What To Do With The Feedback From Beta-Readers

feedback-cartoonThe easy part is sending your manuscript out to beta-readers to gauge reaction, gain feedback and receive that all important critique. But the hard work starts when you’re left with a pile of marked up books and you somehow have to decide what to do with it.

I’m lucky in as much as I believe I have fallen on my feet with regards to Beta-Readers. I hear of other authors that struggle to find people that are either reliable, or objective, enough. I give advice out in this article on what to look out for when selecting the perfect beta-readers. Ok, so assuming that your responses have all come back… what do you now?

Structured Responses

If you’ve sent out your initial requests in the right way then the feedback should be structured in the same way from each reader. I asked for comments on structure, pace, and characterisation. I don’t want my readers getting bogged down in too much detail (grammar, spelling etc – even though they do) because I’ll use a proofreader for that at the end.

All of my feedback is returned under these three main headings (Structure, Pace, Characterisation) and this makes it easier for the next step.

Common Denominators

Next, I compare all five of the responses and make a note of any common points that have been pulled out. These are usually the biggies that I’m after because if everyone has come up with the same improvement then it must be major. I respect their opinion, so the more unanimous it is the more importance I put against it.

Individual Significant Improvements

If only one of them has come up with a particular point, but they claim it’s important, then I also think long and hard about it myself and challenge it from all angles.

Re-Plan

Starting with the story overall. How did it hang together? What improvements need to be made to the flow and pace? Is the structure right at all or will some parts need a major re-write?

Which bits are too long and which bits are too short? If they mention they’re bored by something then you probably need to shorten it, or take it out altogether, but if they complain that they didn’t really understand the motivation then you’ll need to lengthen it.

Could they see all of your characters? Were they developed enough? Do you need more description or perhaps an extra scene that builds that part of the character some more. Also the same with venues and places. Did they feel as though they were there?

Summary

As with every part of writing a book, you need to be objective as much as possible. It’s no good being protective over certain scenes if they just don’t work in the story. Or a character that you know and love but doesn’t offer any value to the overall plot. You need to be ruthless with the red pen. At the end of the day your only mission is to publish the best book that you can possibly write, and that’s it.

Do you struggle knowing what to do with the responses or perhaps even struggling to collect them in the first place? Let me know…

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One response to “What To Do With The Feedback From Beta-Readers

  1. An eminently sensible approach Mike. I guess another consideration might be choosing beta readers which match the demographic of your target readership? Or not?! If your genre is sci-fi it might not be very helpful to ask someone who only ever reads historical romances for example…just a thought.

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