Yes, You Need Beta Readers

“Ouch,” I said. “This hurts. It’s also exactly what I needed to know.”

In between updates and binging ‘Mindhunters,’ I’m talking with my Beta Readers. They are hard at work making suggestions and providing feedback on Mesh. Just hearing from them is an experienc unto itself and I wanted to talk about it. Here’s why:

You can only know up to a point what people will think of your work. I can make a guess at how I think my story or my art will land with someone, but after that it’s really up to them. More often than not, you will have your assumptions challenged when they aren’t being completely destroyed.

So the question is, when do you want to hear that your book isn’t good: before or after it comes out? Me, I’d rather know before it comes out and you probably do, too.

Some authors don’t think so. Dean Wesley Smith, for example, will tell you that beta readers harm rather than help you. Nonsense. Beta readers are incredibly valuable to the writing experience. Without a Beta Readers, an author can spend ten years sending out query letters with no response because their work isn’t sellable and they never asked an objective audience to tell them the truth.

If you’re an author, you NEED to hear what people think of your work.

The information only hurts if you have an ego to bruise. Kill your ego, murder your darling. Your ego isn’t going to pay you for listening to it, but the readers will! It’s definitely within your interest to have the people you plan to sell your book to tell you what they think of it.

It’s not just that sucking is the first step toward being good at something. There’s an extra step in the process: How are you going to learn to suck less if you don’t know you suck?

This is the value of a good Beta Reader. They will tell you if you suck, why you suck, where you suck and when you suck. Know that you suck. Put your stuff out there. Hear it. Feel it. Accept it. Then start working at sucking less. Then listen, as they tell you how to suck less.

Don’t worry if you suck. You do. It’s okay. We all do.