Thursday, March 8, 2018

Precious Beta Readers

A beta reader is someone who looks over your manuscript to find weaknesses before making suggestions for improvements.  Unlike how we utilize critique group members, your beta reader usually reads the entire book at once.  He more accurately simulates the experience of your book’s ultimate audience—your buyers.  Their time and skills are best used if they don’t need to focus on line edits like grammar and spelling.  Try your best to give them a clean copy. 

A helpful beta reader will make suggestions to improve the story, characters, and setting, basically all the big picture items.  I’ve been a beta reader and I’ve also had others take that one last look for me.  I’ve found they can be book-savers: finding plot holes, questionable believability, problems with continuity and characterization, even factual inaccuracies.

It’s common for a careful writer to have a beta reader or two peek at her book before she sends it to agents or editors or out for self-publishing.

It helps your reader to know what you are concerned about.  Below are some questions you might want to ask so you can get actionable feedback on your book:

- Did you feel drawn into the story?
- Did anything bug you?
- What's the one word you'd use to describe each character?
- Who was your favorite character?
- Favorite scene?
- On which page do you think you know what the story will be about?
- Did the story grip your attention right away?
- What do you wish were different in chapter one?
- What's your favorite Chapter?
- Where did you skim?
- Why?
- What do you feel the arc of each character was?
- Was that satisfying?
- Where did you cringe?
- Why?
- Where did you cry/gasp/laugh?
- Why?
- What was too predictable?
- Where?
- What do you consider the dark moment?
- Were you satisfied by the end?
- Why?
- Would you want to read the next book?

You'll notice there are many whys... that's because it’s much more helpful to know WHY something is good or bad so you can go back and do more or less of that thing.

Remember to thank your Beta Reader!  In one case I sent my beta reader a box of goodies that matched the theme of the book she’d read for me.  One of the best gifts you can offer is to reciprocate.   It’s a learning experience whether you are on the giving or receiving end.  To all the beta readers out there:  THANK YOU!   

      -   From the Inkpot