Beta readers. They’re an absolute MUST if you want to end up with a good manuscript. I think this is one of the main things that separates the “I wrote a book and I put it on Amazon” people versus those who really put work and sweat into their book. However, beta reader feedback can, at times, be a bit harsh. But if you have a good beta reader, they’ll tell you everything they love about the book along with everything that isn’t working.
My experience with beta readers has been amazing. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say. Books are one of the most subjective things out there. 90% of people will love one and the other 10% just won’t. It’s not their thing. No book will appeal to all people. With that in mind, take beta readers comments with a grain of salt. And don’t take anything personally. Your writing is your writing. You are you!
Here’s the process I go through. First, I send my finished manuscript out to 4-5 beta readers. I read all their comments as they send them back. I cry over a few. I cringe over others. I rejoice over the praise. But I wait to do anything about them until I’ve let them sit in my mind for a few days. Usually, I realize they were right about some things, and I find way to fix them. Other things, I’m not so sure about and I wait more. One thing I do know for sure is that if multiple beta readers bring up the same thing, I need to fix it. If only one beta reader points something out, maybe that’s worth fixing too, but maybe it’s just that person’s opinion. Those kinds of comments need to be really thought out with my vision of my own manuscript. I’ve had one beta reader point something out that gave me a kind of “aha” moment and the manuscript was so much better. I’ve had those same kinds of comments I never changed at all.
The key to all of this is to get beta readers. Don’t be the person who thinks their manuscript is perfect just the way they wrote it because it isn’t. I promise. You need outside perspective. You need people who will be honest about the good and the bad. A beta reader is no help at all if they don’t find anything worth changing!
Perhaps the hardest part in all of this is where to find beta readers you trust. While your mom might be a good person to run your book by, she might not be the most objective. Still, give it to her anyway because it will make you feel good! 🙂 I’ve found my beta readers mostly through forums that I’ve joined and gotten to know people on. The Absolute Write forums were my very first (“share your work” and “old people writing for teens”), and my best beta readers are still people I met there. The people on these forums are other writers. They know the basics and can point out the flaws. They are also usually huge readers, which is a big benefit.
And one last piece of advice, get beta readers who read in your genre and at least one who doesn’t. If you can convince someone who doesn’t normally read in your genre to like your book AND those who do read in your genre to like it, then you really have something!