Beta Reads and Self Esteem.
Just met with one of my beta readers for the first book in my Frankie Falawell series. I've actually been dreading this moment for the last couple of weeks. When my wife read the unedited script, and gave me a glowing review, I basked in the praise for a while. She's a "reader." I'm not. She'd know when something is good, and when it's garbage.
But there is always that little voice in the back of your head saying, "Yeah, but is it really that good?"
I paid out-of-pocket for an editor. I got the results back over a month ago. You look at the pages bleeding red from comments and revisions, and you get disheartened. Or you get mad. Or you scratch your head. I mean, I've been through this with a non-fiction book, and I sorta know the drill. But, in the end, criticism is never good.
(Okay, yeah, the pages didn't technically "bleed red," as we passed a Word document back and forth. It's literary flourish. Work with me here.)
And then you read the glowing comments from the editor about the overall story. You feel good, but then you wonder, "Are they just blowing smoke to make me feel good?" Because it is somewhat detrimental to repeat business when they tell you your book basically sucks eggs. There is a certain aspect to receiving criticism in that you need to know the source. You need to trust the source. Trust is something that is developed over time. This, in no way, is a reflection of the editor I chose. Even as I basked in the overall glowing praise they gave for a time, reveling in good words from an experienced hand, it wasn't enough to satisfy my doubt.
In the end, you don't know relative strangers as well as you do others. That's a hard truth you can't ignore. So my wife and I rounded up a couple of beta readers.
So, we take Beta Reader # 1 out for dinner and let them offer their review. They are an educator, specifically dealing with young adult literature. We - my wife and I - went through their comments, and impressions. They mentioned that they had to put the manuscript down several times because of stuff going on at home (read: teenagers). But, they picked it up and kept going.
The review was glowing. There were a couple of rough patches I needed to work on, but overall the comments were glowing.
So I mention, at some point, that I'm near finished with the rough draft of Book 2.
Beta Reader responds with an enthusiastic, "When can I read it?"
Now if that isn't validation, I don't know what is.
There is a part of me that wants to brag, and post some of the actual words from the reviews. Then there's the restrained side that finds that gaudy and self-serving. You have to promote the book, and even yourself as a writer. This is pretty much true of every profession. Maybe, at some point, I will. But for now, the tally is officially 3 who think the story is good, and well written, and so on, and so on.
Beta Reader #2 is on deck for next week. I'll report back then.