You better love them. I do. I know how hard it is to find the time to read a novel free of New York Times praise, to have the right mood for the genre, to find time at all! I have 0 time. The more I appreciate friends or almost-strangers taking their time for me and my story.
This post was long overdue—and in planning. Still connected to my new novel SUICIDE HOTEL this post goes beyond my test-readers for that one. It is a tip-to-the-hat to all my test-readers in the past and in the future to come (hopefully). From dear colleagues with literary background to a blue collar buddy who only read my novels—before they were published—and not much else.
And this is a good point for me to slide in: Once I pursued to grow as a storyteller, I looked out for a diverse beta-readership. The more diverse their experience or background, the more diverse their feedback.
In case of SUICIDE HOTEL my test-readers were between their 20s and their 70s and of different literary and academic or professional background—just the way I like it. And with this novel it was especially important, since it was written in my 2nd language. From Bev I even got an in-between feedback what was a first time ever.
And that means something.
How long my beta readers and me go back? A long time. In 9th grade I gave my stories to friends to get some feedback—and feedback they had. The numbers are grades (In Germany A is a 1, B is a 2, and so on). I expected straight A's, but my friends viewed my story as a B- and a C—and I was painfully aware of the friends-benefit they gave me there. So I decided against further going public and approach a publishing house with my subjectively perceived gem.
PS: We are still friends.
All in all I am pretty objective with my writing, but in contrary to German—where I knew exactly where I stood—in English it feels sometimes I could walk in a trap. My worst fear is using terms or expressions that are historically negative tainted without me knowing, on the other end of the spectrum are expressions I could use without the intention to refer to a wildly popular washing detergent advertisement from the 80s or a favourite expression from a cartoon character etc. I can't re-live growing up in North America, or in the anglophone world. You get the drift.
But those are the worries of an author dabbling in his 2nd language, and these are the easy catches for beta readers. Always important is the allover clarity of your story and the motivation of your characters. There is always the possibility to accidentally drop the ball, and even if it is only one thing a beta reader catches, it might be the difference between being published or the self-published algorhithm-grave.
So: Thank You, dear beta readers!