Do you like receiving critique of your writing? I do! Although not every feedback is helpful (Snoopy can probably attest to that :)), it can be crucial in making your story shine. Read this blog post to find out how to receive good advice and where to find it.
Have you ever worked with beta-readers? You probably heard or read something about it and, maybe, even had personal experience, whether good or bad.
I want to share my mistakes and insights of working with beta-readers. Hopefully it will make things more proficient for you. Here is what I learned.
Should I ask for volunteers to give feedback on my book?
It's okey to reach out to everyone, including family and friends. You never know where your biggest supporters will come from. But not everyone who says "I'll read it!" will follow through, and not everyone who reads will give feedback.
When I was ready to publish my first book, I did a shout out on social media and in the online writing/ critique communities (if you search for "beta readers" in Facebook groups, you'll find a bunch).
Get as many people as you can on board because a lot of them will fall away. Out of people who responded initially and received my novel, half didn't read at all and only a handful got to the end of the book. But that said, almost twenty people commented on my work and a few were extremely helpful.
send only a few chapters at a time to test the waters
don't wait for the laggers - you'll be waiting forever
take what people can give, even if it's just commenting on your opening paragraph or catching one mistake.
How does the process work?
Once you find your champion readers (the ones that actually send you some feedback), stagger them. That way people are not wasting their time pointing out same mistakes. Although I am always surprised at how different people notice different things. That's why I think it's nice to have more than one beta reader - you'll get a new perspective with each one.
On the flip side, not all feedback is helpful. Don't feel bad about not agreeing with someone's corrections. It might not be your style of writing or, maybe, this person is not even your target reader. I had two people leave me opposite comments about the same thing.
In the end, I am thankful for any feedback, but I only implement the changes that give me an "aha" moment and resonate with me. It's important to know your author's voice and not let another person alter it. Go with your gut.
What about working with other writers?
The best feedback I received was from other authors with whom I exchanged work in progress. When I went on beta-reading sites, I looked for writers in the similar genre to mine. To say the truth, I was a little worried about sharing my unpublished work with strangers, but collaborating with people who are in the same boat and busy with their own books brought a level of trust. Speaking of that, I did have my book copyrighted and I put copyright information in the header when I shared it.
With fellow writers, you have to give something to get something. But again, not everyone follows through. Exchange only a few chapters and see if the other person sends you anything back or if their feedback is even helpful. You might not be a good match.
Even though it's more work, the best feedback I received was from people who were also working on perfecting their craft.
Should I get a paid beta-reader?
Getting paid beta-readers is not necessary, but it is a hustle free way to get timely feedback. There are plenty on Fiverr.com that can do it for $10-$50. What you get is a one page summary that points out problems and makes suggestions, but it can be pretty generic.
A lot of editors provide beta-reading services as well. The editor I found, provided overall feedback on my novel first with some helpful suggestions that I implemented before she did the editing and proofreading. Don't send your book for editing until it goes through a few rounds of readers' critique as you might have to make a lot of changes.
What to expect from beta-readers?
Beta readers are not editors, although, I was lucky to get a few writers/editors on my team as well. But it's not the purpose. Beta readers come into play after self-editing is done, grammar is checked, and the book is pretty much finished. They help to fine-tune the writing and point out areas you can't see because you are too close to your own work.
My most helpful beta readers wrote comments within the text as an annotation like your teacher did in school. Every time they suggested an edit or had question, they would add a comment to explain. If you share your chapters in Google docs, you can see these changes as soon as they write them.
Don't hesitate to ask your beta-readers to be specific or ask them questions. It's better to receive one concrete suggestion than a bunch of vague comments that will leave you confused. For example, if your beta-reader doesn't like something, ask them why, ask them to suggest how they see this issue resolved.
Let your beta readers know what you are struggling with and what kind of things you want them to look for. It's a two-way street. Some authors provide an introductory page or put questions after each chapter.
Overall, getting comments from real readers had been eye opening, and I even formed a few new friendships with other writers through this experience. Its like dipping your feet into the publishing waters before taking a plunge and releasing your book out into the world.
Please, share below your own experience, questions, and any other related tips. Thanks for reading.