Indie Authors: Are You Listening to Your Beta Readers?

I’ve recently run into something as an author I previously haven’t encountered: Beta readers who are less than enthusiastic about my new novel.

In my four previous novels, the reviews were excellent. They bought into what I was doing, gave good insight, but were always very positive. And these aren’t “yes-people” either. They were being honest.

How do I know they were being honest, because of the less than stellar feedback I’ve gotten so far about novel #5.

This novel grew out of a desire to tell a story. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, so I dug deep and took a year to write this story. This is the story that felt right to me. It’s the story I wanted to tell or rather I NEEDED to tell. So I wrote it the way I felt it should have been written. But there is one thing that I really did not take into account: the reader. How would my readers, who have come to expect certain things, think about my new novel which was somewhat of a departure from my other writings. At first, I thought I didn’t care what readers thought because I told the story I needed to tell.

But I was wrong.

I may have written the story I needed to write, but I didn’t write the story my readers want to read, and after pondering their feedback over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that they are absolutely right.

It’s not that everything is wrong with the story. It isn’t. But the tone is off, the characterizations are off, and there’s more I could have done with the story-line.

So here’s a few things I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t push a story to meet a false deadline.
  2. Swallow your pride and listen to your beta readers.
  3. Use the feedback to re-fuel your creativity on the story.

Number three above is where I’m at now. A couple weeks ago, I was finished with this story, thinking I had exhausted all angles, and, frankly, sick and tired of the story itself. I wanted to move on to my next one.

But these last couple of days, I have a renewed vigor towards doing this right. I’ve started a massive re-write and re-structuring that will develop the story in completely new ways. I never would have gotten to this point if I didn’t write it a certain way in the first place. My bad writing choices the first time around let to feedback which has led to completely new ideas that are going to bolster the story and take it new directions. Good directions. Creative directions.

I am once again excited by this story!

So thank you, readers. You are helping me craft a much better story. Now I can’t wait to finish the re-writes and see what they think.

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