Including beta readers in the early process of refining a manuscript is really under utilised by writers becoming professional independent authors.
I think it’s a process they either don’t know about, or they don’t know how to use beta readers.
The purpose of beta readers
The purpose of beta readers is to solicit valuable, objective feedback from individuals who are willing to read a pre-edited version of your book. These individuals read a manuscript from beginning to end, and then provide feedback to the writer or author who can then improve the manuscript.
When should you use beta readers
Once you have your manuscript as tight as possible and feel you’ve taken it as you can, it’s time to give your selected beta readers your manuscript in PDF format.
Making contact with prospective beta readers
1. Write a list
While nearing the end of writing the first draft of your manuscript, it’s a good time to write a list of your prospective beta readers. These beta readers could be other author or writer colleagues who read the same genre. Having a horror junkie read your children’s picture book won’t elicit the valuable feedback you’re after.
2. Invite them to become a beta reader
Once you have your list, write a personalised email to each person individually with few sentences about your book and why you’d like them to become one of your special beta readers.
Make them feel like they’re on the inside, the secret group. Let them know that you’re finishing your manuscript and just seeking their interest and will send them a beta copy when the manuscript is complete. It’s always polite to give notice.
3. Receiving feedback from beta readers
As each of your beta readers replies back to you with their opinion and feedback, collate them all into one list and address each of them one at a time.
Don’t take this feedback personally, you WANT objective feedback because this will allow you to address any holes, inconsistencies and improve clarity. Taking this feedback onboard and implementing necessary changes will tighten your manuscript ready for copyediting.
Added benefits of beta readers you might not have thought of
Beta readers can become your first line of offence for getting those crucial first reviews. Having already read your book, ask them to write a short review on Amazon when you reply to each of them about providing them with their free copy for their time.
Making improvements and tightening your manuscript from your beta reader feedback, can help you save money down the track on copyediting. When your manuscript is reviewed by an editor for providing a quote, the work required to bring it up to a publishable standard is determined.
If your manuscript is in reasonable shape you may only require a basic copyedit which can save you hundreds of dollars depending on your manuscript’s n length and complexity.
Don’t do this
Don’t make the mistake of some authors who leave it to the last minute to get feedback and expect people to drop what they’re doing. Don’t take offence to the feedback you receive. Take it on objectively, because this is your chance to make things better. Plan ahead so you can achieve what you want and increase your response rate of those willing to be involved.
Be the captain of your own ship.