers’ stories for critique can make authors better editors of their works and make them more aware of what does and doesn’t work in stories. In a critique group, a reader isn’t asked if they like or dislike a story but to verbalize issues they see in the story so that the author can make valuable corrections.


1. Unhelpful Feedback

Critique groups often have self-publishing authors from different genres and with different levels of experience in writing. This can mean that the feedback may not be appropriate for a genre.

Also, fellow authors might suggest corrections based on preferences that aren’t necessary to tell a story successfully. It can be challenging for a beginning self-publishing author to weed out helpful and unhelpful critiques.

2. Time

Critique groups are built on the principle that everyone in the group gives and takes equally. This means that the self-publishing author is getting feedback on their story but also giving feedback on many other stories. For some authors, this can detract time and energy from their writing.

3. Criticism

While self-publishing authors join critique groups to get feedback on their writing, they may not be where they can healthily take that feedback. Sometimes, critique group members can be unkind with their input, and at other times, self-publishing authors may not be ready to hear that the story they have put so much of their time, heart, and soul into doesn’t make for a good reading experience. While this feedback can be taken and used to improve a story, it sometimes derails and discourages the author.

Critique groups can be a massive benefit to some authors but not everyone. However, a critique group well suited to a self-publishing author’s needs can be the difference between a good book and a great book.

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