I’ve been writing for a very long time, but only recently been introduced to beta readers. When I wrote my first big historical fiction, Darkness before Dawn, I had no idea how much work was needed before publication. I submitted it to an online forum and it got pretty good feedback. This feedback helped improve the book. I, like most writers, are frightened by criticism. What if they don’t like it? Is the book boring? If other authors don’t like it, what would readers think?
These questions circled my mind. I knew the feedback would greatly improve my book but I was scared of what other people thought of the novel, the idea, concept, characters, accuracy. Did Stephanie Myers or Suzanne Collins rely on beta readers for their novels? Maybe. We might never know.
I incorporated the beta’s ideas and started to submit. Darkness was offered seven contracts in the year of 2012, but I knew it wasn’t ready. I declined all offers and got back to editing. When I did find my current publisher, the book editing process wasn’t as arduous due to the feedback I received previously.
Sadly, I didn’t use this method when I wrote three books after Darkness and they took longer to find a publisher. Was it fear of rejection? Laziness? Lack of time? It was all three.
I just didn’t have the time or passion to seek other’s advice. Looking back, I paid for it greatly. Those three books weren’t the highest quality and the editing process was very difficult and time consuming.
Nowadays, I have learned from past mistakes. As I write my current WIP, Unspoken, I have sought feedback from three beta readers. Each one has provided different feedback. That’s the beauty of beta readers. No two betas are the same. One might pick on a character development, sentence or even dialogue and the other might pick on something else.
I have been a beta reader for two authors now. Not only does it give me the opportunity to make friends, it also allows me to see what other writers are writing, to see their dreams and hopes in their work.
I used to fear beta readers, but now, I rely on them. You only need to know where to look. Sign up to author forums or follow a fellow author on Facebook or Twitter. Make contact. Some people are quite happy to read one’s work for a free read in order to provide feedback, while others are keen to ‘swap’ books. Some are writers, some are hardcore readers. Either way, using a beta reader improves your book tenfold. They might pick on something the publisher might not see.
I have seen great improvement in my WIP by using my betas. I enjoy reading their work and keeping in touch. We are all aiming for the same thing: To be published.
Every author pours their blood, sweat and tears into their work. It takes courage to hand it over to a stranger, an unbiased reader, and allow them to tear your work apart word by word. Honestly, I would rather give my work to someone I didn’t know, compared to my husband, or family. It’s too close for comfort and I don’t like people I know reading my work.
Invest in a beta reader. They are truly an author’s best friend.
Have you had any experiences with beta readers, good or bad? I’d love to hear your stories.