Working with beta readers might be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time. Beta readers are the test audience to your manuscript and they can play an important part in making your book better.
Every beta reader or manuscript critique is different but the process of their work is similar. In order to make the best of their professional services, here are some of the not-so-secret tips to working with beta readers!
Prepare the manuscript
Beta readers are not just your friends or family, (even if they sometimes are.) They are professionals, even if they volunteer or exchange favors with you, who know what they are doing.
And it is imperative that you send them a “clean” copy of your manuscript. In other words, do not send them your draft.
They deserve to read the self-edited and complete version of manuscript and it works better for both the author and the beta reader to do so.
And also, ensure you send your manuscript in the format (physical or ebook formats) they require to make things easier for them.
I have heard of horror stories from authors being charged hundreds of dollars extra because the beta reader preferred a printed copy to read. I think this situation would have been salvaged if the author had printed the pages herself.
So before sending off the manuscript ensure that you both are on the same page.
Brief them about your requirements
It is also critical to voice out your critical expectations from the beta reader. This step would minimize the disappointments and more importantly, save time for both of you.
Most professional beta readers have a feedback report format and they will be able to share what you can expect from them.
But if you have some specific questions to be addressed and answered, it is better if you share it with them. This might help you to zero in the edits you make later in your manuscript.
Share a time frame
Talking of requirements, one of the most common problems in using a voluntary beta reader or use an “exchange of favors” between your critique group is the delivering within the time frame.
More often than not, when people volunteer to do something for you, it becomes difficult to enforce a time schedule upon them.
But in this case, it is necessary to be clear about the timeline because there are several other things (like revising and editing) to do after receiving their feedback.
Be open to criticisms
As we all know, the main goal of beta reading is get feedback from strangers (or not so strangers) about your manuscript.
It goes without saying that you need to be open to accepting those criticisms and it is not an attack on your writing ability or yourself. Do not take them personally, nor you have to defend yourself.
If you are using more than one beta reader (and you probably should), collect the feedback from all of them in an orderly fashion. Create a master list of all comments and work through them one by one.
That being said, you needn’t accept every suggestions or criticism of every beta reader you engage. It is usually better to trust your instinct when you are not convinced with their reasoning.
Send in feedback
Do not forget to thank your beta reader for their services, and return the favor if need be. You can ask them for a quote about the book to use in your book marketing, and most readers would be happy to see their name in “print”.
In case of a professional or even some volunteer beta readers, a testimonial or a review of their services would be appreciated.
Also if you are taking part in an exchange of critiques with your writing group or another author, do send in your beta reading report of their manuscript as agreed upon.
Treat your beta reader in a respectful and professional manner. And your relationship with them can make your book better and more successful.
I might be a little later than usual but I am excited to announce that the Comment 4 comment challenge is back on for 2021! It is time to get back on the wagon as a conscious effort to increase the engagement and commenting on our blog. Are you ready for this?
Blog engagement is the key!
Despite what we tell ourselves about how we blog for ourselves or how it is just a hobby, we love getting comments on our posts and meeting new likeminded bloggers.
Without such validation via comments or shares we may as well be just screaming into the void. Trust me that is just a sure shot way into blogger burnout – something that we all dread.
The comment 4 comment challenge has been greatly successful in the past (2018, 2019). I am sure the participants gained quite a number of blogger friends who not just commented and shared on their blogs, but also gained a good support system.
Let’s rebuild that one. Welcome to C4CC-2021 edition!
What is the Comment 4 Comment Challenge (C4CC) 2021?
The major issue for any small blogger is building an audience and increasing their blog engagement. And that means getting more visitors, comments and shares on your blog. If that sounds interesting to you, this challenge is for you.
The goal of C4CC is ‘leave no comment un-replied and un-returned’.
What do you have to do?
Replying all the comments you received on your blog
Visiting the said commenter’s blog to leave a comment
If you feel you are up for this challenge, SIGN UP right away.
What is the goal anyway?
