For me over the last five (now six) books my beta team has proved to be one the most valuable resources. Sometimes we need that unbiased opinion to separate us from our ‘book babies’ so we can see the faults. These are often the first eyes on your work and they give their time and effort to help you make it better. I want my beta team to rip it to shreds so I can sew it all back together better in the end. It’s not about me, it is about putting out the best book possible.
What I look for in a beta reader.
- Honesty without fear
- Good grasp of grammar spelling and the English language
- A love of the genre I write
What I want my beta to do for me.
I ask them to answer these questions first and foremost
- Does the opening grab me – does it make me want to read on?
- Does the story begin at the right place? (might seem trivial but I think it’s very valid)
- Are the characters compelling? Do I get a good sense of who they are
- Are the secondary characters well rounded (can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the secondary character has held my interest more than the main)
- Is there internal and external conflict for the main character?
- Are those conflicts believable?
- Is the premise for those conflicts cliche? Tired? Been used 1000 times before?
- Are the plot twists believable?
- Do the characters respond to those adversities in a believable way?
- How’s the story paced? Any parts that drag? Any parts you would like to see fleshed out?
- Are the settings enough to give me a sense of time and place?
- Am I telling any parts as opposed to showing?
- How is the overall feel of the work? Fresh? Inspiring to read? Is the content trigger worthy?
- What are your favourite parts and why?
- What are three things that worked best for you?
- What are three things that didn’t work for you?
Then I ask for comments and corrections to be made on the google document we share as beta group so that all feedback is in one place making edits and rewrites easier.
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What my betas expect from me
- A clear deadline
- The best version of my work possible at that stage of drafting.
- Open communication without being hurt, offended, upset or whiny if they don’t like what they read they don’t have to like it they do have to tell me why they don’t
- Respect of their time and effort, consider all their comments and feedback equally
Things I DON’T want from a beta
- Don’t just say it was wonderful I wouldn’t change anything
- Don’t tell me you loved it to spare my feelings
- Do not rip my heart out – if you hated it tell me nicely
- Do not share my work with anyone else (I have an NDA in place and think all authors should)
Is your work ready for BETA?
When is the right time?
- Is the story complete?
- Have you done at least one round of self editing and rewrites?
- Have you used spell check?
- Yes to all of these? Read it again then send it.
Beta reading is a step to me that cannot be skipped in the writing process, it can make the difference between a good book and a best seller. Bland can become phenomenal if you work at it enough with the right team. Build your tribe wisely, seek betas in reading groups and writing groups where people are like minded and supportive. You might go through a tray full of rotten apples before you find the ones that you can work best with, and that’s okay! Once you find a team of good beta readers, hang onto them, treat them like gold and they will continue to be the most valuable part of your tribe.
I hope this insight can be useful to other authors trying to build their own tribe, or even just refining their beta process. I believe if we share our knowledge we can all grow stronger together.
**This is my experience and advice and is in no way the gospel on this subject.
Bestselling Author Ashleigh Giannoccaro writes edgy, dark romance and erotic horror. Self published by choice, she writes the stories others don’t dare. Currently residing in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and two daughters, Ashleigh enjoys writing stories that make you fall in love with the unlovable and leave you asking questions. When not writing, she can be found with her kindle in a sunny spot reading or traveling with her family.
Great post. I only use beta readers who are honest with their input. Flattery and compliments are not helpful. I have a post on beta readers coming up soon in my blog, The Author’s Cove. Thanks for sharing your excellent thoughts.
Great post. Beta readers seem to largely come in two varieties; the ones who like everything and the ones who hate everything. Finding people who can give an intelligent honest critique is a rare thing.
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I write in several genres and I would not consider publishing without using Beta readers. I use junior beta readers for my children’s books gearing the questions to their level and include guidelines for their parents to assist them.
Reblogged this on GeezWriter Blog and commented:
Fantastic advice for writers and beta readers! Thanks.
Beta readers? Who the hell has time to be a beta reader? Willingly subject myself to subpar, half-baked narrative? No way. I find that 90% of the *published* work out there doesn’t even deserve to be beta-read.
If I locate anyone who’ll read maybe 1000-5000 words of my story, I consider myself lucky. Unless, of course, one PAYS someone to read your story…
Then again, I must live in some backwoods corner of the universe, if others can find folks who’ll help them fine-tune their work. Most likely, it’s just my lackluster writing skills…
A lot of good information, thanks! What format do you send out? I’m thinking a PDF is the most common?