We’ve all been there, even when you think you haven’t. Feedback is ever present in our daily life and the way I call and see it: they are areas of improvement.
Sometimes feedback comes unwarranted, but in this post I want to write about the feedback we seek from beta readers.
Full disclosure, I have used beta readers and a freelance editor for a manuscript evaluation. Per my title (and my obsession with titling my posts with movies and song names), let’s chalk out the need for them.
I will be using a lot of hyperboles in this post, so bear with me. Nobody likes being told their work needs improvement or revisions. (Maybe it is just me). Regardless, I have no regrets: There I said it.
I can honestly say I have to give myself a pep talk before opening the feedback from my beta readers.
The reason for me that feedback can be ugly is because of the unpleasant feelings you could potentially face if the reviews you gather are not what you originally expected.
The ugly parts are the imposter syndrome creeping in and the feeling that your work is not good enough if someone else points out plot holes, underdeveloped character arcs or just telling you: ‘I didn’t really get it or liked it’.
All in all, I just want to say: Be specific with your beta readers and also set boundaries for the critique. I usually tell them beforehand the certain points I am worried about in the story and that I just want general feedback (Pacing, plot holes, characters and their relationships, etc). I also warn them to not expect punctuation or grammar to be perfect. With that in mind, even though I am expecting a critique, I also hope my beta readers understand the manuscript is not ready to be published yet and I really want their genuine feedback for the story to be the best it can be.
Research and know your audience! What do I mean by this? If you write fantasy and you are asking a beta reader that mostly reads mystery and a different audience level that is not within your story, you will most likely receive feedback that might not even apply to you.
I think of it almost like comp titles. If you are querying a YA Fantasy novel similar to Everless by Sarah Holland, you are not going to use Origin by Dan Brown as a comp title in your query. Both books are on a different spectrum. They are amazing books, but they are different and they are targeted to completely different audiences.
This can also be difficult because some beta readers can be very forthcoming and some can be more apprehensive on giving feedback. For example, I had a situation where one beta reader loved a section of my book that another one absolutely hated. I had to be open and keep my feelings in check with both of them and ask them why they loved it and why they hated it. It took time to gather the feedback, but I understood both perspectives. (One was expecting a New Adult character voice and the other one was completely fine with the Younger tone).
Those situations are the worst because it can be conflicting, but at the end of the day as THE WRITER you know your story and characters and you get to decide what stays or goes.
The praise. Just kidding, or am I?
In all honesty, for me it is connecting with people. And I never felt more connected and understood than with the beta reader that gave me the most grueling and honest feedback. She was the one that told me: I am not okay with this book being 300 pages. It lacks character development, it needs work because I feel like the character arc is unfinished and I want more of them. She started asking a lot of follow-up questions of the reasoning behind every character’s decision making and I was flattered. During the time she was reading my story, she was there immersed with and by my words and characters and to me, that was everything.
There is a reason why you write and you want other people to read your book and even though it can be terrifying, it is worth it. You just have to see the beauty of the process. You are creating something that comes within you and practice makes perfect.
I like to end my posts with quotes, so here is one for the lovely beta readers out there:
“Beta readers are generous, book-loving, gluttons-for-punishment who are willing to read your unpolished rock and help you shine it into a gem.” By Kate M. Colby.
Alexandra Garcia is an aspiring YA/NA Fantasy, Contemporary and Paranormal Romance author. She currently lives in Texas with her husband and 2 pups: Jett and Maggie. She is currently querying her 3rd manuscript and just like all her novels she is a constant work in progress.
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