If you have any of the following as goal for your blog this year
Be more social
Increase the number of comments on your blog, organically
Make more blogging friends
Improve blogging engagement
Increase your blog followers
Finding similar blogs
Then this Comment 4 Comment Challenge (C4CC) for you!
How can you participate in this challenge?
Sign up for the challenge here
Grab my button and add on your blog
Follow my blog and leave a comment to this post.
Share the news on social media
Bring in your buddy and as they say, the more the merrier.
Every writer wants and hopes his new manuscript to be a masterpiece. They put their best efforts into it and are ready to launch it into the world for readers and publishers. They might not know how it will be received by their target audience.
And here comes the tricky part, finding someone who volunteers to read your finished manuscript and provide an honest feedback about it.
Without using a beta reader you might be missing out on a chance to have a trial run of having your book read by a reader, even before it is out of your hands – and thereby giving you a chance to edit it out, if needed.
Qualities to look for in a beta reader
Here are a few pointers to look out for when choosing your next beta reader.
Finding beta readers who are knowledgeable and trustworthy might prove to be difficult, especially if you are working on a deadline. So here are some places where you can start when you look for manuscript critiquing or beta read services and even some volunteer beta readers.
More often than not, your writing group – be it local or online, would offer critiquing services. Or better, make friends with the other writers in the group and you can swap reviews between yourselves.
Finding your ideal beta reader might seem to be daunting task, especially if it were your first time using the services of a professional beta reader. Let us talk about some of the qualities that you might want to look while you choose the ideal beta reader for your next manuscript.
While it is true that finding a good beta reader is important, the success of the partnership largely depends on finding someone who is the best fit for you and your manuscript. Here are a few qualities that may seem vital in choosing your next beta reader for your MS.
Do they belong to your target audience?
Ideally your beta reader should fall into the demographic of your target audience in terms of age, gender, interest etc. Or someone who is capable of putting themselves in those specific shoes for you, hypothetically.
For example, if you are writing a middle grader story with a strong female, your best beta reader should be a female, middle grader or someone who is capable of responding from the point of view of a middle grader.
If your book is about a special field (say a sci-fi about volcano and geothermal stuff) or set in an exotic location, you may have to narrow your search to that. It would be great to have two beta readers – one a specialist and a non specialist.
Are they regular readers themselves?
It goes without saying that a good beta reader should be a voracious reader of different genres. And even if they don’t specifically enjoy reading the genre you are writing in, they should be able to appreciate it.
If it is possible take look at some of the book they have reviewed in the past on their blog or on Goodreads and make sure their style will suit your needs.
Are they publishing savvy?
Your next beta reader should be savvy enough to know what makes a well written book great in terms of writing, credibility and marketability.
They should have both good instincts and knowledge of the present publishing scene to suggest relevant changes for your manuscript. They should know what appeals to the mass market and your target readers alike.
To ensure your beta reader hits all these notes, it is probably a safe bet to find out your next beta reader through recommendations and referrals. At least go through the testimonials from the past and present clientele.
Do they know what is expected of them?
A good beta reader should know what type of suggestions and opinions would matter to you, aka an author. They should be honest and opinionated but at the same time they should ensure those criticisms/opinions are valid and relevant.
While catching typos and grammatical errors maybe helpful, that is not their job nor it is vital at this stage. For example, they should be telling you if the narrative voice was interesting enough, but not about the high school grammar.
Do you prefer they were writers themselves?
I know many authors use their peers to get their manuscripts beta read, and that is wonderful. But I would suggest looking for strangers, who are not writers themselves or a professional beta reader.
A fresh set of eyes would always bring in newer perspective to your manuscript . Also you need not worry about them using your unique ideas themselves or them attempting to help you by “fixing” your book.
A professional beta reader would at best tear open the book for plot holes and weaknesses and would help you rebuild them, as a reader. Not as a writer, which would still be you.
Are they too close to you?
Your ideal beta reader should preferably not be someone who is too close to you – like your partner, mother or a close friend, for many a reasons.
