Categories
Writing and Publishing

Preparing to Work with Beta Readers

In this series on beta readers, let’s shift our focus from beta readers to ourselves. Quite simply, are we ready for beta reader feedback? Here are some underlying questions to ask ourselves before we seek beta readers:

  • Is Our Book Ready? We’ll waste beta readers’ time if our book is not the best it can be when we seek feedback. And once we’ve wasted their time, they’ll not likely want to help us anymore. We honor them by giving them our best work.
  • Are We Ready to Receive Feedback? Some writers don’t want truly honest feedback. If we don’t want to hear the truth, then we shouldn’t ask beta readers for feedback. Yes, we all like to hear our writing is brilliant and that we shouldn’t change a thing, but that kind of feedback won’t make our book better. Remember, no writing will ever be perfect; it could always be better.
  • Will It Be Simultaneous or Sequential? Some writers work with one beta reader, make changes, and then look for a second one. Others work with multiple beta readers at the same time. The benefit of this is faster feedback; the risk is seeing the same mistakes pointed out by multiple readers. This is frustrating; I know from experience.
  • What Will We Offer Them? As covered last week in “Setting Expectations with Beta Readers,” there are multiple options to consider: a heartfelt “thank you,” a gift, an autographed copy of the book, recognition in the acknowledgments page, some quid pro quo, or financial compensation.
  • Have Expectations Been Discussed and Agreed Upon? Setting expectations reduces the chance of frustration for both parties. While this doesn’t need to be a contract (unless money is changing hands), expectations should be written down.

Once we honestly answer these questions and have our book in the best possible shape, then we’re ready to embark on the exciting road of beta readers.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Setting Expectations With Beta Readers

We’ve talked about the importance of beta readers and what to look for in a beta reader, now let’s consider what we should expect from beta readers. Discussing these items ahead of time will avoid frustration later.

  • Timeframe: How quickly can beta readers give feedback? While we generally want to hear back right away, this is seldom realistic, so agreeing to the turnaround time in advance sets reasonable expectations.
  • Format: How do we want to receive feedback? Options include a verbal overview, a written critique, a printed copy marked up, or Word notations. For Word notations, there are two main options: using the comment feature or making edits using the “track changes” option. We need to pick the method that works for our beta readers and is usable to us.
  • Scope: Will we give beta readers the completed work or provide it incrementally? Some beta readers may want to see the full book at once, while that would overwhelm others. From a writer’s s standpoint, do we want to use the feedback from the beginning of the book to inform our writing for the rest of it?
  • Focus: What aspects of our writing do we want beta readers to address? A frank discussion of their strengths and weaknesses is essential. For example, I’m weak in the grammar department but excel in other areas. We need to tap beta readers whose skills align with our needs.
  • Detail: Will feedback from beta readers be an overview, a line-by-line critique, or something in between?
  • Reward: Though we could pay our beta readers, that may not be necessary. For some, a heartfelt thanks or small gift is enough. Perhaps they’d enjoy an autographed copy with a nice note. Maybe we can thank them by name in the acknowledgment section. Another idea is to trade services with them; be imaginative.

Addressing these items ahead of time is essential in order to have a positive experience with beta readers. An email noting these expectations will remind both parties of what they agreed to do. If the compensation is monetary, a written contract is advisable.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.