For most of 2021, I've written a series on different types of writing support. I've shared about mentors, critique formats, and now for the fun part. Or the most excruciating.
Just like with critiques, a beta reader can't be your best friend or a family member. Sure, let those people read your book, but don't call them beta readers. No, you're looking for people who love to read.
Beta readers have a discriminating eye. they'll see gaps in story, typos, and awkward sentence structures that were missed in all the critiques. They will tell you what you still need to do to garner an enthusiastic audience.
How do you find your beta readers?
Think about your wide circle of acquaintances. Who do you respect? Who likes to read? Who has a grasp of written language? Who won't worry about hurting your feelings? These are the people who will be honest about what works well in your story. And what doesn't.
Or you can pay a professional service. Fiverr.com comes to mind. They have beta reading services ranging from $300 to $8oo for a starting price. If you're an indie writer, I believe they're worth it. I am blessed that my agent does a developmental edit on my books. Not all of them do.
If you ask an acquaintance to be a beta reader, Jessica Conoley recommends that you offer the first ten pages to start. Let the person try it out. If their reaction is neutral to negative, it's your call if you want to ask them to continue. Be prepared for them to say no. Reading a whole book as a kindness to you is a sacrificial use of their time. But if they love those first ten pages, you can feel comfortable asking them to read the rest of the book.
I've sweetened the pot with my readers by letting them know they will be included in acknowledgments when my book is published. Amazing how everyone loves to see their name in lights! Or in this case, in print.
How can you guide your beta readers?
The best advice I received when handing my manuscript to a beta reader was to send along a questionnaire asking specific questions about the book. Keep in mind that the questions I asked were to middle grade students.Yours could be a little more refined.
- Did the story hold your attention? Why or why not?
- Which parts were most interesting? Which were not?
- Could you understand why the characters did the things they did ?
- Could you picture the setting in each scene?
- Were there moments when you didn't understand what was going on?
- Did you feel like anything was left out of the story? A question you had that never got answered?
Beta reading is a macro critique, so understand that some of your reader comments are personal opinions and may have nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Feel free to toss those kinds of comments out the window.
Most beta readers are eager to encourage you and will offer constructive comments. Delight in those individuals willing to read your whole book and offer an honest opinion.
Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.
A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web: