Beta readers. I love em’ and hate em’ equally. No. That’s not right. I love the ones who love my book, and hate the ones who don’t. That’s fair, eh? Thought so.
Since this is my first book, it’s also my first time using betas. And for the record, after going through the process, I support the idea of using these peeps. But here is my advice. After handing out your manuscript to readers, have the following on stand-by:
A reason why your hate each person.
This is crucial to the process. It’ll help you dismiss any negative feedback. Also handy? A list of replacement friends. Any writer should have this. It’s as important as pen and paper.
On the reals, the beta process taught me a lot. For example, if I haven’t answered every question man has ever thought to ask within the first 3 chapters, the book is crap. I kid. Kind of. Also, people that don’t read your genre are not good betas. They will hurt your feelings. Trust me. When this happens, reach for your friend-replacement list. I kid. Kind of. Lastly, don’t use as many betas as you have at your disposal. Choose 1-3 people who read your genre, and can give honest feedback in a nice way. If you use more than a small group, you’ll get conflicting feedback and it’ll drive you bat shit. I kid. No, I don’t. This one’s true.
Overall, I got great feedback and have made numerous changes to my MS that I’m confident will make it better. My betas pushed me to answer questions. They asked for more description in some scenes, and less in others. They told me what they loved, and weren’t afraid to pinpoint what they hated. And they did it all with kindness.
Once you’re done with your second draft (or first if you’re an edit-as-you-write person), show the entire MS to your chosen readers, and incorporate the feedback that YOU agree with. It’ll improve your book, and make you a better writer in the future.
PS – KEEP WRITING!