I have been a Beta Tester for a Beta Launch or Beta Version, but a Beta Reader for a novel? What a novel idea - I love it!
If you are ready to self publish, right before you hire an editor, you might seriously want to consider finding some Beta Readers of your manuscript to ensure the best possible success of your hard work. Before you simply go ask Aunt Martha to read your book, and give her your pile of college-ruled, lined paper filled with your one-of-a-kind, handwritten brilliance, here are some things that might make the experience actually worth your (and your Beta Readers') time:
- Choose your Beta Readers carefully - Unless the aforementioned Aunt Martha is a professional copy editor, and can do double duty as editor and Beta Reader, you might want to find five to seven other people who love to read and/or write the type of book you have written. If your audience is primarily one gender, your Beta Readers should be also. Remember, you are asking these people to provide constructive feedback on your baby - make sure you feel their comments will possibly improve your book.
- Provide a format that is both easy and functional for your Beta Readers - I received an Adobe Acrobat version of Clare's book, which allowed me to add my comments by using sticky notes and the like. Joanna Penn, on the other hand, printed a version of her first novel and provided it to her Beta Readers for hand written notes. Whichever you choose, think of the ease of use for your Beta Readers, and be prepared to read your book many times with many comments.
- Give clear instructions and a deadline for your Beta Readers - You are looking for usable feedback, so provide usable instructions. Ask your readers to read as if they themselves bought the book. Have them look for plot/timeline confusion, character concerns, "speed bumps" that make the reader stop and question, factual errors, tone or voice confusion - any comments repeated by two or more Beta Readers tell you that a rewrite of that section is probably wise.
- Be prepared and have a plan for another red pen markup of your perfect baby - Many of us writer-types wed ourselves to passages, dialogue or scenes, and if those are questioned, we fight for our darling tidbits. If only one person questions one of your wedded verses, maybe they just didn't get it, but if two or more people question it...kill it! Which is more important...the success of your novel, or that one brilliant verse?
Have you used Beta Readers prior to self publishing? How would you characterize the experience - Successful? Painful? Please share ~
~Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom
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