Saturday, February 7, 2015

Absorbing Feedback from Your Beta Readers
Saturday, February 07, 2015

Absorbing Feedback from Your Beta Readers

Since my writing partner and I are independent self published authors, somewhat similar to doing a startup where you depend on audience feedback to test your product, we depend on beta readers to offer us feedback. Thus, at the end of our writing process, we submit our manuscript to beta readers. It's our test to see if what we've produced will be viable. Like having a minimum viable product ("MVP") in startup terms. In novel writing terms, it's basically, did anyone like it? Did they get it?

Thank you Beta Reader "T" for all of the typo catches and even plot issues!
Colorful stickies are indications of errors in the manuscript.
Types of things that our beta readers catch and how we'll deal with them.

1. Typos - of course, we change these. It's like in startup software where internal business users catch typos, graphic errors and other simple mistakes. We always appreciate these catches, as even though we make an effort to edit the manuscript (and my co-author is a professional editor!), it's often difficult to catch errors when you've been too close to the subject for too long.

2. Consistency Errors - of course, we change these. These often occur because in our process, we change around scenes, modify the plot and switch out characters and/or their dialogue so often, as is our process, that we often miss things and end up with inconsistencies. Some of which, we don't catch. Examples: Did the hero put the gun away or does he still have it? Did she dye her hair or is she wearing a wig?

3. Endings. In A Halo for Red Betsy, some of our beta readers wanted our villain to get his comeuppance, so after some debate, we decided to provide an extra scene involving the heroes, the villain and a football pass. (You'll have to read Red Betsy to know what happens!)

In our new book of the Frank Keegan pulp noir mystery series, The Cheongsam Bombshell, we've been getting a fairly universal reaction to our ending, one that should suggest that we make a change. Instead of following the feedback blindly, we're going stick with our own "gut" on this ending and stay the course.

That said, this is similar to having a North Star in startup ventures and knowing what you believe the audience wants, not what they say they want. In the case of mystery novel writing, the ending of The Cheongsam Bombshell, must remain as is. (This will be apparent to anyone reading this 2nd Frank Keegan novel and the continuation of the Frank Keegan series).

Ultimately, we won't know if we, as authors, have made the right choice until our general release of the new novel in March 2015. For the time being, we're going to "stick to our guns" and deliver the ending as is. The one consolation we've provided to our beta readers is an epilogue to help readers digest the end a little better.