April 2014:Beta Readers - Unsung Heroes

Many partners get involved in taking a document from a writer's imagination to an electronic or a printed page. Among the unnoticed participants are the beta readers.

Wikipedia defines a beta reader as those who read 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 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.

These individuals are critical to the writing process. They help a writer get his or her head out of the story. The information provided to the writer is plentiful and nurturing to the book as well as the author. To insure a successful beta reader experience, a few recommendations need consideration.

Find a Conscientious "Beta Reader"
          I ask people who do not know me as a writer.  I want individuals who read, have a grasp of language, and will be truthful to me. Professional writing groups are a good place to start looking for beta reader recommendations. Writers sometime can be possessive of their beta readers. They may not give you the name of their individual beta readers.
          Professional beta readers exist.  Find a reputable site, preferably, a site recommended by a colleague. Get a recommendation from one or more of the reader’s clients. Make a contract with each beta reader.

Set Expectations
 Meet face-to-face with your beta reader. If you are doing this online, use Facetime or Skype. Give your beta reader a list of specific questions* (see giveaway below). Also give them latitude to write their own questions and comments. Beta readers do more than just look for typos, grammatical and spelling errors.

Set a Deadline for Question Submission
Give your reader a deadline to read the book and answer the questions.  Prepare clarifying questions after reading the reader's comments and before meeting with your readers.  Encourage the beta reader to explain why they felt the way they did about your story. This critique is important for your book. It will tell you several things, among them:
  • Who is your audience? Did you reach them?
  • Are your characters' motives clear?
  • Can the reader relate to the time and setting you wrote your story? If not, find out why.* 

Schedule a Review Meeting
Meet again face-to-face. Set a time limit for this meeting. Go into this meeting with your beta reader's completed questions. 

If you are not meeting online, meet in a public place (e.g., coffee shop, restaurant,) Give yourself and your reader enough time to explore what makes your book readable. Be opened to the beta reader's suggestions. If you are writing a series, your beta reader should be asking you who and what will happen in your next book.

My beta readers spare no criticism. They are truthful. Welcome the truth about your book. I also select beta readers from several different demographics. This helps me determine if I am reaching out to a small or broad audience. 

Preparing a book for a traditional publication or a self-publication begs to be tested before it is launched. Beta readers are the best "test lab" in my experience.

*FREE GIVE-A-WAY:  I can send you my beta reader questions. The list is based on research from the Internet and multiple reading materials. My current followers, please ask me for the list in the comment section of my blog. I will send it to you. 
 If you currently are not a follower, please join. The questions are yours for the asking.

Additional Resources:


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