Beta Readers: How to Find Quality Feedback
Today we're taking a look at beta readers. Who they are, how to find them, and how to work with them for best results.
I recently post a video to YouTube about the different types of editing (watch that here), and one of the comments was asking about beta readers, and more specifically finding USEFUL beta readers. This raised a very important question. How do you find quality beta readers?
After all, what you really want to know is how you can improve the book. What worked and what didn't. You want constructive criticism. Not just a "great job" or "I thought it was good".
Quality beta readers give solid feedback, and that's what you want.
I asked about what authors want from beta readers in a Facebook group I’m a member of and Warren Alexander told me “Someone who has enough knowledge and skill to make your book better, not change it into something they imagined.”
When discussing finding beta readers he commented “I have no experience in approaching strangers. I have friends I trust." He also made a very valid point about the importance of constructive criticism saying "Also the way someone conveys their criticism is important. They can be blunt without being nasty.”
I think he raised some good points.
1) