The Trusty Beta Reader


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I would think writers of all levels of experience and success would have had some kind of interaction with beta readers. If not, their book is likely terrible and has never seen the light of day. Yikes. I’m already off to a rant-y start to this post.

I think most writers would agree that beta readers are an important part of the book writing process that should be taken seriously. But are beta readers necessarily as important as one might think? For example, let’s say you have a group of ten readers. Let’s say that six of those ten volunteered to read your work. Let’s say that two of those ten never read your genre. And the last two of the ten are your close friends. See what I mean? The first six are very likely to give you positive feedback because they either know your writing or know you or like reading your blog. That isn’t to say they aren’t being honest, but people have a tough time being objective when they like or have a relationship with the person. Your two close friends have heard nothing but stuff about your writing for the last year, they’re not going to shoot down your dreams. And the final two likely won’t like your book much because they don’t like any other books like it.

There are a million different scenarios I could play out, but I think I’ve made my point. The feedback given by beta readers is not always because of the book. There is always something that will sway their judgment operating in the background. Even it it’s unintentional.

My experience with beta readers may or may not have been like that of other writers. First off, I knew all of mine because at the time my blog wasn’t nearly as successful as it is now and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sending my work out to some stranger. I sent my book to nine people, but only four actually read it. Shows how great the people I know are. And the feedback was all over the place. From just four people. Just goes to show that readers are always different.

The only thing I can say about using betas is that you should know exactly what you want from them from the start. I had a list of questions about the plot and characters and just about everything that I had them answer when they finished their reading. I have no idea how other writers do this, but I thought it worked well for me.

My current plan is use all bloggers for my current WIP, but even then the bloggers I have in mind all interact with me regularly. They’re really no different from friends, but at least they’re fellow writers and perhaps this will push their bias aside.

Tell me about your experience with beta readers or about your philosophy when using them.


Criticism Revealed

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I had one reader who I was waiting to receive feedback from. Well, it turns out that the one remaining reader has chosen not to finish book even after being given more time with it than the others. So I see no reason not to talk a little about what the others who did read it had to say.

I had originally planned to print out a hard copy for each reader so that they could perhaps read with a pen or sticky or notes or a highlighter to mark up the text as they saw fit. I immediately realized how costly this would become after printing out my own hard copy. I was forced to utilize email instead.

Also, I originally had a list of 12 readers who I picked for very specific reasons. I ended up only sending it out to eight, and having only four read it. It certainly isn’t my ideal circumstance, but what can I do? When I sent the book out I included a critique sheet of 12 questions asking about the overall quality of the work, plot, description, and each of the main characters. I tried to cover every major aspect of the book with at least one question.

Now, let me discuss what those four individuals had to say.

First, the feedback was somewhat mixed. For example, one reader gave the overall work a score of 90 out of 100 and another gave it a 2.8 out of 5. The other two gave it a B score and a 7 out of 10. I allowed for them to use whatever scale they wanted as long as they explained their score. So I’d say that I received two good scores and two eh. No worries.

The next question asked about plot and I am happy to say that all four agreed that the plot was solid.

The third question asked about Andrew Banks, the main protagonist. Again, for the most part, all four agreed that he was a solid character who developed pretty well over the course of the book. One criticism of Andrew was how he handled his first case as a private detective, that he was bit messy. But he’s a rookie private eye! That should be expected.

The next questions asked about the other major characters in the book and the feedback was mostly positive. One of the later questions I asked was about the ending. It can’t be a good book without a solid ending, right? Well…according to these four the ending was pretty fantastic. No one had any real criticism of how I chose to end the story.

The final question that I’m going to discuss here asked whether they would recommend the book if asked and all four said that they would.

I expect to talk to two people tomorrow regardingĀ  my cover and interior formatting of the book! I can’t wait!

Feedback Frenzy

That’s what yesterday was! Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.

Anyway, yesterday was the deadline that I gave all of my readers to read my book and offer their feedback so that I could take it into account when making changes for the next draft. The good news is that I received a lot of good criticism. The bad news is that only half of my readers actually read it.

During this process I’ve come to realize that the efforts of just one person is hardly enough to get others interested and involved, which is unfortunate because I would be extremely excited to be a part of something like this for someone else. I’d love for someone to want to base a character in their book off of me. I’d open up and tell them any and everything they wanted to know. I’d love to beta read a completed book for someone in order to help them perfect it. Evidently, though, others did not share that same enthusiasm for my work.

But don’t worry! I’m not mad or sad or anything but excited for my book! It’s all I talk about and all I think about! Well, I just woke from a nap with that damn Miley song in my head, so maybe not 24/7.

I’ve spent a few hours today going over the feedback that I’ve been given and trying to incorporate it into my work. There won’t be any huge dramatic changes, but I’ve changed a few scenes and added things that I feel will make the book better.

I have at least one more reader who I’m waiting to hear back from, so once I receive that I’ll give all of you a better idea as to what they had to say about my book.

My Kickstarter project will end later tonight and ultimately wind up unsuccessful, but my book is constantly moving forward.

We’re almost there!

The Anticipation is Driving me Crazy!

All of my beta readers have now had most of a week with my book. Two have had it more than a week, four received it on Sunday, and the final two on Monday. I know I’m probably just being paranoid but i feel like I’m stuck!

My book is fairly short and I have a pretty good idea as to how long it should take to read, even with busy lives. So now I have two polar opposite thoughts coursing through my head regarding the critiques that I’ve yet to receive. First is “It’s terrible.” The second is “They’re just being thorough like I asked them to be.” Ahh.

I have given all of my readers a deadline of this coming Sunday, so technically they haven’t gone overboard just yet. But I want feedback!

Also, I just finished the first James Patterson book that I didn’t like. It’s posted on my What I’m Reading page. It was the first in his Michael Bennett series and I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, at least not right now. Michael Ledwidge wrote a decent story, but I felt that he was trying to imitate Patterson throughout and came up way short.

Today I have no reader feedback and by the time of my next post I shall have all I’ve asked for! Stay tuned!

Have a look at Kickstarter project pageĀ here to learn a little about my book and maybe pledge. Only three days left!