You’ve heard the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is why it’s so important to get feedback on your novel. Would you rather get negative feedback before publishing or get it after?
You’d think getting feedback would be easy to do. Maybe it is. But getting the right feedback is not. The biggest issue is reader bias. The next concern has to do with the potential costs. I’ve put together some ideas on how to find beta readers as well as a list of things to be aware of when getting feedback from your beta readers.
Where to Look for Beta Readers
- Family of friends – This is a good source but beware of the possibility of heavily biased feedback.
- Social media – Ask people on your social media accounts for help. This is easier if the followers of your social media pages are readers or writers. Some readers and writers may have formed their own private critique groups and may ask if you want to join.
- Your Community – Check if there are any writing groups in your community. Groups may be organized by like-minded individuals or by organizations such as your public library.
- Online Writer Platforms – scribophile.com, critiquecircle.com, and other online groups are a great place to find writers and readers. Some have free memberships and some you have to pay for. If they are free, though, you probably need to return the favor for other writers. Of course, reading the work of other writers can help you learn.
- Alternative Options – I’ve used simbi.com and fiverr.com to find beta readers. The drawbacks of these sites are you have to give something in return. With Simbi, it’s an exchange service. And you must pay those on Fiverr. There’s a risk that the feedback you receive may not be the feedback you need.
- Developmental Editor – This is probably the most expensive way to get feedback. But if you’re new to writing, it may be the best way. Someone you pay isn’t going to pull any punches. And they will be better able to tell you how to fix your writing.
When Reviewing Beta Readers
- Look for readers who are interested in your genre and writing style. For me, I need to look for fantasy or sci-fi readers/writers who prefer character-driven stories over action-driven stories. Another writing style to consider is whether your beta reader prefers close-third over omniscient or first-person point of view.
- Beware of the readers who tell you everything about your novel is great. Someone with such vague feedback might be afraid of hurting your feelings.
- Not all the feedback you receive will be good advice. People have their own preferences. For example, some might prefer more detail while others prefer less. A way to distinguish between preferences and applicable advice is to get multiple readers. If multiple readers are saying the same thing, they are probably right.
- If you receive feedback you think is questionable, do your research. For example, if they say you’re using too many adverbs, check online to see why using too many adverbs in your writing might weaken your story. Or if they say you need to use close third-person point of view, research the different types of point-of-views used in writing. Look for the pros and cons of each and decide what’s best for your writing and as well as what your audience prefers.
- Don’t take negative feedback personally. If they rip you a new one without also giving you the reasons behind their opinions, then they’re too immature to be worth your time. If the feedback seems riddled with an overwhelming number of things you need to fix, remember that feedback is an opportunity to learn and to make your story the best it can be. You’re not a failure unless you give up.
- Negative feedback should be explained. If someone says something about your writing isn’t right, they should be able to tell you why. This gives you the opportunity to research and to decide for yourself whether it needs to be changed.
Finding the right beta reads to give me feedback on my novel has been a trial and error process. Some were too lavish with praise and others were too critical. Many gave sound advice, but personal preferences occasionally seeped in. One of the hardest things, though, was finding people who have the time to give me feedback. Providing a detailed review of someone’s writing is hard work. So if you get someone willing to do this for you, be sure to thank them profusely, don’t take advantage of their hospitality, and offer them something in return (such as an exchange review, their book cover design, marketing for them, or any other service that you have skill in).
How do you find good beta readers? Do you have any other advice to offer when it comes to getting or giving feedback on a novel? I’d love to hear from you.