Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday So What: Beta Fishing

This question came to my email via MMW Peggy C.

"What is the point of Beta Readers? Everyone seems to be the opposite of each other and it's like every time I revise someone tells me to put it back the way it was. Help!!"

Well, Peggy, you are not alone. Allow me to teach you the simple trick of beta fishing.

Step one: Find up to ten beta readers with a mix of writer friends and readers THAT ARE YOUR TARGET MARKET. Do not try to get someone to read your light fairytale YA that loves high TOR fantasy.

Step two: Receive feedback from your little betas. Read the feedback with an open mind, but don't make any changes. Let it stew overnight.

Step three: Go fishin' Look through all the notes. If one starts a light bulb moment "Aha, that's what was missing right here" then make a change. If you don't agree with the note, set it aside. Fish through the other readers notes and see who agrees. If 2 or more people are telling you the same thing, it might be time to consider making a change.  If you only hear it from one person, or have readers contradicting each other, it is going to be a matter of taste. Believe in yourself and stick to your vision.

Many a manuscript has been ruined by the author trying to please everyone. Here's a truth that took me a while to realize, not everyone else knows best! For a long time I was sure that everybody had to know better than me. So and so had been writing for 10 years, surely they would know best, right? Nope, not true. Take the criticism, especially when you hear it over and over, but what someone else might like to happen may not be what's best for your book or your narrative voice.

Everyone has a personal preference and taste, and you can't make the perfect book that everyone will fawn over. This includes agents and editors too. The goal is to write a book that you love and would love to read. I promise there are lots of other people out there that have similar taste to you and will feel the same way.

So when using Betas, fish for the stuff that resonates with you, fish for the stuff that seems to repeat -- then throw the rest back.

Thanks again Peggy for your question. Everybody else, keep 'em coming - Please put in the subject line Saturday So What


  1. So true. Thanks for putting it so succinctly. I love your vision of beta readers as fish. Keep the ones that make sense to you and that are repeated by lots of readers; throw the rest back. :) It's hard for me, as a writer and as a person, to think that not everyone is going to like me or my books. But it's actually helped me to see my favorite books get bad reviews. You really, literally, can't please everyone.

  2. Great feedback.
    So how do you get 10 readers in your genre not too busy to read your stuff? Should they all be writers? I know it can work both ways--you read mine, I'll read yours. But seriously, it's harder for those of us not writing YA fantasy or something else everyone jumps to read.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. Renae,
      It's actually much better that they not all be writers. Writers tend to think on an editorial level-what is according to the rule book or how they would write it. While that can be good to know, it is also good to get feedback from a mass market audience.

      You want to find people that devour good books. Those are the people that will likely have more time and just enjoy the read. I suggest facebook friends, goodreads, wattpad readers, blog followers, neighbors down the street, anybody who reads your type of stuff.



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