What is a beta reader?

Beta readers are probably the most fantastic way that you can get some really good insight into your book and, and identify any potential flaws, issues, and shortfalls that your book may have BEFORE sending it to an editor.

So before you actually go all the way through the editing process and into the world for advanced readers, you want to use what is called Beta readers.

Beta readers are a small group of hand-picked people to help you refine your book.

With Beta readers, I suggest that you limit down between three to six Beta readers, because you’re going to ask these Beta readers to give a good hard look at your manuscript and provide information back to you. So you don’t want to have 50 people providing feedback, comments, and changes.

Now, who do you want to choose as Beta readers?

This is going to vary a little bit based on what genre your book is. If you’re writing nonfiction, I suggest you get one person who’s a competitor in your field. You know, we all have buddies who do the same thing as we do. I have friends that are publishers. I would want to choose one of them as a Beta reader: people that I know are going to support me, but are in the same line of work so that have the expertise on my topic. Then you want to choose someone who knows absolutely nothing about the topic of your book. This is so useful because when you get that person who knows absolutely nothing, they can really point out what doesn’t make sense and what they’re struggling with understanding throughout the book.

The third person is someone in your target market. Who is the person who would want to buy your book?

If you get more than 3, add more of these three and perhaps one who is a real word and grammar nerd. The person who will catch all of the errors!

Once I have identified who I want to ask, what’s next?

You’ll want to be very specific with the Beta readers when you invited them to help you on this project.

Be very clear about your publication timeline and when you need the feedback. Provide a very specific date for all comments and feedback and be sure to ask them when you invite them to do this important job if they are going to be able to meet your deadline, and if that’s going to be hard, then find someone else.

When you are setting the date, make it a week or two before you absolutely need the feedback. Someone is always late. Plan on having 2 weeks to implement the changes and suggestions. And always remember, you do NOT have to make every change they suggest. But if you’re getting similar feedback about an area of your book, you should strongly consider their input.

Once you’ve gotten them to agree to do it, let them know when you’ll send your manuscript. For their sake, do at least one solid self-edit. Don’t send them junk. You don’t want to make their job any more difficult than it has to be.

When it’s time to send the book to them:

Provide a cover letter with very specific guidelines.

Re-iterate the due date.

Let them know how you want to receive their comments – do you want them to use Word with Track Changes? Or do you want the changes in a google doc? Do you want just a list in an email with their comments and the page number? Determine how you will want to receive the changes and make it consistent.

Also, make it clear that you are completely open to constructive criticism and give them permission to mark it up. If you don’t provide guidelines and permission, you might get a “That was great!” or “I loved it!” back. That’s not what you want.

Give them some guiding questions to make the feedback process easier.

Some suggestions on questions to give your beta readers for NONFICTION:

  • Do the transitions make sense?
  • Are the terms/terminology I use defined well enough that someone reading the book would understand everything?
  • Is the concept developed enough?
  • Does it jump from topic to topic in a way that doesn’t make sense?
  • Do I lose your interest anywhere?
  • Does the order and flow of the content make sense?

For FICTION BOOKS:

The overall process is the same, but you’ll change up your readers a bit. You’ll seek a person or two who really loves the genre you’re writing in, and at least one person that never reads that genre, and someone who loves to correct grammar mistakes.

Sample questions you’ll ask them:

  • Do you like my main character?
  • Do you feel like the characters are well developed?
  • Were there any characters that you hated?
  • Were there characters that you felt like you didn’t understand how they came into the picture and why they were there?
  • Did I bore you to death at any point in my book?
  • Was there anything that jumped and made no sense in the timeline and storyline?
  • Is there enough dialogue? And is that dialogue believable?
  • Were there any areas you really struggled through reading in the book?

Do Beta Readers get paid?

Generally speaking? No, these are not proofreaders. They are not a hired service. These are people that you’ve reached out to as a favor and invited to help you. You should generally not need to pay for their time and feedback.

If you’re looking for beta readers – hop on over into the Write|Publish|Sell Facebook group. We have lots of authors willing to help each other out!

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