If you are an author, you might ask, why use a beta reader? What is the purpose?
When we finish writing a book, we feel like we can conquer Mount Everest. It may not be perfect, but it’s ours, and it’s finished.
How do we know if it reads well? How do we know there are no plot holes we may have missed? Did the character Mike’s name somehow change to Mark mid-way through the book? Are the characters relatable?
Well, this is where a having a beta reader read your book and give you feedback can help. A beta reader is given the completed draft of the book with the understanding that they will read the book and provide feedback the author can use to improve the manuscript. Allowing a few beta readers to read the early manuscript gives the author the opportunity to correct any major issues before moving onto the next stage.
So, how do we get the most out of this process?
Ensure you have polished the manuscript to the best of your ability yourself, before sending it through to be read
Give your beta readers specific guidance on the feedback you are looking for. For example: Was there anything you found confusing, or made little sense? Is there enough tension? Did the first 10 pages draw you into the story? Did you find the ending satisfying?
Try to collect and then categorise the feedback
Decide what you want to ignore. When I wrote ‘Making March’, one beta reader simply didn’t get the humour. The other three did. I went with my gut instinct and ignored the one that didn’t like it, as I believed the humour worked well for the story
Collate all the positive feedback (what the reader liked)
Put aside all the feedback you are not sure about and come back to it later
Make a to do list of all the beta reader suggestions you are going to take on board
Now you have a long list of to dos. Do you see any patterns (all beta readers saying the same thing) Pick them out and line them all up in a timeline from the beginning to the end of the book?
Now the fun part begins. You have your feedback organised and most likely have some great ideas on how you can improve the book
Which feedback thread do you rank the highest in importance? Start with that one and work your way through them all
Once you have finished the editing process, send it out for another round of beta reads. If you get more positive feedback than last time, you know you have improved the story
So, if you have recently finished a polished draft, what are you waiting for? Go forth and climb that mountain. Don’t give up. You are so close to the peak.