One important feedback step many writers skip is using beta readers. So what are they? Beta readers are people from your target audience that volunteer to read your manuscript, primarily for content feedback. While you can skip this step, I think its something that most authors should consider.
Do you really want to find out that your main character is completely unlikable after you’ve published? Probably not. Beta readers can help you pinpoint areas that need improvement as well as provide feedback on what you’ve done right. Just because you love a character (or scene, or section), it doesn’t follow that your readers will feel that way, too.
Many writers groups offer critique swaps, and there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you are in each other’s target audience. But I have found that some authors are so afraid of receiving a bad critique that they won’t give anything but good feedback. If someone tells you they like your story, but can’t give any specific feedback as to why, are they really helping you? If you find yourself in a group of authors that constantly applaud each other’s writing, it might be time to seek outside readers.
Of course, you must also be willing to receive criticism. If someone tells you they hate your favorite part, accept their opinion and ask why. It is possible they have some preconceived ideas that don’t reflect the standard reader. But, then again, maybe you’ve completely missed the mark. The only way to know for sure is to have a group of readers, preferably from your target audience. If several readers give the same feedback, you can reliably use that to better your book.
I suggest seeking the advise of 10 readers, or parent/child pairs for books for younger readers. If you make major changes, it doesn’t hurt to have additional readers for a second pass. By recruiting beta readers from your target audience and using their feedback in a positive way, you will write better books and foster a strong following for years to come.
Sign up for Crimson Dragon’s beta reader group for opportunities to assist all of our authors.