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View Full Version : Good article on the use of BETA READERS!



Mikeyboy_esq
March 20th, 2019, 10:26 PM
Here’s a good article on Beta Readers... 🤓

https://smallbluedog.com/survey-results-beta-readers.html (https://smallbluedog.com/survey-results-beta-readers.html)

Ralph Rotten
March 20th, 2019, 11:10 PM
Interesting article, but most of the cons against using beta readers sounded to me like those writers were simply clueless about how to use beta readers.
There is an art to accepting feedback. Most writers start arguing with the beta in the middle of their review, then the feedback essentially ends.

When a beta is telling you about the book:
1) STFU. Listen, let them tell you everything, take it in, take notes, but DO NOT interrupt until they are done (or you will stunt the feedback process.)
2) Then you can ask them specific questions like;
a) what did you like most about the story?
b) Were there any areas of confusion, or just bad parts?
c) Which character was your fav.
d) Was there anything unbelievable about the story?



Then there is interpreting the feedback.
Reader suggests a new ending: This means the ending you have is lame, and they thought they could do better.
Reader gets characters names wrong: You need to work on character development, and maybe tag your characters with a physical attribute (or less common name than John)
Reader is your Mom: Disregard all feedback. Mom was amazed by the fecal finger-paintings you did on the bathroom wall when you were little.
Readers did not grasp central themes: If more than 1 beta tells you this then you need to work on it.



$0.02

bdcharles
March 20th, 2019, 11:24 PM
I'm in the midst of a beta process now. I've been either really lucky or particularly discerning in that my 2 most recent betas were just the right amount of positive to critical. And to me positivity is important. It's tiresome if all you have to go on are negatives. I lose faith in my beta if that's all I have, and the whole thing turns into a waste of time. I want to see a few things they like too. Otherwise, while I could assume that the tracts of comment-free pages means they liked it, it's a blank, it's a guess, and guesses are no good for me.

One potential issue that has occurred to me is reciprocal beta-reading. I am going to try and avoid it in future (easier said than done). It's tempting because it offers up a guarantee ("you read my book and I'll read yours, stop and I'll stop too") but then I worry that my feedback influences theirs and vice versa. If I post something complimentary they may skip over an issue in mine for fear of disrupting the relationship that seems to bloom on the back of mutual reading. Or if they cut into my work I may feel like cutting hard into theirs. In an ideal world we'd all keep it professional and impartial but that rarely happens. In that regard my 2 betas were good because they did still give me grief when stuff didn't add up, as did I theirs, but with one, for a moment it did get fractious as I wasn't seeing much constructive from her side. I had to rein myself in, take a break etc, and we worked through it to a happy conclusion, but one never knows. Food for thought anyway.

I also have a policy of offering to read the first three chapters initially. That's the large side of the standard query package so it's useful for them in that regard and generally I can tell if there are any grammar or style issues by then. If they are, I send it back. It's not ready, and I can't - and don't feel I should have to - go through an entire MS's worth of unpolished text. If there aren't too many, I carry on.

Ralph Rotten
March 21st, 2019, 06:18 PM
Actually if you exchange beta reading it would work the other way: If they gave you a good review, you'd feel obligated to give them a good review in return.
But they need an honest review more than a good one.

PS: When they don't fill in any of the boxes on the survey it means that you did not wow them. Ergo, it was either bad, or just meh.

moderan
March 21st, 2019, 07:04 PM
I do reciprocal betaing almost exclusively. And not much of that. I don't honestly do a lot of betaing as I tend to outrun the readers.

Arcturus
December 19th, 2019, 04:10 PM
What are the options when the author doesn't want to listen the Beta reader? I once had a situation where the author was trying to write a YA novel, and the beta reader was my then ten year old niece. She hated every single character in this novel. She saw the problems immediately, the main character was a very hateful boy, she couldn't connect with him and it blew the rest of the story apart.

She told him how she felt, and he still refused to make changes.

bdcharles
December 19th, 2019, 06:34 PM
What are the options when the author doesn't want to listen the Beta reader? I once had a situation where the author was trying to write a YA novel, and the beta reader was my then ten year old niece. She hated every single character in this novel. She saw the problems immediately, the main character was a very hateful boy, she couldn't connect with him and it blew the rest of the story apart.

She told him how she felt, and he still refused to make changes.

is she the target readership though?

