Beta readers are people who are most likely to buy and read your book. They play an important role in your publishing journey, as they see your book raw, naked, and parts you wouldn’t even show your mother. Make sure they are on your plan, as they will look at it with fresh eyes and tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear.
My daughter is a beta reader for a series of books by my client, edward branley, since his “dragons” series (Dragon’s Danger, Dragon’s Discovery) is exactly in her age range. [Edward will tell you one of the characters is based on her. ] She tells him if it works, if it doesn’t and why it’s right or wrong. She makes suggestions to make it better.
The Book Designer has five tips for working with Beta Readers. I believe in all of them, so I’m sharing what they said:
- Don’t Give Them a Draft Your beta reader is still a reader — a reader who might tell other readers about your book. It’s important to treat your beta readers right, and that begins with what you ask them to read. Don’t give them your first draft. In fact, be sure that what you give them is the very best writing you can produce on your own. Write your draft and set it aside for at least a week. Go back to it and rewrite it if you need to. Then set it aside for another week — again. Revise, revise, revise, until it isn’t remotely possible for you to do any better.
- Your Manuscript, Their Way Before you send your manuscript to your beta readers, ask them what format they’d like it in. Beta readers might want to print your manuscript or read it on a Kindle. If they prefer the latter option, send them instructions for how to get your manuscript on an e-reader. Do whatever you can to remove any obstacles that will prevent your beta reader from carving out time to read your book.
- Give Them Guidance Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you’d like from them. Develop a checklist with questions you’d like answers to. Do you want readers to comment on the strength of a character, or the organization of a concept? If you create a specific list of questions around content, beta readers won’t spend their time punctuating sentences. Adapt your revision checklist to meet the needs of each book your write.
- Don’t Take it Personally Remember, it takes a great deal of time to read and respond to a book. And your beta readers will have opinions that might sting a little. Be gracious for any feedback a beta reader gives you, even if you don’t agree with it. Ask yourself, “Will addressing this comment make for a better book?” If so, take their advice and apply it to your next revision. If not, whatever you do, don’t defend yourself. Your beta reader already knows your position (you’ve done as you’ve seen fit, as evidenced by your manuscript) but they don’t agree. Thank them for their comments and move on.
- Return the Favour Remember, you’re not paying your beta readers to read your book. They’re offering feedback because they want to help or they’re interested in your book’s premise or topic. If your beta reader asks you to be a beta reader in future, seriously consider returning the favour. And when it comes time to publish your book, give them a mention in your acknowledgements. Everyone likes to see their name in “print.”
Still confused as to why you need one, or what they are? Read on…
What is a Beta Reader, and why do I need one?
What makes a good beta reader?
The few, the proud, the beta readers
Honestly, I’d tell you that you need a beta reader to help you revise your manuscript before you go looking for an editor. If you need one, I think I can point you in the right direction for that editor.
Note: beta reader featured image from Fiona Skye