What is a beta reader? A person who reads a book before publication and offers feedback. Although beta readers can be professional editors or writers, they don’t need to be. More importantly…
1. Interested in your project, whether as a friend, spouse, cause supporter, beneficiary, mentor, teacher, etc.
2. Brutally honest. You don’t need “yes men” who will pat you on the back and withhold valid critique. You need people you can trust to rip your manuscript to shreds, if need be. If they don’t do the ripping, I can guarantee you that less supportive readers will.
3. Constructive. Although honest criticism is essential, it will only get you so far. Suggestions for improvement will help you move forward and make both the giver and receiver more receptive of their part in the process.
4. Your target audience. Sure, not all of your readers need to fit this last criteria, but it’s helpful if the bulk of them do. You wouldn’t want a pot roast cookbook that was reviewed by all vegetarians, would you?
While the previous points speak to the beta readers’ benefits to the author, let’s not forget about the other side of the coin.
What will they get out of it?
1. A vested interest in your success. When the book comes out, this team will be among your most stalwart supporters. With their feedback, the book is no longer just yours. It’s theirs, too. And when the time comes to launch the book, you can bet they’ll want to help get the word out about this labor of collective love.
2. A book. Though some your beta readers would be content to review your manuscript out of the kindness of their hearts, giving them something for their efforts says, “Look how much I appreciate you.” (And for those who may be on the fence, it says, “Come on, you know you wanna help.”)
3. A easy way to chip in, with the emphasis on EASY. We’re all busy, with limitations on our attention and time. Respect that. Make a free online survey (I’m using Survey Monkey) to walk them through the feedback you require, step by step. This will also help you, as it will allow you to drill down:
- What you need to know,
- What you’re unsure of, and
- What you’re willing to change. (Yes, it’s okay to have some stuff that you’re not. After all, it is your vision.)
Regardless who you chose or how…
1. Why you’ve chosen them in particular.
2. What they will get out of it.
3. What you hope to gain from their feedback.
4. How easy it will be (briefly note when it will happen and how).
5. The need for complete honesty, emphasizing that you’ll welcome it rather than hold it against them.
And in case you’re wondering…
Do you skip right over alpha readers to beta readers?
Absolutely not. I had two alpha readers review my manuscripts at various stages in the progress and offer feedback. Both were two of my biggest supporters of the project, which is why I felt comfortable asking them for this level of time and commitment. One is an exceptional writer, and one is an exceptional critic. I recommend having both.
Their combined feedback was instrumental in getting my manuscript to the point where I’m even comfortable having other people read it.
And in case your curious, here’s a taste of who I picked for building…
My Beta Reader Dream Team:
- A professional mentor and icon
- A writing and life coach
- People who could benefit from the book personally
- A teacher who may benefit from the book in class
- Experienced authors
- Some of the book’s biggest supporters
- The best proofreader I know
- Two talented fellow dream chasers
Wish me luck—or should I say, wish them luck! Their involvement will directly impact the quality of these books. And though these stories are my labors of love, they weren’t created for me. They were created for Sue, my kids, and (if I did my job correctly) you and your loved ones.
Interested in setting up your self-publishing empire? Bookmark these posts, too: