Besides your editor, your beta readers are some of the most critical people to have on your team in developing your book. They hold the key to many components that as authors we often overlook. Why? Authors are awfully close to their manuscripts and often think they have covered something only to find out nobody understood what they meant.

122One of my favorite and best examples come from our very own Absolute Author and editor, Dr. Melissa Caudle. During her beta testing for her novel THE KEYSTROKE KILLER: TRANSCENDENCE she discovered many things that needed clarification, not because she wasn’t a great writer, but she referenced something that was local to New Orleans where she lives. Several of her beta readers were clueless about what a Swamp Festival entailed and had no idea what Zydeco meant. She soon found herself adding dialogue to SHOW and not simply TELL or describe these two events. “I took it for granted that everyone knew that Zydeco was a form of music,” Dr. Mel said. “I was really wrong. I was quick to correct and even added my favorite Zydeco musician’s new album as an ad in the back of my book.”

I’m not saying that you have to go as far as Dr. Mel but using your beta readers effectively improves your book. That leaves a huge gap in the here and now, how do you find your beta readers and how do you use them effectively?

Who Are Beta Readers?

Beta readers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. More importantly, they are individuals who love to read and are avid readers with strong opinions. They are not editors and they are not there to correct your spelling or catch your grammatical errors. They are readers! Therefore, to effectively use them and their feedback be prepared to have them give you their honest opinions and feedback as if they don’t, they not only have wasted your time, they have also wasted theirs.

Here is who you should enlist as a beta reader:

·         Bloggers with a specific interest in your genre

·         Other authors with experience

·         Targeted audience of readers who like your genre

·         Someone who is reliable and will give honest feedback

You do not want to enlist family or friends unless they are professional beta readers. Often these two core groups won’t give you the honest feedback you need.

Now that you have a beta reader, now what?

Round 1 – Send your manuscript to four beta readers and have them read your book. Provide the Absolute Author Beta Reader Questionnaire that I included at the bottom of this blog for them to take notes and make comments. Give certain to give them a deadline to complete the form and to read the book. After you receive their comments, please call them and discuss your book. Often you will obtain valuable insight to an area that wasn’t covered by the questionnaire. Take notes during your conversation so you can review them later when you make changes to your manuscript.

Once that is complete, modify your manuscript.

Round 2 – Before you send your round two beta readers your new manuscript, send it to an editor first. Trust me, in the end you will get better feedback from your beta readers if they don’t have to wade through typos or grammatical errors. Once edited, forward the book to your beta readers with the questionnaire and provide deadline. Obtain their feedback, make corrections and modifications and get ready for round 3.

Round 3- Is a rinse and repeat of round 2.

Round 4 – Send back to the same round 1 readers and the new round 4 members. My reasoning is that your round 1 readers will be the only group to fully ascertain the differences and modifications you made. Round 4 members will have a fresh perspective.

After all feedback is returned, modify your manuscript and send to a professional editor or two.

To receive a free copy of the ABSOLUTE AUTHOR BETA READER QUESTIONNAIRE, subscribe to our blog and we will send you the Word File for you to use with your beta readers.



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