Pick Your Team, Beta Reader Breakdown

As I enter my final stages of revision for my YA novel my heart is fluttering with excitement and dread. It’s coming to the point where someone else will be reading my words… characters as close as family will be critiqued.

Secretly, I think it’s flawless. Reality hits cold. What do I do? How do I prepare for this breach into my innermost world, without letting my mind frost over in frustration?

I’ve done a lot of looking reading for just the right answer. I’ve found nearly everyone has a different opinion. The range is dynamic, some swear never to use beta readers at all (they may be closet writers waiting to steal your story, right…). Others say get as many as you can (the more the merrier, of course you can read my draft grandma…). Some people ask many questions while others say never ask . I will be taking the center fork on this road and be somewhere in the middle of all the ideas.

Here is my process, it has gotten so big I will be breaking it into three parts over the next few weeks. Hopefully it provides some guidance as you enter into this tricky phase as well.

Start with three to five readers, pick your readers with care, some of the criteria I am using include:

  1. Readers must already be reading your genre. You want someone who could potentially purchase your book. It won’t help you if your reader has no idea what your book should be like. They don’t have to be writers (although it can help), but they do need to know your market or better yet, be your market.
  2. Readers must be honest. Lets be clear, your momma is not going to give objective feedback. You need some tough love for this, honest not mean. If it feels mean, which it probably isn’t, you are on the right path. I’m not insulting mom’s (I am one), I’m just saying going outside the bloodline is a good idea for this part.
  3. Readers must be reliable. A critique won’t help you if they give it back to you six months after you asked for it. Nor will it help if they are so busy they can only squeeze in time for it when they are already mentally drained for the day. Pick someone who has the time and ability for it.

These rules really narrowed things down for me. Most my family I had to count out and a few good writing friends; like the one who borrowed a book from me last holiday and still hasn’t returned it (you know who you are). You may not have many people spring to mind at first.

This is an opportunity to plumb you social network. Get onto Facebook and ask “Does anyone read blank genre?” As you get responses follow-up with them in a message. At the very least you will learn new things about your friends and family. Whoa, Uncle Joe reads fantasy… I never would’ve guessed.  Take these things and weigh each person you have on your list to get your top people. If you have a big list you may have an opportunity to do a couple rounds of beta reading to really hone your text.

So now you have your beta reader list. Are you ready to equip your readers to critique your brain child?

Beta Reader Breakdown, Part 2 Equip Your Team Here

Beta Reader Breakdown, Part 3 Evaluation Here

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