Bracing for Betas (Part 1 of Beta Feedback)

You’ve written a book.

Yep, you either plowed through a single draft or painstakingly edited 18. Either way, in your eyes it’s ‘ready.’*

*Note: whether or not your book is ACTUALLY ready will vary considerably.*

So, you look for readers.

You post on facebook, twitter, writing groups, whatever. You call your pals and your family (Bad Idea #1!). Maybe you just hover and silently freak out because you’re too scared to actually give it to anyone yet (Bad Idea #2!).

Either way, you get up the nerve and put out the feelers.

Nothing happens. Well, this could be for a few reasons:

  • You didn’t give enough info. You need, at a minimum, to have your genre, age category, and word count. While it helps to know if your protagonist goes on an adventure, we need to know if that’s going to be a child scheming with their pals, a teen defying their parents to go fight a demon overlord, or a group of adults thrust into gory battle and steamy sex. I need to know if I’m committing to a 70k manuscript or a 150k one.
  • You’re asking for a beta when it may be clear you need a Critique Partner. The two are not the same.
  • Your blurb isn’t pulling its weight (ENTIRELY SEPARATE POST TO COME). A two sentence ‘Person encounters conflict and must do plot or world will end’ is not nearly as specific as, say, the blurb I made for SoMES.
  • Your blurb has too many cliches and not enough original content to balance them out (I maintain cliches are not bad, but you need to show what makes it different). Or your blurb is filled with rhetorical questions (Bad Idea #3!).
  • Your posts/tweets are annoying. Don’t worry, odds are this is not you cause it takes a REAL SPECIAL mix of arrogance and delusion to achieve this, but I’ve seen some condescending people out there acting like their work is a divine gift. Or they talk about all their editing experience and how well-written their book is while their posts are riddled with basic errors.
  • You emphasize snark in your characters or voice. *Note: this is a purely subjective pet peeve, so feel free to ignore*

Then– at last!– a comment/tweet/response appears.

Someone is ready to help. Time to send your manuscript (Bad Idea #4!)– No, a few chapters, as a tester to see whether they’re a good fit. In your heart, you hope they fall in love with it and come back with lots of praise. In your brain, you know it’s about to be ripped to shreds; the only thing you don’t know is how many and whether you’ll be enough to cobble them back together into a cohesive story.

Whatever comes next, you’ve taken a vital step. Be proud! Stay in contact with your beta(s) and try to get a small group of them so you have balanced feedback and can see patterns. And that way, if you end up with someone excessively critical or abusive as a beta, their feedback will stand out from the other (hopefully) better ones. Having one person slate your idea or concept feels a lot worse when you only have one beta. Having one person slate your idea or concept when you have six others that enjoy it makes that one dissenter a little easier to deal with.

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