Few feelings are scarier than handing over a first-draft, unedited book manuscript for criticism. I’ve done so eight times before writing “Little Boy Blue: One Puppy’s Great Escape.” Apparently, the ninth time’s the charm in terms of giving myself heart palpatations. I care so deeply about this book’s message—rescuing great shelter dogs like my boy Blue—that I want it to be absolutely perfect.
And so, two weeks ago, with permission from my editor at Barron’s Books, I gave copies of the “Little Boy Blue” working draft to five rescue advocates and one veterinarian. I also gave copies to my close friend’s book club, to gauge the reaction of general readers. We didn’t even have a properly typeset copy; only the Word document at right, with a watermark for copyright protection. I asked for comments and suggestions by December 1. And then I set about fidgeting and pacing for the better part of November while more than a dozen people cast their critical eyes on every single one of my 85,000 words.
Much to my surprise, one of the advocates called me less than a week later. She’s a decades-long shelter director in Massachusetts. The first thing she told me was that she had sat down the night before and expected to skim the manuscript, but that she ended up reading until 1:30 in the morning. It was that compelling, even for someone who’s been involved in the cause as long as she’s been.
Just a few days after that, I heard from a longtime rescue advocate in North Carolina. She told me she’s setting time aside to read early in the mornings and again before bed, and that she, too, is having a hard time putting the book down.
And then this week, I heard from a longtime rescue advocate in Pennsylvania. She was kind enough to e-mail: “I am really enjoying it so much as it weaves the ugly reality with cute Blue stories, so it presents very difficult facts in a way that average dog owners who know nothing of what goes on will be absorbed, without having to put it down. Just when you think it is beyond horrible (heartsticks and gas chambers) then it lightens up so you take a breath and continue along the journey with you. The people you interviewed are a great mix. Congrats on an awesome soon-to-be bestseller that I am sure will grab the population that is like you were, and open their eyes into action.”
Yes, after that last comment, I did in fact dance around the house in my socks where nobody could see me!
While all of these early reviewers will, I’m sure, have critical notes for me to consider during the editing process, the overall reaction is pretty darn great. Anytime readers say they can’t put something down, I know I’ve done one of the hardest parts of the job right. And on top of that, “Little Boy Blue” is gaining real traction in social media, too. He has more than 400 fans on Facebook, and the number grows almost every single day. This book seems to have some great mojo, and I’m going to work hard to keep it going.
Stay tuned to the “Little Boy Blue” website for updates as more early feedback comes in. The hardcover publication date is still scheduled for August 2012. I wonder if I’ll need a cardiologist by then…