Why We Need Beta Readers and Editors

I recently mentioned to a friend that I was self-publishing my first book this November as an e-book, as well as a printed book. I told him that after I edit on my own, I will be passing my manuscript to beta readers, possibly a proofreader and after that, edit it again and then it goes to an editor.

To which he replied: “The editing process is never ending anyway. With the technology now with e-books, why don’t you just eliminate the beta readers and editors and publish your book now and get the readers out there to give their feedback and then revise your book again based on the feedback you get, and then publish it again.

My head spun a little.  So I said, “What do you mean? Revise my book again, even after I’ve already published it?” A bit confused, I added, “Why would I want to do that?”

He said, “Yes, keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over based on the feedback you get from readers.”

I asked, “The same book?”

“Yes, the same book. The one you have now,” he confirmed.

My head spun again. “You mean, just print what I have now and let the readers read and judge it without having beta readers read it first?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “But once my book is published—that’s it. I’d like to be done with it so I can move on and start writing other stories. Why would I want to keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over again?”

Completely nonplussed, I asked my friend what the advantages are of doing it the way he’s suggesting. To be honest, I don’t even remember what he said because it probably didn’t make sense to me.

For me, it almost sounds like he’s saying:
“Why don’t you rush and publish your book now, even if you’re not satisfied with it and it hasn’t been read by others who can help you polish it. Who cares? You’ll get feedback from readers outside anyway. You can use the feedback to keep revising and keep publishing THE SAME book, over and over again.

To me, it also sounds like: Why don’t you just put a product out there that hasn’t been tested? Who cares if it doesn’t work? You can keep revising the product anyway?

But wouldn’t I be setting myself up for failure by doing it that way?

First of all, why would I risk my reputation as a first time author and publish a book that’s not polished? Just to get it out there because I can keep revising it anyway? It doesn’t make sense. Also, what happens to the printed pieces?

After researching, reading articles and posts from other writers over the last 6 months on self-publishing and e-books, and seeing the results of self-published authors, my friend’s comment didn’t make any sense to me. I can think of a hundred reasons why I do not think his idea is a good idea. For one, beta readers are there to help you. They will read your book and critique it and give you helpful feedback. If I rushed and published my book now and eliminated the beta readers and editors, I would probably get feedback, but none of which would tell me if I made a typo on page 40 and 180, or that I should rewrite a sentence or a paragraph because something is missing, etcetera. Regular readers won’t give the same feedback. They will give general feedback, but won’t go into specifics like beta readers and editors do.

There are many reasons why a lot of e-books fail and why some succeed. I’ve read a number of posts from self-published writers who all give the same advice:

  1. First, write a good book.
  2. Get people you trust who aren’t family to read it and give you honest feedback (example: beta readers) before you publish.
  3. Hire an editor.
  4. Create a great book cover.
  5. Have a marketing plan.
  6. Know your target audience.

I’m sure my friend meant well. Maybe all he was trying to say was take advantage of technology. But even then, some of the things he suggested didn’t make sense.

At the end of the day, I am still sticking to my plan. My manuscript will still be going to beta readers. I personally believe that having them read it and critique it will help me polish my book before it gets published.

Here are links to some posts that I’ve recently read on self-publishing and why beta readers are important:

http://crimefictioncollective.blogspot.ca/2012/08/three-mistakes-you-dont-want-to-make.html

http://jennymherrera.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/four-reasons-why-you-need-beta-readers/

http://saraflower.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/beta-readers/

What do think? Eliminate beta readers? Rush and publish and keep revising and publishing the same book over and over again?

0 Replies to “Why We Need Beta Readers and Editors”

  1. The average reader out there isn’t going to give pointers on writing. They’ll just read it as a poorly written book and probably won’t buy another book from the same author. I’ve read reviews on amazon of indie authors who did not edit, and they were not favorable in the least. Good for you for sticking to your plan.

    1. Exactly. I would rather follow the right procedures and publish, instead of rushing and publishing, risking my reputation and then regretting the whole thing.

      Thanks for the great comment, Lori! 🙂

  2. Strategies like your friend’s are far too common among some self-publishers. Unfortunately, it is definitely not the way to self-publish. For one thing, once you get all those negative or critical feedback it doesn’t go away once you put up another edition. I guess you could completely take down the book and then re-upload it with a different ISBN number, but then you would lose any positive reviews you’ve received. Plus, if someone finds typos, inconsistencies, or plot problems in your book they aren’t going to specify the way a beta reader and an editor would.

    Beta readers are free (well, it’s good manners to offer to critique theirs back). What would be the reason not to take this step first? Time? It will take more time to wait for readers to find your book and give feedback. Plus, it’s not fair if people are purchasing your book before it’s a finished product. If all self-publishers did this, no one would trust self-published product. There already is some stigma that more typos and editing mistakes are found in self-published novels and it is very hard even after betas, editors, and proofreaders to get a novel error-free. This is one of the reasons Amanda Hocking gave as to why she decided to traditionally publish.

    Definitely stick to your original, thorough plan. Though it might take some time, you’ll be much happier with the outcome 🙂

    1. I agree with everything you said. It’s true. There are so many poorly edited self-published books out there which is why there is a stigma. Let’s change that by publishing books that are properly edited.

      Thanks for the comment, Lauren. By the way, I sent you an email. 🙂

    1. I hope self-published writers pay more and more attention to editing and hiring designer to create their book covers. I think these two things can really make a big difference.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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  4. I agree. You have to take your work seriously or no-one else will either. No-one wants a bad review and there’s nothing constructive about someone posting a one-star review commenting about a poorly written and edited book. Well done for sticking to your plan.

    1. Thanks, Matt. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do too. After doing a lot of research I found it’s best to have beta readers, proofreaders and editors.

    1. Thanks, Matt. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do too. After doing a lot of research I found it’s best to have beta readers, proofreaders and editors.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Corey!
    I think you’re friend’s idea is interesting, and if you can’t find any beta readers/ crit partners then maybe it’s the way to go. But for most people, I just don’t see the benefit of publishing something and correcting it afterward rather than getting that sort of feedback before you even think about publishing.
    And it also seems to betray your reader’s trust in some way. If I read your book and loved it, and then decided to read one of your other ‘unpolished’ books, I think I would probably be so annoyed that I wouldn’t read anything by you again. And that is something that, as authors, we definitely don’t want to happen.

    I wish you every success with your writing!
    Jenny

  6. Thanks for the mention, Corey!
    I think you’re friend’s idea is interesting, and if you can’t find any beta readers/ crit partners then maybe it’s the way to go. But for most people, I just don’t see the benefit of publishing something and correcting it afterward rather than getting that sort of feedback before you even think about publishing.
    And it also seems to betray your reader’s trust in some way. If I read your book and loved it, and then decided to read one of your other ‘unpolished’ books, I think I would probably be so annoyed that I wouldn’t read anything by you again. And that is something that, as authors, we definitely don’t want to happen.

    I wish you every success with your writing!
    Jenny

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