Beta Readers for Writing Success

Below is the information you requested regarding the importance of Beta Readers:

What are beta readers and why use them?

Beta Readers are non-professional readers who read a prerelease manuscript or sample book to find and improve such items as: grammar, character suggestions, or assist in fact-checking. Beta Readers should not be used as proofreaders or editors.

Who should your beta readers be/how do you select them?

Beta Readers vary depending on genre and reading level and should be selected accordingly. The number of Beta Readers needed varies depending on the length of the manuscript. Here are examples of how they are selected based on genres:

  • Picture Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), certified preschool teachers (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and/or a professional illustrator.
  • Juvenile Chapter Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 3rd–5th grade (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 3rd–5th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Young Adult YA: YA public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 6th–12th grade (2–3 readers), school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 6th–12th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Genre Specific Fiction: public librarian (2–3 readers), residents in the city/region of the story (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers (2–3 readers).
  • Avoid Using Relatives: Relatives as Beta Readers they are not the most objective readers.

How much time should you give your Beta Readers?

Consider the word count of your book. Manuscripts that are 30,000–45,000 words may only require two weeks to read and review. Books over 50,000 words allow  four weeks or more.

What are some ways you can get their feedback?

Be creative but focused. If the reading experience is enjoyable, then participation and feedback happen more quickly.  Here are two favorite examples:

  • Host a Party: Invite the Beta Readers to a comfortable quiet location. For the first hour allow each Beta Reader to 1 to 2 chapters and complete a questionnaire. The next hour is book discussion over pizza, pastries, coffee, etc. Take notes on the beta readers conversation.
  • Invest in ten (10) POD (Print On Demand) Sample Books: Use these to test consumer appeal and get Beta Reader feedback. Mail copies to the beta readers to comment inside the book on cover image, book summary, interior errors, and favorite sections. Use a few samples to get consumer feedback without reading the book.

What types of questions should you ask your beta readers?

Beta Readers‘ time is valuable. Asking specific questions regarding their interest level to character development is important. Not only ask for the negative parts of the book, but also items that are strong. This helps an author build on the weak sections and recognize writing strengths. These are questions to consider:

  • Would they like to receive a complimentary book upon release?
  • Would they like to provide an endorsement quote for this book?
  • Would they like to participate in future beta reads for this book series.
  • Reader Name and Reader Profession/Title: a professor of professional beta reader’s endorsement could boost sales.
  • Address, State, and Zip: is important when mailing a complimentary book or personal thank you.
  • Email Address: is important for contacting the beta reader to read future books in the series.
  • Content: ask that the beta reader please rate each area from 1–10 (10 being excellent). Also ask them to provide any suggestions or accolades regarding each section: Editorial, Design, Front Cover, Back Cover, and Spine.

While Beta Readers are reviewing the manuscript, compare similar books in the manuscript genre using these techniques:

Free Reader Comparison:  Place your book with books of similar content at the public library. Lay three books including yours on a table or face out on a book shelf. Sit far enough away to observe and not look like a stalker. Take notes. Do library patrons overlook, preview, read, or check out your book? Feel honored if your book reach the circulation desk.

Bookstore Comparison:  Visit your local book retailer. Ask for the top three books in your genre. Find a comfortable corner and critique your book. Don’t mark in the bookseller’s books, only your own. Is your writing professional (typos, misspellings, etc.)? Does your layout follow industry standards (margins, text flow, etc.)?  Do your illustrations/photos match or exceed the professionals? Place your book on a bookshelf next to the competitors. Which book is most easily read from twelve feet away? If your book is week in any area, make adjustments now!

Education Considerations:

1.  Readability Score: Use the Readability-Score.com text scoring tool to tell you how easy a piece of text is to read and if it is grade and/or reading level appropriate.

2.  Sight Words:  vocabulary words for age appropriate grade levels

3.  Historical and Scientific Facts:  topics that are specific to readers of a certain age woven within the story line

4.  Nationalities:  character diversity within stories

5.  Human Geography:  the incorporation of financial, environmental, and industrial cause and affect on the success of cultures.

Editing Books:
Children’s Bookstore Coupon Code:
Receive 25% OFF All books at Mark Wayne Adams, Inc. Bookstore through January 2017 by using the coupon code: FAMILY at checkout.
For more information about Beta Readers visit Gina Edwards’s blog and listen to the Around the Writer’s Table Radio Show Interview with Mark Wayne Adams.
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