Beta Readers are a great resource to tap into when you’re done writing a draft of your story. Over the years, as I have collected lots of constructive feedback on my writing. I’ve learned a few things about how to work with my beta readers. Maybe these tips will work for you.
1. Don’t choose your mom or friends
The first and most important qualification in a beta reader is Don’t pick your mom or friends to read your story and expect to gain constructive feedback. They will love your story. To gain insightful feedback and to maintain your friendship, let them know they can read the book when it comes out.
2. Quality of a Beta Reader.
Choose a person who reads books. A great place to start is Goodreads. Book lovers leave reviews of the books they’ve read on the site every day. They also have a variety of clubs you can join or tap into for resources. Try to choose at least one beta reader who is a big fan of the genre you’re writing in.
I’ve found LinkedIn and Facebook have some great beta readers. And don’t forget about Twitter. Whatever resource(s) you choose in selecting a beta reader, be mindful that they’re doing you a favor.
3. Plan Ahead
Ask well ahead of time. This is important if you’re trying to keep the momentum going on your project. If you’re planning to have a draft done next month, ask a potential beta reader if they will be available to spend some time reading your book and giving you feedback. If it’s a hectic time for them, you can assure them you’ll consider them next time.
4. Take Your Beta Reader to Lunch or Dinner
When they’re ready to give you feedback, buy them some food. The great thing about this strategy (besides just being a nice thing to do for your beta reader) is it locks them in for a set period of time. You’ll go over their official notes, but then, as you eat, the conversation will continue and sometimes things come up that might not have gotten a mention otherwise.
5. Stay Quiet and Remain Calm.
Never explain or defend your writing when receiving feedback. If your beta reader missed a key plot point or a thematic element, it’s on you. If they say, “I don’t understand …” make a note and say, “Thank you. I’ll look at that again.” If several of them repeat the same things then your readers didn’t get it, it wasn’t on the page. This is a good thing. Now you know what needs fixing.
6. Keep it Manageable
Limit the number of beta readers you choose. I know, this one is hard. People want to read your book. You’ve been working on your story FOREVER and they want to be supportive, but believe me, getting feedback from ten people is a waste of time. They will contradict each other and you’ll be overwhelmed. Aim for 3-5. I also recommend you don’t solicit beta readers until you’ve written several drafts. They’re doing you a favor, so don’t use them to fix your manuscript.
7. The Home Stretch
You’re almost done. Once you’ve got the feedback in hand, now it’s time to get a cup of coffee (for me three or four) and dig in. At this point we are working on our final draft! Make those edits, and when you write your acknowledgments, don’t forget to thank them by name. Beta readers are a big part of our writing success.
Good luck and happy writing.
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