Are they regular readers who are publishing savvy? Are they bringing in a fresh pair of eyes or have they read your other writing and have an idea about your style already? Would they be brutally honest about their reading experience? And would you and your relationship be alright, if they tear your book apart and criticize it?
Were you able to think of two or three specific people who would tick off these boxes? Then you have got your dream team of beta readers. And if you still have a spot left on your team, you can take a look at hiring me as your beta reader.
What do you think as the qualities of a good beta reader? How do you choose the ideal beta reader for your manuscript? And readers, let me know if you have the qualities of an idea beta reader? Let’s talk.
Finding a good and trustworthy beta reader is just a part of getting a feedback. Knowing what questions to ask your beta readers would ensure you have a chance to know how to make your manuscript better.
Asking questions also open up a dialog between the beta reader and yourself and that could bring better understanding and more dimensions to your book.
Also, discuss about this Q&A feedback prior to them before sending your manuscript to avoid discrepancies.
Questions to ask beta readers
Here are some questions to ask beta readers to receive meaningful and constructive feedback.
These questions are based on the questionnaires I have received during the course of my beta reader journey and they are indicative only.
How interesting was the first chapter? Were you hooked or mildly interested?
At what point did you think “ah now the story begins”?
What were your expectation levels about the book based on the first few chapters?
Were you able to understand the setting (where and when) of the plot?
How predictable was the plot? Were you able to see where and how the story was moving along?
Was there a suspense/tension regarding the conflict?
Did you notice any foreshadowing for the third act?
Was there something in the plot that kept your attention from the main plot?
Did the climax work for you? Was it believable?
Were you confused about the story line or the time lines in the plot at any point?
Were the protagonists likeable and believable? What can be done to make them more likable?
Which character did you relate to the most?
Did you ever get confused in terms of who is who in the characters or their names?
Were there any characters that needed a better arc/development?
Who are your most and least favorite characters?
Which character did you want to see more of? Which side character are you curious about, after finishing the book?
What do you think of the relationship between the main characters?
What do you think of the relationship between the main character and the bad guy(s)?
Is there a character you wish didn’t exist?
Did the dialogue sound natural and keep up with the general pace of the book? Were there any conversations that looked forced and artificial?
At any point of the book, did you feel the storyline lag and you had to skip over? Did any part make you re-read for it to make sense?
Did you find yourself skimming pages? At which part did you put your book down/take a break?
Does the writing style match the genre? If not, how so?
Were able to “see” the action sequence in terms of ‘who did what’?
Did you notice any obvious, repeating spelling, grammatical, punctuation or capitalization errors?
Credibility & Sensitivity
Were there any apparent discrepancies or inconsistencies in time lines, places, character details, etc?
Was there something culturally incorrect or offensive to any particular section of readers? (question to be asked to the beta reader if they were from that marginal section)
Did any part of the book confuse/annoy/frustrate you? Which parts and why?
Did this book remind of you any other books you read? In what way?
Has the book been tagged under the correct genre? If not, why and what genre could be a better fit?
If you could add/delete one thing in the book/plot/characters, what would that be?
Will the topic be interesting and useful, if you had no prior interest/knowledge about it?
Was the topic well researched and have enough information?
At any point, did the book stopped following a narrative pattern and overwhelm with an information dump? If yes, where?
Did the book get boring at any point? If so, which part(s)?
Did the book have any redundant/repetitive pointers?
Were you able to feel the enthusiasm towards the topic from the author’s writing?
Did the book provide helpful next steps in terms of action plans etc?
Some tips before you send the questions
Use the list as a guideline and choose only questions that are relevant to your book and that will help your next draft
Keep the questions simple and do not ask them to quote examples for each pointers.
Do not overwhelm them with a huge questionnaire. Keep them few and it is better to give them the questions after they finish reading the book.
While it is a good practice to send a questionnaire to your beta reader, ensure that you need one. If you are still not sure what to ask, it is better to leave it to the beta reader to send a detailed report in their own template and style.
DO NOT FEEL PRESSURIZED TO SENDING QUESTIONS, for the sake of sending it. You are helping no one here.