Care and Feeding of Your Beta Readers

By CBramkamp Newbie Guide 4 Comments on Care and Feeding of Your Beta Readers

I now have seven Beta Readers.  Lest you think, well, that’s not very many early readers, I remind you that I will be receiving feedback  from seven different sources, all of whom may mark up the manuscript.  That means pouring over  seven new versions of my book.  Seven is great, I’m not shooting for overwhelm, I’m shooting for concrete opportunities for improvement.

I did not just fire off the manuscript to the volunteer reader, I also included what I needed and what kind of feedback I was searching for.

Bunker in Albania

This bunker in Albania inspired the bunkers in the book, Future Girl

Dear Beta Reader  (or insert their actual name here, I promised to keep their anonymous in case the book was terrible and they wanted to avoid any association with it in order to protect their academic reputation.)

Thank you so very much for volunteering to be a beta reader for my book.

You are welcome to mark up the document and return it, or simply send me a few notes. (I wanted to give them a choice depending on how they approached a paper or manuscript, some of the volunteers are accustom to line editing and I welcome that feedback, but others may just want to make a list and send it off, that is welcome as well.)

Of course, what I need is feedback to improve the book, but I do ask that before completely ravishing the prose, do offer some initial encouragement, even if you only liked the font and found the margins pleasing. (Seriously, some people do not know how to give constructive feedback, help them.  I do not want to open seven emails  and be immediately assaulted by lists of   negative comments, so I am working to protect my sometimes fragile ego ahead of time).

Please send feedback by July 19, 2013 (Give your readers a date, people work better on a deadline, it gives the project a finish time, and I will not be waiting on anyone in order to move forward with the fourth drat of the book)

Some questions  to inspire your feedback:

  • Is the heroine, Charity, believable?
  • Do you care about her journey? (Remember this has been written, more or less for a YA audience)
  • How is the future?  Did you discover inconsistencies in the invented world?
  • Does the narrative (Charity’s adventure)  make sense?
  • Does the motivation of all the characters made sense?
  • Did you like it?
  • Where should it go –  YA boutique publisher, general  ebook,  Sci-Fi POD, Boutique Science Fiction publisher?
  • Who would you give this to?  (Helps me figure out the audience)
  • What was the underlying theme?
  • Do you have an idea for a better title?

Thank you for your help!  This is the first time I’ve reached out to Beta Readers and of course you will be acknowledged and publicly appreciated.  Or if the book is horrible, I am equally happy to leave you out of it.

I reserve to use your comments on the show – Newbie Writer’s Podcast,  but won’t use your name. (I produce a weekly podcast, of course we’ll discuss this process.  If the feedback is particularly trenchant, I’ll interview the Beta Reader on the show, again, I have no wish to surprise people who are helping me).

I scheduled  the  beta reading  project to take place while I was away on a trip.  That helped prevent me from fussing and emailing my friends and family  with “have you read it?  How about now?  How about NOW?”  A distracted author means a happy reader.

Give it a try.  Some authors have enormous followings and can solicit hundreds of readers for their upcoming books, some, like me, have a few readers.  Either way, it’s worth the feedback, and will create  some early buzz for the book.

Ironically, your Beta Readers will  be some of your first customers, they will not only buy the finished product, they will be some of your best fans.

Remember that your Beta Readers are helping you out of love and/or loyalty, so remember to thank them.  A lot.  That’s what your acknowledgement page is for.  And lucky you if your book ends up with a two page acknowledgement list!

Let me know when you try this and the results.  I’ll discuss my own results when they come in.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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4 comments
  • robakers
    Posted on June 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I have been thinking about BETA readers lately. I’m not there yet, I would hope to be by the fall. Thank you for validating what I have been thinking.

  • Catharine Bramkamp
    Posted on June 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    You are welcome! Stay tuned, the Beta readers will turn in their comments on July 19th and I will write here as well as produce a podcast on the results and more important, what happens when all that great information assaults me!

  • Stacy Harris
    Posted on June 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I never heard of Beta Readers before until I become one for a fellow writing acquaintance. Because of her, I decided I was also going to use beta readers, but I wanted mine to have instructions to follow. Those who didn’t follow the instructions or meet the deadline, did not receive acknowledgement in my book. However, I am very indebted to my beta readers and can’t wait to look for more when I release my next book I am working on. Great information. And I too was glad I was distracted the month my Beta Readers had my book!

  • CBramkamp
    Posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Exactly! I did give my readers ideas, including how to be nice in the comments! We’ll create a podcast discussing what I found, so stay tunned! And thanks for the comment!

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