Ma'am
December 23rd, 2019, 01:56 AM
What are the options when the author doesn't want to listen the Beta reader? I once had a situation where the author was trying to write a YA novel, and the beta reader was my then ten year old niece. She hated every single character in this novel. She saw the problems immediately, the main character was a very hateful boy, she couldn't connect with him and it blew the rest of the story apart.

She told him how she felt, and he still refused to make changes.

There aren't any options; the author is always free to use or disregard any suggestions as they please. However, if I felt like someone was wasting my time, I probably wouldn't bother beta reading for them again.

luckyscars
December 23rd, 2019, 05:00 AM
Interesting article, but most of the cons against using beta readers sounded to me like those writers were simply clueless about how to use beta readers.
There is an art to accepting feedback. Most writers start arguing with the beta in the middle of their review, then the feedback essentially ends.

When a beta is telling you about the book:
1) STFU. Listen, let them tell you everything, take it in, take notes, but DO NOT interrupt until they are done (or you will stunt the feedback process.)
2) Then you can ask them specific questions like;
a) what did you like most about the story?
b) Were there any areas of confusion, or just bad parts?
c) Which character was your fav.
d) Was there anything unbelievable about the story?



Then there is interpreting the feedback.
Reader suggests a new ending: This means the ending you have is lame, and they thought they could do better.
Reader gets characters names wrong: You need to work on character development, and maybe tag your characters with a physical attribute (or less common name than John)
Reader is your Mom: Disregard all feedback. Mom was amazed by the fecal finger-paintings you did on the bathroom wall when you were little.
Readers did not grasp central themes: If more than 1 beta tells you this then you need to work on it.



$0.02

I agree with all of this.

The way I am approaching having work read is to first identify the areas that I think are weakest.

I know the popular wisdom is "DONT HAVE ANY WEAK AREAS IN THE STORY" and, yes, no shit...but there's 'weak writing' and then there's 'I don't necessarily see this as a weak plot point/character/moment/theme/scene choice/etc...but I'm also not totally, one hundred percent, sure' <-- I am finding beta readers are REALLY good for helping with those.

I definitely agree with the interpretation points. I think it's definitely important to have at least two impartial beta's, and try to have both be people with some qualification. By qualified, not writers necessarily (or even preferably), but avid readers in the genre and able to articulate feedback clearly . I think two such qualified betas is far more helpful than five, ten, or more 'anybody who says yes'. I think there is such a thing as getting too much feedback.

If the aspect mentioned as needing improvement was one I was sensitive to in advance, as mentioned above, I would generally only need one other person to confirm that on their own to make the change. If the aspect mentioned needing improvement was one I actually believed in strongly, I might disregard the feedback unless both mentioned it. I think that's a pretty good rule-of-thumb to follow. Endings, in particular, are incredibly subjective, so I wouldn't necessarily rewrite an ending that I was otherwise happy with just because one person didn't like it...but two? Yeah, probably.

Ralph Rotten
December 27th, 2019, 06:13 PM
Prolly the most important part of my post is step #1: STFU until they spill their guts.
I have seen so many writers (myself included) argue with their betas...and at that point the beta stops giving feedback and just shines them on.

Tis why I prefer to use a beta questionnaire. People feel freer about delivering the truth when you are not there hawkishly interrogating them.

Ralph Rotten
December 27th, 2019, 06:15 PM
What are the options when the author doesn't want to listen the Beta reader? I once had a situation where the author was trying to write a YA novel, and the beta reader was my then ten year old niece. She hated every single character in this novel. She saw the problems immediately, the main character was a very hateful boy, she couldn't connect with him and it blew the rest of the story apart.

She told him how she felt, and he still refused to make changes.


Writers who don't listen to their betas never get any better, and they publish crap.
Writers that are unwilling to learn and grow are dooming themselves to obscurity.
When they get that first 1-star review, they will be crushed. Few recover.

Cephus
December 27th, 2019, 10:51 PM
What are the options when the author doesn't want to listen the Beta reader? I once had a situation where the author was trying to write a YA novel, and the beta reader was my then ten year old niece. She hated every single character in this novel. She saw the problems immediately, the main character was a very hateful boy, she couldn't connect with him and it blew the rest of the story apart.

She told him how she felt, and he still refused to make changes.

Then he doesn't. Ultimately, the betas are just giving their opinion. It's up to the author to make changes or not. If they don't and they needed to be made, then the book fails. That's not the fault of the beta, that's the fault of the author.