Happy Independence Day to all of my fellow Americans! The perfect day to get back on track with my Indie posts. 🙂 The last you heard from me, I talked about the importance of Beta Readers and all of the steps that will help you during your Post-Rough Draft, Pre-Publication process. I’m going to pick right up where I left off and move into possibly the most difficult step you’ll ever face in your journey: Dealing with constructive criticism.
First, it’s important to understand what a Beta Reader is, what they do and what you’re essentially asking them to do when you request their help. The easiest comparison is:
You’re the CEO of your own company (Author Name) looking to market a new product (Your Book) and Beta Readers are your test subjects. They’re trying your book out for size and filling out a customer survey (Beta Read Questionnaire) at the end.
Beta Readers are usually experienced and know what to look for, what critiques will help polish your book. Some are more thorough than others, but they’re looking at some or all of these points: Character development, sentence structure, plot holes, flow, grammar, punctuation, style and overall enjoyment. They can be a lot like editors, only from a readership point of view.
Now, that you’ve gotten the results back, your first reactions and questions may be along the lines of:
- What? They didn’t like it? But how can anyone think poorly about the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into this precious new creation? Easy. They didn’t put any blood, sweat and tears into it. They are not emotionally invested in the story, the characters or even the success of the finished, published product. Therefore, their opinions and suggestions are unbiased, clear-headed and unfettered. As much as you might loathe or even downright despise them, this collection of outside feedback is crucial to your book’s success.
- But, I chose to publish independently so that I could write what I want – or – because none of the publishers or literary agents were interested, despite the fact that I know it’s good! – Yes, but now you have the opportunity to make it even better. To polish your story to the point where it’s no longer good, but phenomenal! [insert flashing text and raining glitter here].
- All of my friends and family love my book just the way it is! – No, they’re either afraid of hurting your feelings or they really do love it, because they don’t know any better. By that, I mean, they’re not familiar with your specific genre, or they aren’t aware of those critical points I listed above (character development, etc.) and therefore have no way of critiquing those things for you.
The important question you should be asking yourself is this: Wouldn’t you rather know these opinions now, rather than in bad reviews after it’s already published?
I completely understand your desire to hold fast and try to protect your hard work. We inherently possess a knee-jerk reaction that sends us right into defensive mode whenever our work is criticized. It’s natural, and it’s okay to feel (not to act on). However, I also know from experience that it’s counterproductive to stay in that mode for too long.
So, how can you get past it and turn all of the criticism into something useful? By remembering that you’re a CEO of a company looking to market a new product. It’s as easy, and as difficult as that. Allow yourself to have your initial, natural reactions – but then step back from the personal, emotional hold of it and put it into a business perspective.
The worst possible feedback you can ever get is “OMG, I loved it!” and nothing else – In no way does that help you. It’s flattering, yes, and we all love to hear that kind of praise, but that sentence alone is not going to help you sell any books. Besides, that’s more of a Review than a Beta Read (we’ll cover Reviews later on).
The best feedback will be a combination of positive and negative points. Most (not all) beta readers like to highlight the things they loved about your book, just as much as it’s their job to point out all of the things that didn’t work well for them. It should be a balance, but you have to keep in mind that beta reading is time consuming, so there may be those who only give you back the critiques without any praise – that doesn’t mean they didn’t like anything, though.
By turning the negative feedback into the positive tools they really are, it will help soften the blow, but I won’t promise it will be easy. Remember that each opinion and suggestion are the necessary bolts and screws that are going to make your book stronger for the marketplace. The fruits and veggies your story is going to need in order to flourish. Call it tough love, if you will, but when you trick your mind into a more positive, constructive and essentially productive perspective regarding your beta reads, you’ll be able move past it faster and get onto the next step you need to take.
Okay, so what step is that? Hopefully, you’ve already shopped around and decided on a professional editor, but if you haven’t, now would be the time. Most editors are willing to do a sample edit for you, so that you can see how thorough they are. They’re usually able to give you a time frame of how long it will take them to get the first pass back to you, as well. Choose the best editor for your needs and send your MS off to them.
Congratulations! You’re now halfway through your self-publishing journey! Take a moment to celebrate and pat yourself on the back for such a job well done! Especially, for managing to get through your first collection of criticism – it never completely goes away, but it might get easier for you over time.
Next week, I’m going to cover some optional pre-marketing steps you can take while you’re waiting for your edits to come back that might save wear and tear in your floors from pacing! 🙂
♥ Weekly Accomplishment: I’m happy to announce that this week, I’ve finished the 3rd Chapter for Scavenger, book 2 of the Dark Day Isle series and have moved into the 4th. Hint: When Master Felix orders extra pineapple, things are bound to get a little… messy. 😉 What are you drooling… er…cheering over this week? Please share with us in the comments below!