What to Do Once You Have Beta Readers

In my previous post, I talked about how to find beta readers. You should know there is more to getting the most out of your beta readers than giving them your book and asking their opinion.

Here are four things to consider after you’ve put your beta team together.

Provide Direction

Ideally, you want to avoid responses like “it was good” or “I liked it”. While it is nice to know that your book is being well received, those sorts of responses aren’t helpful at this stage. Your aim should be to get constructive criticism. To do that, be sure to provide clear instructions specifying the areas in which you want feedback.

It is a good idea to send a cover letter outlining key feedback areas along with the manuscript. I have provided a template for you to use. Feel free to download and change it to suit your project needs.

Delivery of Feedback

How do you want to receive the feedback? Are you looking for a report summarizing what works and what doesn’t? Would you prefer comments inserted into the manuscript? Maybe you want to meet up with your beta readers (either as a group or individually) to discuss and take your own notes on their feedback.

Delivery of Manuscript

Think about how you want to present your manuscript to your beta readers. Will you print them out a hard copy or email them a word file? Also, you may want to give them the whole manuscript, or parcel it out as a couple chapters at a time to avoid overwhelming them. Remember, there is no right or wrong way, it all depends on what you hope to get out of the experience and how best you’ll take in the information.

Time Frame

Always be sure to give people a deadline. There is nothing worse than handing over your manuscript thinking you’ll get notes back in a week and then not hearing anything for months.

When choosing a deadline, remember to respect your beta reader’s time. They probably aren’t going to drop everything to do this favour for you. If you think they should be able to read it in a week, tell them you’d like to hear from them in two weeks and halfway through send them a quick message to check in.

It is also a good idea to consult them on the time frame. Rather than demanding they get it back to you by a certain time, tell them what date you’d like it back and ask if that would work for them.

One final point: remember that beta reading comes after you have self-edited. Just as hiring an editor for your first draft is not the best idea, giving your beta readers an unrevised manuscript is asking too much of them.

Leave any questions you have in the comments section.

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