STAGE FIVE: FINDING YOUR BETA READERS
Earlier, I spoke about joining the website Goodreads and all of its perks. One of the best perks I have found from being a member is the Beta Reader Groups that are available and at your disposal. If you don’t know what a beta reader is, check out this definition from Wikipedia:
An alpha reader or beta reader (also spelled alphareader / betareader, or shortened to alpha / beta), also pre-reader or critiquer, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.
Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterization or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.
Another easy way to say it is that beta readers are a reader who gives constructive criticism in the hopes of helping you make your novel the best it can be.
With any and every novel I decide to pursue self-publishing with, I subject it to multiple rounds of beta readers. Normally the first round I will attempt to get 3-5 different sets of eyes on it to see if the issues they find are cohesive. I then take the feedback and implement whatever parts I feel will take my story to the next level.
After revising and editing my novel after the first round, I attempt to seek out 2-3 more beta readers to make sure the changes I made actually did benefit my book. I then implement any new feedback I receive (whatever I feel is necessary for the book), and after another round of editing and revising, I send it out one last time for the last 1-2 sets of eyes on it.
DO NOT MISTAKE BETA READERS FOR EDITORS.
They are not one in the same. A lot of beta readers are simply passionate readers who are willing to spend time to help you make your masterpiece as beautiful as it possibly can be, therefore they may miss things upon their reads. It is very unlikely to find a beta reader who will be willing to point out each and every spelling and grammar mistake—in fact, because they enjoy reading so much they may not notice them at all.
Make sure you set expectations of your beta readers prior to working with them. Here is an example of a beta reader post I used in the past when seeking out beta readers for Pieces of Me:
I am looking for a handful of beta readers willing to check out my YA romance novel Pieces of Me. It is currently under 54k words, and probably won't be much longer than that.
Here is the blurb: For sixteen year old Peyton Lane, life has never been easy. She’s not popular, overweight, and oh yeah, her sister is embarrassed of her. But over the course of a tumultuous year, everything changes for Peyton. Suddenly all eyes are on her and it’s not because she’s fat. From a pair of handsome twins to a couple of dangerously sexy rockers, Peyton will have to find out who she can trust with her heart. From the ups and downs to the twists and turns—this is Peyton’s story of finding one’s voice and growing into your own.
This is a coming of age romance that involves realistic situations and raw emotions. This is Pieces of Me.
I would like feedback on the plot, flow, characterization, and grammar/spelling if you feel so inclined.
I can send the entire novel in PDF form. I am looking for a speedy turnaround, within a week or two.
Looking forward to finding my next round of betas!
*There are love triangles*
I have been very privileged to have a majority of amazing beta readers. Some who stuck by me chapter by chapter as I wrote and some who gave me feedback on my story as a whole once I finished writing it. I can honestly say NONE of my books would be anywhere near the quality they are today if it wasn’t for their input and overall support. Some of my beta readers have become invaluable friends whom I am able to reach out to with each and every new release I put out into the universe.
Harness these relationships—these readers are going to be big advocates in your overall writing future. Word of mouth is huge when it comes to book sales, and beta readers aren’t hesitant to tell everyone if they loved or hated your novel.
Keep in mind, not everyone is going to like your writing style or the book you are attempting to publish. Some will passionately hate it. You have to remember, at the end of the day, you are an author and EVERY SINGLE THING you do is scrutinized and remembered. Meaning that you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner no matter how belittling they may be to your craft or your book. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and in the scope of things, they are a small minority of your intended audience. Remember to keep yourself open to any and all feedback that you receive, at the end of the day, YOU and only you will decide what feedback would be best to implement to improve the overall quality of your work.
Before I knew about beta readers, I thought my books were good. I saw the potential in them. But it wasn’t until my beta readers ripped it to shreds, (politely, I might add) that I realized while there was potential, I was seeing it through rose colored glasses. It wasn’t until I took a step back from my work that I could see the issues they addressed and I assessed the changes they suggested to really understand how far I could take each book.
To reiterate everything I have said thus far…BETA READERS ARE INVALUABLE.