Beta Readers, Feedback, Pitch Sessions and Pride

My local writing chapter, Long Island Romance Writers, is hosting its 16th Annual Agent/Editor Luncheon this Friday, June 7th. Soon after, in July, RWA is holding its Annual Conference. Both will be a time for mingling, networking, connecting and reconnecting, and, most of all, pitching our work to interested editors and literary agents.

Often, simmering below the fear of the actual pitch is the fear of rejection. Rejections, however, are sewn into this business and no one has, as of yet, determined a workaround. The best thing to do is prepare. By that, I don’t mean we need to expect a rejection, but that we need to put rejections into perspective.

When I say rejections are sewn into this business, I not only refer to agents and editor rejections but also rejections from readers. Face it, not everyone will like our work. This is such a subjective business and we know negativity is out there – or if we don’t know, we find out soon enough.

Unfortunately, I think we tend to cling to the negative even if its dose is a tiny fraction of the positive.

I’m working on an erotic novella trilogy. Book 1 is finished, Book 2 is plotted and waiting for attention, and Book 3 is, at this point, merely a back-cover blurb. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers. All honest, helpful and encouraging. Out of the seven people who read it, only one did not like it.

Notice, I didn’t say, six loved it.

Though six did love it, one did not. That one is the one that matters most to me. That one unhappy reader, the one negative review, tends to be the one that carries the most weight with us as artists. We pour so much of ourselves into our creations that one dissenting voice comes through as if on a bullhorn.

Alone, that’s not a bad thing. It’s what we do after we’ve digested the reason for the negativity constructive criticism (it’s all about perspective) that matters.

Do we agree? Do we see a way to make adjustments to mitigate some of the concerns raised without compromising our vision for our story? Can we take the concerns to the positive beta readers for additional feedback or perspective? Some of the most negative feedback, when applied properly, can take a rough patch of story and make it shine.

This type of refocusing attention also applies to pitching our stories to agents and editors. Some will latch onto the idea with enthusiasm while others might cringe, pleasantly say it’s simply not for them, or dismiss you – not just your story – outright. And yes, the latter has happened to people I know and love.

So what? Not everyone will love us. Not everyone will love our work. That’s fine. All is good. Criticism is criticism no matter how gently or cruelly delivered. Our job is to determine its value and our next move.

As I said, this business is subjective. It’s truly as simple as that. If we’ve studied craft, applied ourselves to the project, poured our heart, our tears and our sighs into our stories, and others have rewarded us with honest, unreserved feedback and we’ve applied common sense revisions, then we have done our job.

Someone will always be there to point out a flaw. Others will want what we have to offer because they will ‘get it’. They will get us. They will see the potential in our project and make us feel good about it.

So don’t let ‘no’ stop you. Absorb it. Understand the reason for it. Decide whether to give it weight, and if so, how much. Determine the best direction for it – additional consideration or dismissal – and move forward undeterred.

If you’re anything like me, your muse will have it no other way.   

8 Responses to Beta Readers, Feedback, Pitch Sessions and Pride

  • the whole subjectivity of this work can be maddening, whether it be in critiquing,with agents and editors or entering contests. The trick is not to be too sensitive, understand what is really being said/offered and having perseverance.

    • Perfectly said, Donna. It can indeed be maddening. It takes time, a certain amount of chutzpah and a whole lotta confidence and determination to whittle feedback to it’s most manageable amounts so we can actually put it to good use.

      Still, solo ‘no’ should never drown a chorus of “Yes”.

  • I believe I’m becoming more resilient to critiquing as I learn more about the craft and how the publishing process works. I suppose I’ll find out how much I’ve grown as a writer-salesperson on Friday. 🙂

    • It’s true, the more you learn craft – and the more feedback you receive – the better equipped you (we) are to handle a harsh critique. I know it was a while before I actually meant it when I said I didn’t want any pats on the head but rather an honest review of the work. Good luck Friday!! ❗

  • When it comes to reviews, we have to remind ourselves that they’re only one person’s opinion–and there are a whole helluva lot of people out there 🙂 Go with your gut. Write from your heart–some will get it, some won’t. Keep telling yourself that you didn’t fall in love with every guy you dated. The right one is out there. You just have to kiss a lot of toady publishers to find your prince!

    • Spot on, Pam! When we write from the heart, then we see the story on a different level – not that it can’t be improved but the sooner we acknowledge what you said – some will get it some won’t – the better it will be for us. AND… the less control our internal editor will have over us. What writer doesn’t want that?!

  • Erotic novella? Sounds spicy!

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you at the luncheon!

    • It is spicy, Dawn. 😆 Much spicier than anything I’ve written – with a dark theme and some dubious consent. It definitely pushes the envelope – which is practically an invitation for the wide flux of opinions. This isn’t my normal genre, so I am carefully weighing and re-weighing all of the feedback I’ve been receiving, the good and the not-go-good.

      About the luncheon – I’m keeping this one close until Book 2 is complete. I won’t be pitching it (or anything, actually) on Friday. Just going to enjoy the party and the lovely company. 😉 What about you? Will you be pitching?

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