Wading through Beta-Reader Feedback

As I’ve previously written, feedback from beta readers is invaluable. TV producers have been using this method for years to determine if a show is worth investing in beyond a pilot episode or season.

Let’s assume that you chose ideal beta readers in your target audience, you provided them with guiding questions, and you’ve collected their feedback with a handy survey tool, like Google Forms.

Next Steps

First, thank your beta readers. Follow through on any promises you made in exchange for their feedback. If that’s a copy of your published book, let them know that you’ll keep them posted on your progress.

Then you’re ready to begin revising.

Digestion Phase

First, you read the feedback. All of it. Even if you read individual responses as they came in, sit down with all the responses and read through them in one sitting.

Hold space for the emotions that will show up. It’s totally normal to swing from elation (He loved it!) to anger (What does she know? Nothing!) to despair (I’m the worst writer. Why did I think I could write a book) to confusion (Did they even read my manuscript? What are they talking about?).

Take a break. A days-long, possibly weeks-long break, if you can. Let the information digest. Expect to need more time with this than you think you will, but don’t let the feedback (whether positive or negative) paralyze you indefinitely.

When you feel like you’ve shaken off the strongest emotional responses, you’re ready for the organization phase.

Organization Phase

Reread all of the feedback again. Then analyze it by reviewing the responses to each of your questions in turn.

Organize the responses based on how they resonate with you:

A. This is a helpful suggestion. I want to use it.

            Save these ideas in a separate file to pull out during the Implementation Phase.

B. No, just no. This is my book, and I’ll write it my way.

            Give yourself a pat on the back for owning your story. You don’t have to take every suggestion that is offered, even if it’s a good one.

C. I’m not sure about this idea.

            Read the responses here carefully.

Do the same suggestions or questions show up with multiple readers? If so, this is information to pay special attention to. Move this feedback to the Implementation Phase file.

If there’s a one-off suggestion, and it doesn’t resonate with you, then trust that this reader just isn’t your ideal reader for this manuscript, and move on.

Implementation Phase

Grab the file you created with all the suggestions you want to implement and begin revising. If you get stuck, you may find that one or two of those beta readers who offered helpful suggestions would be willing to brainstorm with you.

Remember to keep your beta readers updated as you progress through the next phases of editing and publication. And don’t be afraid to ask those folks for reviews when your book launches.