I’ve been reading a lot about beta-readers, critiques, feedback, editing, and all the things that surround it. This post (well series of posts) is me working out my thoughts about feedback of all kinds. It’s going to start fairly traditional, but expect it to take a weird turn at some point in the second or maybe third post…(UX…dun…dun…dun)

I’ve read about writers who are scared of feedback, nervous about sending things out into the world, and protective of the things they’ve written.

I’ve read from the professionallier people that you have to get lots of betas, you have to take in everything, you have to pay all your betas, you have to do 2 or 5 or 7 rounds of feedback, or that you have to [insert thing I read once here x 74].

I have absolutely zero authority, and zero whatever it takes …this is what I think!

Feedback is important

What is feedback? From who? What kind? How do I get it? What kind? What do I do with it? How do I respond to it? How do I use it? Oh god oh god it is all awful I should just delete the whole thing! (STOP!)

You may already know the answers to all of these questions. I didn’t. I still don’t. I guess we all have to struggle with our own things, but hopefully someone else is helped by me flailing in my continued quest to sort out the answers to these questions.

Getting feedback

I have tried a lot of stuff. So this is sort of the ways I’ve gotten feedback, not really what I do with it, or even so much what kind, how I respond, how I use it. I’ll get to all that later.

I am a member over at which is a site where you submit your own pieces, and other people critique it. You have to critique about three pieces for every piece of your own that gets critiques. The feedback varies greatly. Sometimes it is awesome and detailed and helps pinpoint exactly the problem. Sometimes it is…not great. It isn’t quite anonymous but you don’t know the people, you might get to know them a little after doing a bunch of critiques or getting a bunch, but the turn over seems fairly high, so there will always be people who know nothing about you giving feedback.

The anonymous aspect of it is interesting, people are generally quite polite, but people aren’t afraid to say that something doesn’t work for them, that they hate characters, arcs, etc.

There are also some other aspects of this that make it more or less useful. It is always weird to get people who don’t read flash fiction critiquing flash fiction and saying they wanted like pages and pages more background. It is odd to get things from people who hate that genre or type of work reading it and then saying how they didn’t like the thing that fits the genre. There seems to clearly be a sweet spot of length that works best.

I know there are other sites like Critters that do similar kinds of exchange things. I just haven’t used them.

Friends and family

I have a couple of family members who read inside my genre and a couple friends who do as well. Personally, I’m very nervous about sharing my work so it took me a long time to get to the point of sharing things with them. (I have a friend who bugged me for years before I let her read anything.) I generally have them read a fairly close to final version and some of the picky ones come back with grammar things (which I love, comma fail).

I do have one extremely picky and brutally blunt friend who I will ask to read early things, because I know he’ll say things I don’t really want to hear. He never feels bad (at least he doesn’t seem to!) about saying that something sucks, or needs a rework, or even isn’t working at all.

Most friends and family you’d share things with should like you, and want to be nice to you. This is great, and can be a good way to sort out ideas early on, get a boost that you should keep working, and the like.

Novel swaps from NaNoWriMo

I’ve done this a couple times. Or tried would be a better way to say this. I’ve signed up and read a lot of books for other people and sent critiques, feedback, reviews, whatever you want to call it.

Sometimes this works well. I’ve met people who are wonderful are excited to give feedback and are glad to hear what you have to say. Sometimes people don’t ever respond past the first, here’s my novel now read it.

Personally, I’ve found that sending a sample of the first chapter or two back to the person and then asking them if that is the level/type/kind of feedback is what you are looking for helps. It helps identify the people who never respond again. It helps make sure I’m looking at the things the authors wants looked at. It helps make sure we are on the right page. And personally, if they say thank you? It helps me feel better about spending a lot of time on a read and feedback.


You can pay for beta-readers and all levels of editors, copy editing, proof-reading, etc. I know some people think this is absolutely vile and disgusting, but whatever. I don’t pay beta readers. I do try to:

  • Show my extreme gratitude with specific and thoughtful thanks
  • If they are also a writer offer to give them feedback/beta-read for them (and then make sure that I do a detailed and thoughtful job and a quick turn around)
  • If they are a local (friends and family basically) and not a writer, buy them dinner
  • Help with other things, if appropriate (I have NonWriterly skills…most of my skills maybe…)

On the other side when I do give feedback to people I want to be thanked, to know my contribution was valuable and useful. I want reciprocation (most of the time).


  1. Elizabeth

    I agree feedback is important, and I agree it varies widely.

    My beta readers I bought small presents for, things I know they’d like because they are friends and family.

    As for professionals, I have never hired one. I understand the need to pay a professional for their time, just as I get paid at my day job, but to date, this isn’t something I’ve done.

    Why? Because it’s hard to justify the expense when my writing has never earned a dime. Based on what I’ve read about author’s advances and royalties, and the fees professionals charge, there is the very real possibility you’d end up net negative even if your book got published and did okay.

    1. Mariah Avix

      Small presents for friends and family make a lot of sense to me.

      A professional I would pay for editing, and proofing, but I’m in the same boat, writing is already my most expensive hobby by far. I’d just like for it to pay for itself to start.

      I think if I wasn’t willing to put in time and effort to do a really good feedback exchange for someone then paying would make a lot of sense.

      1. Betheredragons

        What happened to my “i’s”?!?

        Paying is an option, and hopefully, you get better quality work that way. It’s naïve of me to hope some of that happens if you go the more traditional publishing route.

        1. Mariah Avix

          I have no idea what is going on with the “i”s, I’ve been trying to track down the problem, but it is like they have just been stripped. I swear I haven’t done anything. So strange.

          I do think that a lot of the editing, copy editing, and proof reading happens if you got traditional publishing. But I’m not sure about betas, especially for your first novel, I get the feeling from everything I’ve read that you’re expected to show up with a 95% ready copy which means you’ve already gotten past the beta stage.

        2. Mariah Avix

          Apparently the Jetpack plugin for wordpress is totally weird and has decided to strip all the i’s from the comments with the latest update! Problem found. i’s restored to their rightful places.

  2. Stefan Budansew

    This is a great article. I like too how it can apply for both large and small works of fiction. I shared it both on the 600 Second Saga facebook site and on the ToNaNo site.

    You are still my favourate editor 😀

    1. Mariah Avix

      I don’t even edit! Just give feedback. Mostly I’m trying to find a better way to think about this and putting my thoughts down helps with that.

  3. Pingback: On Feedback | Be There Dragons

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