In this final post in our Writer's Guide to Beta Readers, we'll talk about how to deal with all the great feedback you've gotten from your beta readers!
If you don't know what a beta reader is, jump back to the first post in this series to find out. The previous post also gave the answers to burning questions about whether you pay beta readers, the type of beta readers you want to find, and more.
The second post discussed how to work with beta readers, including how to prepare your manuscript, how to ask someone to beta read, and how to keep your beta readers focused on the big issues.
Now let's move on to the big project: implementing beta reader feedback!
Tips for Dealing with Beta Reader Feedback
You've spent a few agonizing weeks waiting on the feedback to roll in from your beta readers. You've probably worked your way into an anxiety attack with all the waiting. What if they don't like it? What if you have to do a major rewrite? It's scary!
It's going to be tempting to start looking at your feedback as soon as one of your beta readers lets you know they're finished. Don't do it!
It's a bad idea to look at the feedback from one reader at a time. Why? Because you're not seeing the full picture. And getting the full picture was what you sent your manuscript to beta readers for to begin with.
So wait until the deadline (you did give your beta readers a deadline, right?) passes before you look at anything.
Back to the idea of the full picture, you're going to want to combine all the documents from every single one of your beta readers into one master document. You can do this easily with MS Word, or there are software programs out there (like BetaBooks) to help you out.
But now you've got a huge document with possibly hundreds of comments. That excitement you felt at seeing how much your beta readers loved your book is waning and turning quickly to dread. It's time to freak out!
Take a Deep Breath
All those comments look daunting, so go ahead and get your freakout over with. I don't know if this is a necessary step in the process for every writer, but it is for me. I can't help but feel like every comment is bad and it makes me want to trash the book.
The fact is any point in the revision process is a point where a writer wants to give up. Don't. Especially not now. You've come too far for that.
So take a deep breath and remember you're trying to make your book as good as it can possibly be.
You Don't Have to Accept Every Piece of Feedback
The fact that you can ignore some pieces of feedback should set your mind at ease.
I'm not saying you can just scoff and think your betas “don't get it” and throw all their feedback out the window.
I'm saying quite a few of those hundreds of comments are probably things like, “Oh I love this description!” or “Wow that's freaky!” While beta readers are just trying to help (and I love reading those types of comments), you can just go through and delete those. They're not really helpful at this point, other than for an ego boost.
There are a few other things you might ignore. If someone comments that they are confused and might have missed something, yet no one else says they are confused at that point, most likely that person actually missed something while reading. Double-check to make sure you didn't forget something vital, and then delete.
But You Do Have to Listen
That sentence that three people said read weird? Pay attention to that. The character that no one likes? You might want to have another look at that person (unless no one is supposed to like them!).
Read each and every piece of feedback and commentary and consider before you decide if it's something you should take seriously or if it's something you can safely ignore.
Hopefully, your manuscript was in pretty good shape and you don't have much to change. If that's the case, you can move on and send your MS to a proofreader.
Some people do another round of beta readers after they tweak their manuscript just to make sure they didn't mess something up. I don't, but if you do, make sure you use a new batch of beta readers, not just to avoid asking the same people for favors, but to make sure you get fresh eyes on the story.
Don't Forget to Say Thanks!
I told you in the previous post that your beta readers are doing you a favor and you should always, always remember that. Never treat them disrespectfully, and make sure you thank them for all the hard work they've done. I thanked mine profusely in a personal email (no mass emailing!) and will be sending my readers a free e-copy of my finished book.
Is it hard for you to accept feedback from beta readers? Let me know in the comments.
For today's practice, free write about how you deal with criticism. Write for fifteen minutes. I promise this is a good exercise to help you learn to take feedback better!
When you're, feel free to post your free writing in the comments!
Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death, her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.