Beta Reader People Skills

This is my last blog on my Bible study series. I’m happy and sad all at the same time, but more than that, I’m really excited to talk about something I’ve never really heard people talk too much about in all my beta reading research.

The PEOPLE SKILLS needed to keep betas happy and feeling appreciated.

Even though, at some point, your betas will feel more like data points and cats to herd than people, it’s important to remember that they are actually people. With lives. With feelings. With faults. With good intentions.

When I first interact with betas, I give them ALL the information they will need right up front. I don’t lie about the work load. In fact, I even overplay it just a little so I scare away all but the most committed. If I’m going to expend the energy trying to get people to read or work, I don’t want to have to harangue them at every step to do so.

This also shows that I respect them as fully fledged adults. I trust them to make their own decisions based on all the relevant facts. Resist the urge to treat them like children, trying to coerce them into doing what you want them to do and then slamming them with the reality later.

Part of what helps me stay successful in that is the organization bit I talked about last week. I get everything in one place that I can access from anywhere (hello Google docs!) and I check it frequently. This is my project, I need to make sure that I’m staying on top of it and doing what I said I would do on my end.

Another thing I do is ensure that my betas understand without a shadow of a doubt that their responses will be confidential. This is so easy to accomplish with a written bible study because their responses are being written down on paper instead of sent through the internet. By the time I get those packets back, even though they are numbered, I won’t have the faintest idea whose number was whose. As they trickle in, they will sit in their individually numbered packets until I start data mining.

Finally, any time I receive feedback, no matter how angry or sad or depressed it makes me, I thank them for the feedback. I thank them for their honesty. I thank them for their time. I’ll be honest and say I need some time to process it, but I thank them anyway.

A number of people who have read a bit of this or that and given hard feedback are very appreciative of a positive response. I’ve heard horror stories of writers flipping their lids when they get honest feedback, people who say “I’ll never read for them again” and so on. I know I don’t want to be on that list, so I make sure to express gratitude, no matter how I feel in the moment.

It IS okay to be honest about your feelings, but it’s not okay to lash out, especially if you were the one to ask for help in the first place. At the end of the day, your beta readers are people and need to be treated accordingly. The way you respond to your betas’ hard feedback will speak volumes about your own character. Be sure it says what you want it to say.

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