It's terrifying. A few weeks ago I was looking into literary agents and came across a site that gave the advice that just because you have a way with language does not mean you can tell a narrative, and therefore may mean you cannot write a good story.
At that moment I realized that I have no way to know, within myself, if my book is a good story. Obviously I am proud of it, it is unlike anything I have ever written before, is the longest piece of work I have ever produced, and it is my first ever, full length, novel. However, my pride in it, does not mean that it is a good story.
It is because of this realization that I decided to ask people on Facebook to read my book. I made the public post, thinking whole heartily that no one would respond to it, and prepared a list of friends who I thought might read it over for me to contact personally later. What I did not expect was the flood of people who offered to read it.
I sent them each a PDF, asking for complete honest feedback, and left it at that. Currently I'm waiting for any one of them to get back to me and it is making me more nervous than anything in my whole life.
As I said before this book is unlike anything I have written before, meaning the people reading it may not consider it as my normal style and could be surprised by the story and narrative. What I'm worried about is them being surprised badly.
Reader feedback is incredibly important. If I can contact an agent and say that 10+ people read and enjoyed it I can immediately indicate a preferred readership for the book, but also can provide honest references from readers on why they enjoyed it. On the other hand if people get back to me and tell me it needs work this will give me the opportunity to consider changes, and if they get back to me and tell me it's terrible then I can avoid the embarrassment of having it as my first entry in a literary agents docket.
Though my logical mind knows all of this my heart has been left racing. I find myself on the edge, waiting for feedback either good or bad, praying for good while readying myself to accept and act on bad.
If it is at all possible to have people read over your work take it, but know that it takes a lot of patience and faith while you wait to hear back from those readers.