Writing in isolation from feedback is a dangerous game if you want to publish your work (but hey, what’s life without a bit of danger). Think of a book you have purchased, only to be frustrated by plot holes, grammatical errors, or horrendously horrid habits that the author should have edited out. We learn in school about alliteration, but it doesn’t mean you should use it in an adult novel.
Using volunteer readers is one way of obtaining feedback without relying on your loving family. K J Matthews asked her many nieces and nephews for advice and feedback on an aspect of her “The Odyssey of the Seven” series. One bravely gave honest feedback. The others adjusted their feedback when they saw that honest feedback was appreciated. The point is that family and friends are annoyingly nice regarding feedback.
Alpha readers – read books after the first draft. They provide feedback on the plot, characters, story ideas, conflicts, etc. Big picture concepts about the manuscript.
Beta readers – read the book after a structural/developmental edit. They provide further feedback on characters, character development, realistic scenes, and word choices. They should expect grammatical errors; some may point these out, but not every beta reader should.
Arc readers – read the finished book before publication. The book should be formatted. Arc readers act as proofreaders (but they are not professional, so don’t expect them to hunt for errors, they may point them out as they see errors). They may trade a read for reviews. Legal conditions exist around this—more on that later.
(Fiery Publishing Plug warning–if you want to be on our Arc reader team for K J Matthews Odyssey of the Seven series, drop us a comment, and we will send you a link.)