Self publishing #2 – Beta-readers

In my first post about my journey of self publishing, I have written about the first step on the journey: Buildling a base like a blog, website and so on. I am not going to tell you how to write. That has two reasons.

Number one is that everybody writes different. Be it style, voice, length, process and so on. It’s a thing that everyone has to find out for themselves. The other is that I’m still finding my own voice, my own style, so to tell others what they should do -especially since there is no ONE way to do it right- would be just hilarious. So we are skipping that point and assume that you are writing your book, your story, what is in your heart or head. What now?

Well here we go again with the thing that I did and what I possibly should have done. So ready?

I wrote the whole book, went through it two more times for edits, rewrites and polishing. Then I gave it to my boyfriend. First of all I wanted someone to read the story who didn’t know it yet and who could tell me if it is BS or not. I’m one of the lucky ones to have that support and honesty that he’d tell me that. I have gotten a couple of great suggestions from him, have been made aware of plot holes and things that didn’t work out. He also is better with English grammar and spelling than I am, so he could find a lot of mistakes I made. We both went through the book two more times, changing things here and there, correcting mistakes until we couldn’t find any more. And then I published the book.

Now to what I should have done. All of what I have done. But then instead of publishing, I should have found beta readers and an editor. I will split this into two posts so this won’t be too long. The first part of this will be about beta readers! The next will talk about editors.

While having my boyfriend as a sounding board was a great thing, it cannot hurt to get opinions of more than one person, even if that person is brutally honest with you. Tastes and preferences are different from person to person. It also could have happen that despite being really careful, you still miss something.

So what are beta-readers? I haven’t had any but from what I ready they are something like test readers, sounding boards and opinion givers. They receive your work and give you their feedback, about things that might not work, are just bad, are good and so on. Some also might be really good with langauge and give you pointers in that direction. It really depends on the beta-reader or what you expect from them. Of course not everything beta-readers tell you will be something you want or hear or change. It is at you to see what you do with the information you get from them.

Since I have not worked with beta-readers before, I am going to post you a couple of links to articles that I found interesting and helpful for future endeavours and hope they’ll help you too.

The big question now is how to find beta-readers. I found a bunch of articles about that. Some talk about networking, making friends on platforms like twitter, facebook, goodreads and so on, because people are more likely to help you, if they know YOU. You can read about this that on smallbluedog.com or jamiegold.com for example, but google has many more results to check out.

Another way is to join groups on platforms like facebook, goodreads, wattpad and so on to connect with beta-readers and find them. You can find more links on where to find them in the jamiegold.com article. But to be honest, even if you go that route, networking and making friends sounds like a great idea.

NOTE: Many beta-readers do this for free, but there are also ways to get beta-readers if you pay for them. I have not looked much into that so far, but I saw it mentioned.

Another great post that I’ve found was on  thebookdesigner.com which gives out free advice about what to know about working with beta readers.

From what I have read in several articles the steps are as follows:

  • Find beta-readers and make sure you clarify what kind of feedback you want from them.
  • Don’t send them a draft. This came up over and over. Make sure you finish the book as much as you possibly can. Edit, fix, rewrite, polish until you believe it is the best you can make it. Your beta-readers deserve to read it that way and if they really like it and work with you on it, they might tell their friends about it as well.
  • Make sure they get the format they prefer your book in – for example some prefer kindle format, others are okay with pdf, again others would like a version they can print and so on.
  • Feedback sometimes stings, especially if it is negative. But if you feel hurt by it, take a step back, breath, think about it. Are they right? Is it something you should change and adjust? Will changing that one thing make the book better? Don’t pick a fight over it, but instead thank them for the input even if you do not make the change.
  • Remember that while every feedback is valuable, that not every feedback needs to be put into action. Some things are personal preferences, you decide what works with you.
  • Remember to thank your beta-readers for their work. Reading takes time, writing up feedback as well and just like you when you write, they take it out of their free time they could spend otherwise. Beta-readers are valuable and do this by choice not because they have to. So thank them, be nice, treat them well and mention them in your acknowledgements.

It is quite important to know that beta-readers, be they as brilliant as they come, are not the same as editors. Beta-readers will help you to make your book as great as your combined effort can make it. The editor will receive it afterwards.

Self publishing #2 - work with beta-readers

What is your experience with beta-readers? Do you have any? How is it for you working with them? How did you find them? Do you have any extra tips for us? Feel free to comment below and share your stories!

I hope this was helpful. Next time we’ll take a peek at editors!