Who is the first reader of my books? My wife, Linda. (I read somewhere that Madeleine L’Engle had her husband read her books to her. Now that took courage!) Sometimes Linda is willing to let me read the book to her. Patient soul. Or she reads the book on her own, and I wait nervously. She is a very tough, but good critic. Once, famously (in this house anyway), she said, “Avi, this is unreadable.” She can be generous in her praise, and over the years has had far more positive (and useful) things to say than negative (including suggestions as to how to make that unreadable book become published successfully). It does not hurt that she is a publisher and good reader in her own right. My own rule about early readers (I have a couple of friends with whom I sometimes share early drafts) is never to argue or debate. Just listen. Nine times out of ten, early readers articulate something of which I am vaguely aware, but have not pinned down. More to the point, an outside perspective is crucial to the process. Enter the editor—of which more later.