A couple weeks ago, I covered why indie authors needed editors. Not long after, I was invited to expand on the piece and have it posted on the IRC website. This got me thinking about what comes before that editing. Beta readers, feedback, revisions, and polishing—for most authors anyways. I’m huge on beta readers, I have several of them and I beta read for others. I hate giving negative feedback, but I always couple it with something positive. Recently, I had one where the plot was good, but the execution was poor. I told Mia several times, “This person is going to hate me after this.” Because when I spoke to the person, they’d told me they’d gotten nothing but positive, glowing, feedback.
Luckily, she didn’t hate me. She asked me questions about it and then set on to work to clean it up. Honest feedback is what authors need to thrive. We are never going to grow and learn if we don’t get it. When I get feedback from my betas, readers, or editors and it’s bad, overwhelming, whatever, I let myself mope around for five minutes. That’s it. No more, because I know these people aren’t out there to hurt me, they are there to help me. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I consider every suggestion, even if I don’t use them, because there’s a chance that it could help the story.
This doesn’t only go for writing, but your whole product, covers and everything. You may think that you have the best cover on the market, but others may not think so. Your family and your friends of course are going to say, “Yeah, it’s great!” Because they are afraid to hurt your feelings (or they don’t care that much…). Have a team of people that you trust to give you honest feedback and keep them close. If someone tells you simply ‘it’s good’ start asking questions, why do you think it’s good? What could I do to make it great? What didn’t you like? If they can’t answer it, or give you canned answers, take them off your list. If you give them a document to mark up and there’s barely anything and no notes to accompany it, take them off your list.
Now that being said, beta readers, readers, and editors: Do not be afraid of hurting our feelings. I’m not saying that you have to be harsh, but you don’t have to sugar coat things either. Don’t say: this is a pile of shit, tell the author specifically what you don’t like, follow up with some good things too. You need to be honest with us. We can take it! We learn with honest feedback, we won’t learn if all you do is stroke our egos. No one writes a perfect first draft, we don’t catch our own plot holes all the time, and we certainly don’t always see from the readers POV. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get us thinking.