Beta Readers: Why you need them and what to expect

Hi, guys!

Last week was all about self-editing, and one of the steps I mentioned was beta readers.

For those who don’t know, beta readers read a manuscript after some editing has been done. Where people bring them into the process at differs. I send my work to beta readers roughly halfway through the editing process.

No, I don’t mean edit half the manuscript one time, then send it to them. That’s more like an alpha reader, someone who reads after a first draft. The only person who ever reads my first drafts, aside from me, is my husband.

I just mean after roughly half the rounds of edits have been done, I send it to my beta readers.

When you choose to send yours to beta readers is up to you.

After reading, they give the author feedback. You can ask them questions afterward to get more detail. If there are things that you know you struggle with, you can even ask them to go into it with those things in mind.

At its core, this phase is meant to get more eyes on your work. After going through your novel time and time again, your brain is going to fill in gaps. You know what’s supposed to be on the page, so of course it makes sense to you. But it might not be as clear as you think.

That’s where beta readers come in.

They tell you what works and what doesn’t, what needs explained more and what’s over explained. They can tell you where the book drags and which scenes kept them on the edge of their seat.

Pay attention to what they say.

If all your beta readers (yes, you need multiple) say that a specific scene was so slow they didn’t want to keep reading, you need to fix that scene.

If they all agree that a certain scene was riveting and had them gripping the book with their noses pressed to the page, maybe leave that scene alone.

If they find a typo or say something doesn’t make sense, fix it.

Because these are the opinions of readers.

AKA the type of people you want to buy your book later.

If one beta reader says something that’s completely subjective and the others gave the opposite feedback, consider it thoughtfully and make a judgement call.

Books are, after all, very subjective. Each person has a different experience with each book. That’s part of the magic of reading.

And beta readers clue you in to how readers perceive your book.

You need that, especially if you plan to self-publish, because you won’t have an entire publishing company full of experts and professionals guiding you in the right direction.

Now, you can find beta readers in a lot of places.

You can ask trusted friends or family members (if you can count on them for honest feedback), or you can ask writer friends in various writing groups.

Btw, if you’re not in writing groups, mingling with other writers…you need to be. You’ll learn a lot more than you think and form some amazing friendships with people who understand the trials of writing and publishing.

There are also countless groups across social media specifically tailored for connecting authors with beta readers. Literally, just type into the search bar on your preferred platform “beta readers.”

I know it can feel awkward asking, but think of it as practice for all the marketing you’re going to be doing later. Because whether you’re doing traditional- or self-publishing, you’re going to be marketing.

Now, what to expect from beta readers. Because let’s face it, not all beta readers are created equally.

I finally have a good group, but it took some time to get here.

There will be some that agree to read, then never speak to you again after you send them a manuscript.

There will be some that agree to read, then life shits on them, rendering them unable to read in the time frame you need.

Some give mean, unhelpful feedback laced with pettiness. You’ll have to sort them out and determine what feedback is actually helpful. Discard any rude, belittling comments for what they are: useless.

So if a beta reader tells you that your novel is garbage and that you’ll never make it because you’re a talentless hack, “thank” them for their feedback and never send another manuscript to them.

Crap comments like that won’t help you grow or learn or better yourself or your writing. It’ll only hold you back. You need constructive criticism and positive reinforcement. Not bullying.

So, grit your teeth and keep going. There are good beta readers out there. (I promise. I’ve found several.)

Some are wonderfully helpful and thorough. Some go above and beyond the call of duty, sussing out typos, continuity errors, inconsistent character behavior, etc., in addition to giving general feedback.

Obviously, those are the ones you want.

Now, prepare yourself. The feedback you get won’t always be positive. Sometimes, your beta readers will find flaws.

*gasp*

But that’s literally the entire point.

So keep your chin up, remember that every manuscript has flaws, and fix the fucking problems.

Your book will be much better for it, I promise.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your work, Microsoft Word has a watermark feature. Do that, then send it out. You hold the copyright as soon as you write the manuscript. In the US, of course, you can’t sue for financial compensation without registering it, but I’m fairly sure you can pursue a cease and desist.

Now, for my weekly progress report. I wish I had more to report, but some stupid cold/flu bug has done everything in its power to knock me on my ass this past week. (It did knock my legs out from under me once, actually. Coughing until you gag/dry heave so badly that you fall to your knees…not pleasant.)

Anyway, I finished my final edits of World for the Broken. I’ll be announcing the official release date this week! The cover reveal will follow, probably next week or the week after, depending on how long the formatting takes.

I typed a little (roughly 2,500 words) on my new WIP and planned (*gasp*) several scenes for later in the book. I even made a timeline.

I really was sick. Lol. I was plotting.

I never fuckin’ do that.

Anyway, hopefully this stupid sickness doesn’t come back for round three so I can actually get shit done.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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