I’ve been asking this question myself a lot in the last few days. There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer.
Following the hugely conflicting advice and sort of making my own path, I ended up with 23 Beta Readers who are currently making their way through my work, sending feedback to me chapter by chapter.
I’m finding it to be a mostly rewarding process, much more so than I had expected it to be.
In short, I was bloody terrified at the idea of people outside of my very intimate circle having the chance to peruse my work. I’m sure this is a common feeling for most of us. We seem to drift from being absolutely in love with what we’ve written, to never wanting to see the damn thing again before violently taking the up-swing once more.
But getting my book to where it needs to be, requires a little outside help eventually, and the book was ready so out it went into the world. Bye, Bye, Baby.
Some Beta’s are tougher than others, some are already published themselves, others are writers who aren’t quite there yet and some are just people who enjoy a good read – I was pleased to have got a good mix of levels, as well as a mix of readers – those who prefer something a little more light-hearted contrasting with those who enjoy a good scare. I feel confident I have a good number of bases covered.
The feedback itself has been pretty varied – people do like to take a stab in the dark at what is going to happen and it is simply amazing about how many theories people can get from one book, I’ve never witnessed it before. But for the most part, people were saying similar things ‘I really liked this part because…” “This part confused me a bit because…” “I hated it when this happened because…”
Overall, mostly good things coming back. Not that sugar-coated rubbish most of us are used to hearing from family and friends but something real, something helpful, something you can work with.
And then there was this one Beta – the anomaly.
She came back to me after the second chapter telling me she just could not force herself to read anymore.
It wasn’t the way it was written that put her off, on the contrary, she was very kind about the way I write and at the end of the first chapter was most encouraging about the direction I had taken with the story and what great potential it had.
Then, a new character was introduced. Granted, a bit of a fantastical character – but not one out of the ordinary for the kind of book I’m writing. And this one Beta couldn’t stand it, to the point she could not read anymore. She was so strong in her opinion – openly telling me that no one else would be able to get past it either.
Of course, I was shattered – totally heartbroken truth be told.
The thing of it is, who do you believe? The anomaly, a party of one who disliked a particular character or the majority? A 22 strong group of Beta’s who all LOVED that one character and thought it was a really clever touch.
It’s dead easy for us creative types to immediately let the one bad thing completely crush the good stuff – I suppose it is sort of in our nature.
I don’t have the answer to this one, I’m no expert by any means but I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
The one bad opinion got to me. For a whole day, it completely knocked me for a loop and I was useless. Now?
I’ve taken on board what she has said, not ignored it – but at the same time, I’ve allowed myself to step back and see the pattern. You can’t please everyone but if the majority are pleased then you are probably on the right track.
I’m channelling my fear and heart ache from those comments and using it as a driving force. I’m going to show that Beta.
I’ve told myself that when my book is sitting on a shelf with a bestseller sticker on the front, inside that book is going to be a thank you. I want that particular Beta to know when I’ve made it – I want her to know she lit a fire under my ass and did exactly what a Beta should without giving feedback on more than a couple of chapters… she helped me. She made me want to prove myself. Prove I’m better than she thinks.
It’s the only way I know how to deal with this without being consumed by it.
But I’m interested to know – what would you do in that situation? Maybe you’ve been there countless times and dealt with it a variety of ways. Why not be a Beta Beta for everyone else? Drop a comment below and share your story. You never know who you might end up helping.