This week, we’re still talking about beta-readers and critique partners, but we’re going to take a look at the writer’s side of the partnership. We’ve already discussed how to find these valuable partners, why we need them, and what traits to look for. But how can we make the partnership one that’s rewarding and enjoyable for them too?
Defensiveness is a No
The first way to interact with a mindset for success is to do so without defensiveness. So often, I’ve worked with people who get defensive about my critiques or my commentary, and I can tell you that nothing ruins a beta-reading experience faster than an upset or disgruntled author.
Many times, you can get people to beta-read for free, so don’t make their lives a nightmare because you can’t take criticism. This goes back to one reason why beta-readers are a good thing. They can help you grow a thicker skin in the area of criticism toward your work. But that only works if you don’t chase them off by being nasty about what they said in the first place.
Always be polite. If you have to, bite your tongue when you feel the urge to argue! If you don’t think the change they suggested or the comment they made is valid after you’ve calmed down and thought about it, that’s fine.
Beta-readers know you won’t take every suggestion they make. But they do anticipate that you’ll be respectful of their suggestions and opinions by at least considering it before you let them know that you think it’s best to leave it as is.
While defensiveness is going to cripple you in the area of beta-readers, asking questions won’t. If you don’t understand why the beta-reader said what they did or suggested you change something, ask. Believe me, we’re not going to get upset by a legitimate question. Sometimes, we might not know the exact answer and will have to think about it, but we’re not upset when you want us to give you clarification.
Just remember to be respectful. Don’t use questions as a way to disguise argumentative or defensive behavior. It is obvious, and it is really obnoxious. Just don’t do it.
Particularly if you aren’t paying the beta-reader, appreciation gives them a very warm feeling. Nothing is much worse than being asked to beta-read, giving your feedback, and then getting nothing more than a brief, cold thank you.
Take the time to let your beta-reader know that whether you take every suggestion or not you really do appreciate the time they put in. If it’s possible, maybe even surprise them with a copy of the book (if they liked it) or some other small gift as a way of telling them they’re valued and their time reading meant a lot to you.
It isn’t a requirement, but it is a really nice thing to do, and they’re more likely to want to work with you again in the future if you show this kind of kindness. It’s definitely unexpected too since most beta-readers doing so for free weren’t anticipating anything in return.
The biggest thing you should take away from this is the need to be polite and kind. Your beta-reader is a person too, and they should be treated with respect, especially since they’re giving up valuable time to help you.
Respect them and their opinion when they give it, even if you end up discarding the opinion or suggestion at the end of the day. A good beta-reader wouldn’t give it if they didn’t really feel the change would be a good one. By acknowledging that and giving their ideas full consideration, you’re going to be well on your way to making the experience much better for both of you!