To Beta Or Not To Beta – This is the question to which I now have an answer, and the answer is….To Beta.
WHEN I FIRST STARTED PUBLISHING, I was against the idea of using beta readers, for a number of reasons: I was afraid of being told what I had written was rubbish and should never see the light of day; I was afraid of hearing that while my basic idea was good it would take more work than I could manage to make my book publishable; mostly, though, what kept me from having beta readers look over my books was my social anxiety, which makes it very difficult for me to communicate with people I don’t know well, even over the internet.
I’ve been fortunate with the reviews I have received so far on the two books that didn’t receive the attention of beta readers, most of them have been positive. I have also been fortunate that the few negative reviews I have received haven’t highlighted any glaring issues, just some minor things that needed fixing, and have been.
SINCE RELEASING MY FIRST TWO NOVELS I have become more involved in the Navigating Indieworld group on Goodreads. It hasn’t been easy, but I have made some very good friends, and found some people I felt confident to send my books to.
The result of finding the courage to put my books out for beta reading have been both positive and encouraging thanks to the three ladies I have worked with. I’ve been able to tighten up scenes that rambled on unnecessarily, expand scenes that needed extra information, improve my characters, and fix a few errors wher eI had things wrong due to my knowledge being out of date.
NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO WANT to deal with beta readers before publishing a book, either for the reasons that kept me from doing so, or for reasons of their own. Thaere’s nothing wrong with not using beta readers, it’s a personal choice for every writer, but I have come to believe that they are a valuable tool in making a book a success.
Not only can they help make a book a better reading experience for those that purchase it, but if they really like the book they might spread the word upon its release and help to increase both visibilty and sales.
FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT BE UNSURE what to look for in a beta reader, here are a few
dos and don’ts (these dos and don’ts are my opinions and may not suit everyone)
1 – Don’t simply ask people who you know will
tell you what you want to hear.
2 – Do look for beta readers who will provide you with an honest opinion, even if that is negative.
3 – Do look for beta readers who can explain any problems they find, and suggest solutions, in a respectful manner.
4 – Don’t rely on just one beta reader, consensus is everything – what one person likes/dislikes, others may hate/love. If multiple people see a problem, though, you most likely have a problem.
5 – Don’t assume that because a beta reader says something is wrong, it is; do your research and double or even triple check, even if they are an expert in the field they find a problem with.
6 – Do make sure your beta readers read and enjoy the genre in which you’ve written; if they don’t read it they may not know what is expected or frowned upon in it, and if they don’t enjoy the genre they may think negatively of the book because of the bias.
7 – Don’t harass your beta readers; when you contact betas about reading your book, make clear the timetable you are working to so there is no confusion. If they agree to the timetable, leave them to it and for them to get in touch with you. Only contact them before your deadline if it’s absolutely necessary.
8 – Regardless of the feedback you receive, or how it is given, be polite and respectful, they have taken the time to read your book, that’s good; you don’t want to gain a reputation for being rude or ungrateful to those who have tried to help you.
9 – Do thank your beta readers. A simple thank you is generally sufficient, but if your beta readers are also readers then perhaps thank them with a tweet/blog post/Facebook post about their books to give them some extra exposure.
ONE OF MY BETA READERS IS A FIRM BELIEVER in success through cooperation and paying it forward, and I have come to adopt her attitude. Wherever possible I help my fellow indie authors in whatever way I have the time and the capacity to do.