Beta Readers for Your Unpublished Manuscript
Somewhere along your book writing journey, you’re going to have to stop slamming your laptop when people peer over your shoulder, and actually share your work. To non-writers this is a piece of cake; however, after you’ve spent years meticulously crafting your narrative, releasing it to potentially critical eyes can be pretty unnerving. Which is why it’s especially important for those writer’s who are the most terrified at the prospect of revealing their work. One of our greatest obstacles as writers, is coming out of the comfort of our writing room and interacting with other human beings. It’s also a huge part of successful book marketing these days – even more so if you’re choosing to self publish.
Beta readers come in all shapes and sizes. You might begin with friends and family, but keep in mind that they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings so getting truly honest feedback from them may be hard, if not impossible. Moving beyond that sphere, are you part of a book club or writer’s organization? Ideally, your beta readers will not only be readers, but readers within your genre. Another option is to reach out via social media, especially if you have created a platform that communicates to an audience of people who like the kinds of books that you write. You might also consider seeking beta readers on websites such as WorldLiteraryCafe.com or another of thousands of websites that help connect writers with beta readers. One of the benefits of this final option is that you can get reviews that are not biased by a personal relationship with you.
When you find your readers, do your best to make the reading process easy for them. Make sure that your final draft has already been revised, spell-checked and organized into chapters. For friends and family, I send my manuscript in GoogleDocs with editing enabled so that they can put feedback in the body of the text. Make sure that the copy is clean and easy to read.
And then wait. A lot of our writing life is a waiting game, but begin another project in the meantime. When the feedback comes back, consider it carefully, but don’t immediately start red penning your manuscript. Look for trends in criticism to see where multiple readers are noticing the same issue (i.e. a character who lacks depth). Everyone reads from their unique perception and not every piece of feedback will be good or even useful to you. When it’s all said and done – thank your beta readers profusely – and if you have other books maybe even offer them a freebie to increase the chances that they will read and critique your next manuscript as well.