…and THEN what do you do? Organizing Beta reader feedback in a non-maddening way

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Your humble host

So, you wrote your book and you did your best to catch all the little mistakes we all make (I seem to have a fondness for typing OF instead of IF – as those of you who beta read the manuscript have no doubt discovered), and the rules for emdashes g*dd@mned ellipses are the devil. They just are THE DEVIL and they all need to die! DIE! Just let me write them how I want!!!

Yeah, and then we write phrases where WE know what we mean but we don’t actually TYPE that…

Anyway, your smart and loyal beta readers will spot little issues. Usually, they catch a lot of stuff you miss because they aren’t reading it for the tenth time. (Some also notice when your characters are still driving the yellow truck they disposed of last chapter.) And really – you can be a reader of this blog and not see typos? Come on. That’s how you know it’s for sure me.

BUT!

That crap’s gotta go before publish day. And if you hire an editor, even they won’t catch everything.

So what do you do?

Really. What do you do?

I’m kinda scratching my head. I have received, let’s say, ten sets of notes from ten beta readers, okay? Many of the things the first person noticed, like when I wanted to type OF instead of IF, they all saw and pointed out.

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Specifically THIS manuscript.

How do I not go through the manuscript nine extra times searching for a typo I fixed when the first beta showed it to me?

Good question.

Here’s what I do.

As each beta sends in their notes, not all have spotted typos, and not all have spotted EVERY typo. But each has made their own unique contributions, whether they wrote notes through the whole manuscript or summarized them on a separate page.

  1. However they got you the info, it’s gold – thank them for it as soon as you receive it, whether you have time to read it or not.
  2. Then thank them again when you read their notes
  3. Then thank them again a week later and ask some question if you have any. Because these kind folks have just saved you from putting a book out that readers will slam if it has mistakes.

Odds are, if 10 betas (or 20 or 40) don’t see a mistake, it’s not there or readers won’t notice in the published MS, but if all the betas miss something that a reader sees, just fix it and upload a new MS, and 24 hours later you are good to go. Yes, you want it correct the first time, but it’s not the end of the world. It happens. Chill.

The question is, what’s a better system than going through ten sets of notes? There HAS to be one.

And I thought of it. Take the first set and break it into chapters, and add each new set of notes into that new document, with a name of each beat attached to each not. (Prior to this, you might ask betas highlight or copy-paste the sentence containing the error.)

You get Fred’s notes because he rocks and read your MS in like 2 days and he loved it. Fred is your new best friend

chapter 1

Note from Fred:  Betty WANT to the store – should be WENT 

and so on, listing out in whatever manner makes the most sense to you ALL of Fred’s comments, by chapter for example, so we can add others later.

And when Cathy sends her notes, she, too, noticed Betty WANT to the store, and suggests correcting it.

chapter 1

Note from Fred:  Betty WANT to the store – should be WENT 

Note from Cathy:  Betty WANT to the store – I think you mean WENT (Cathy’s nicer than Fred and also loved the book, insisting she’s gonna tell all her friends to buy it. Now she is your new best friend.)

Jane chimes in.

chapter 1

Note from Fred:  Betty WANT to the store – should be WENT 

Note from Cathy:  Betty WANT to the store – I think you mean WENT 

Note from Jane:  Betty WANT to the store – I think you mean WENT, but didn’t Betty die in the last chapter? (You check; yep. You offed Betty  in a the big candy store fistfight scene. Fight the urge to ask Jane to marry you.)

Okay, so now you’ve spent time and effort arranging all the beta reader notes. Why is that better than just scrolling through the MS searching for the things they said to fix?

Aha!

It’s NOT!!

or is it???

I have no freaking idea. It sounds good, though; but either way you’re probably spending the same amount of time, and at least if you scroll through the book each time you might catch additional errors.

Talk about maddening. You wanted an answer. Well, I asked what do YOU do.

So? What do you do?

Meanwhile, I did provide two methods that will both work. Whatever way you go, realize these folks are helping you avoid bad reviews from readers who find typos. It’s a sign of poor quality so you don’t want that, but if you can’t afford an editor (and you should hire the best editor you can afford, but starting out that might be, um, YOU and some helpful folks who decide to beta read for you) then this is a solution that works well.

So? What’s YOUR method for compiling beta reader feedback?

15 thoughts on “…and THEN what do you do? Organizing Beta reader feedback in a non-maddening way

  1. I have no answers but this post makes me feel so much better because you made me laugh about those annoying typo habits. Mine is writing they’re for every other type of there (their). I know the correct usage–that’s the part that kills me every time. Why oh why do we have mental glitches?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know. I hate it when a beta reader I don’t know spots a typo like that (their/there). I want to email them and say I have a master’s degree and I know the difference! Then I figure, they ended up reading 105,000; they probably figured out I’m not illiterate.

      Probably.

      Like

  2. I don’t depend on my beta’s to catch my typos. Some catch a few.
    I use an editor, then after all that is fixed, I read it out loud while someone follows along on a pc , catches an amazing amount of stuff, and then I read it line for line backward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For typos I would not look at the manuscript until all beta readers have submitted their entries. Otherwise, you will be looking for corrections you have already made and they won’t be there anymore. Make the corrections chapter by chapter using all 10 (20?) beta correction lists. Then make any corrections for timing or other script faux pas. Then send out the corrected versions to you most trusted beta readers for one last read (in case you messed up in your major corrections.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like a job for a spreadsheet. Contributor, Page, and then comments.

    I’m going through similar exercises with our Employee Handbook, so I feel ya.

    The other thing you could do is set up a shared drive – and fix errors as you catch them, reposting a revised version. Then, in your spreadsheet, you could note the version they’re commenting on – and that would show you if it’s a “new” error or one you already fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

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