This is part two in my series on Alpha and Beta Readers. As I post them, I will update the blogs to link them together. Until then, check out the first blog on Alpha Readers!
There are definitely different opinions about the definition of a Beta Reader. Some may define it as those who get an early copy of your completed and finalized book for review. I would call that a Launch Team. A Launch team cannot give you much feedback (since the book is finalized) and their role is to help you launch the book. I would define Beta Readers a little differently and put them in the feedback giving category.
A Beta Reader (as I would define one) is the reader in the second phase of reading as you move through your editing and review process. Once you’ve cleaned up your manuscript a lot from your Alpha Readers, your Beta Readers can take a walk through it. They can catch more problems/issues and identify more areas needing work. They can also give you a good idea of how people will react to your book.
So at this point in the process, I have my initial edits completed (after my Alpha Readers found a LOT of problems) and then I hand it over to my Beta Readers.
Here’s what I want to cover in this blog…
I want to be able to show what I have done in terms of Beta Readers to give you an idea of how I’ve been polishing up my manuscript in the hopes that this will be helpful for you in your own process.
Keep this in mind. There is an old phrase that says, “Many hands make light work.” With editing, consider, “Many eyes catch many mistakes.” I know… not as catchy, but keep it in mind. Lots of Alpha and Beta Readers will catch many, many of your mistakes!
So, here are some people who have been so kind to be Beta Readers for me:
Some Young Ladies: I had three young ladies read through my book.
I only have sons and I know them well enough to know they would enjoy it. The two main characters in the book are both boys (named after my sons).
As I considered these things, I realized that I just wasn’t sure how a girl would react to the story. I have a cousin (who was an Alpha Reader) who has two daughters in the age bracket I’m aiming for with this book. He offered to give it to one of his daughters and she devoured it. Her sister then read part of it as well.
I then had another young lady from my church who read it and she raced through it. They were able to give me some amazing feedback on the book to help me learn how a girl would respond to the book!
A Friend of Mine with a Degree in English Literature: This friend looked at the book in a very different way than anyone who had read my book up till this point. He was able to point out not just what he liked or didn’t like or where the weak areas were, but he was able to point out which areas were written well and where my strengths lie as an author. He pointed out that my strength as a writer is in writing dialogue. When I learned that, I was able to evaluate areas of the book where I didn’t have much dialogue and add some more in!
My Wife (Yep, I asked her to read it through a second time): She was kind enough to read it again and give me some feedback. Since so much had been edited and changed, I wanted to get her honest thoughts on it. She is both honest and kind when it comes to giving me feedback and as such she is very helpful!
A Friend from Church: There is a lady at my church who read through my first book and typed up a lot of feedback for me. It is amazing how much someone can catch in terms of spelling and problems and more even though the book has been read through numerous times by numerous people! She was very helpful and very encouraging with it.
A Friend I’ve Known for nearly Thirty Years Who Has a Couple Young Daughters: I still haven’t heard back from him on it. 🙁 If he reads this, it’ll be a reminder to him that I’m still hoping to hear what he and his daughters thought of the book. Is this a bad sign? I don’t know… ’cause I didn’t hear back. What is a poor author such as myself to do? My only response is to grieve deeply and to assume that my writing stinks and that it was hurtful, offensive, dry and cliche.
My Mom: My mom devoured book one in my series in one evening. That’s pretty intense. It’s 65,000 words (I know that’s long for this age bracket). She pointed out a number of really important areas. It was so helpful to hear her critique. It was also helpful to hear what she liked and didn’t like in the book.
My Mother-In-Law: My Mother-In-Law was one of my Alpha Readers, but as an Alpha Reader, she pointed out that the beginning of the book was a little dry. Because of that, I wrote a prologue that was a bit more exciting and then ended up completely rewriting chapter one. Some of the great stuff in chapter one that I wanted to keep, I didn’t. It was hard to see it go, but the chapter is better for it. She re-read chapter one for me and gave me some feedback on it.
A friend from British Columbia: This is a guy who is doing some of my artwork for me. He’s drawing a map for the book as well as some pencil drawings for the beginning of each chapter. He focused in on ways to adjust the sentences or explanations to make it either funnier or just all-round better. VERY helpful!
Each of these people brought something different to the table in terms of feedback! It has been so helpful to get their take on it! Each time I have asked a reader to move through the book, I take their recommendations seriously and make changes as necessary.
However, keep this in mind:
Not every suggestion, critique or recommendation is helpful. I receive some feedback from readers who don’t like one thing or another, but what they are recommending does not fit with my goals for the book.
You need to take their suggestions and critique seriously because you want your book to be a quality book. Your readers are the ones who either like it or don’t. Pay attention to what they say.
However, at the same time, remember it’s your book. You don’t have to take every one of their suggestions. Just because one of your readers thinks the main character should have an eye patch and say, “Arrrhhh” every now and then, doesn’t mean you should change your protagonist from an office worker who is struggling to make ends meet to a pirate. Make sense? It’s your book. Sometimes a reader will also not “get” what you’re saying. Perhaps it’s out of their experience. Perhaps it doesn’t fit with their humor. Perhaps it doesn’t pique their interest. They may be telling you what you need to hear (so pay attention), but they may simply not be connecting with that part of the book.
Some critique is great. Some critique stinks. It’s called discernment. Use it. 🙂
One of the things I found through my Alpha and Beta Readers has to do with one of my main characters. There’s an older, very skilled, very helpful, but somewhat annoying gentleman. He is a pretty strange guy, but he is a favorite character of some readers. In Book One he is a leader/mentor, but in Book Two, I’ve changed him. He’s still the same guy and acts the same way in a lot of ways, but the qualities that I believe people loved about him in Book One (regarding his mentor-like characteristics) simply don’t show up in Book Two. After hearing Feedback from the Alpha and Beta Readers, I started to realize that I needed to adjust this particular character for Book Two. His quality needs to shine through in Book Two as well as Book One.
Beta Readers are crucial to making your book into a quality piece! Ask them to help you!
Check out the other blogs in this series:
Comment below on your experiences with Beta Readers!