Having people read what you’ve been slaving over for the past few months or years is a terrifying experience. But it is necessary.
As you begin the first round of hard edits, you may want to start thinking about the next step: beta readers. These are typically the first people to read your manuscript. You may have a critique partner read it first, but I had beta readers read mine first for my first novel.
It is scary. You may not want to do it. However, it is one essential step towards publication! What’s scarier? Publishing a book that has never been read by any other eyes other than yours or having people read it first to help make it great?
I know that if you want to achieve published author status, you will have to grow used to the idea of people reading your work–and their positive or not-so-positive feedback.
Hopefully my experience will help you have a successful beta reading process!
How do you find beta readers?
Is it cool to have your friends read it, or will they be too afraid to offer criticism? Will strangers be too harsh? Can you just ask the internet?
Have no fear. There are a few ways you can find good beta readers that will help you transform your manuscript:
- Talk about your book a lot. When you mention you are writing a book, don’t be afraid to mention that you need readers to eventually read your manuscript and provide constructive criticism. This last part is crucial–you don’t want to choose people who will be afraid to provide honest, yet helpful feedback.
- Ask Twitter. A lot of people in the #WritingCommunity on Twitter simply make a tweet asking for beta reader volunteers. Don’t be afraid to branch out from your friends and family group.
- Ask co-workers. Besides your friends, family, and the internet, you may also want to talk to your coworkers. Whether they love to read, love to write, are published or not published, any perspective is great. I had writers, readers, retired teachers, and more as my beta readers. Everyone will bring their unique perspective that may help make the story better.
There is no harm in accepting volunteers who you may not know personally. Some writers prefer people who they don’t know. And if you’re apprehensive about using strangers in fear that they will steal your work…don’t worry. Your work is automatically protected by copyright laws, and let’s be honest–if someone is too lazy to write their own manuscript, they are too lazy to put in the mountain of work it will take to actually publish this thing AND make any kind of money off of it. Learn more about copyright laws here. Needless to say, I’m not scared!
Overall, I consider my beta reading process of my first manuscript ever pretty successful. I had about 10 people who stuck with it all the way through and I learned SO much about how to improve my story and more importantly, who I am as a writer.
As always, I am learning every step of the way! Here are some specifics that I learned about the beta reading process:
- Write a letter to your betas outlining what you expect your beta process will look like so they know what they are signing up for. This is also a great place to pump them up and explain why you think they would be a great beta reader. Ask them to respond to the letter with their official decision so you know they understood what you’ll be asking of them.
- About ten pages per week is a good amount for people to read and provide feedback for.
- Sometimes following up with some betas with a phone call helps better understand their feedback and you can better understand their thoughts than if they were to write a little blurb in your questionnaire.
- Provide your betas with a list of specific questions for each section you have them read. That way, you will receive feedback on exactly what you would like in addition to miscellaneous comments they have. Keeping it open-ended to comment on what they wish is fine, too, but I personally had specific questions I needed feedback for and I liked that structure.
- Try to start with a large group (like, at least 20), because you never know how many people might not stick with it all the way through for various reasons. You’ll want to make sure you have at least a handful of people to offer feedback in the end.
This could be you! Take that leap and step way out of your comfort zone. You’ll be thankful some people read it before so many more will once you publish (because you will get there, right?!)!
Happy beta reading!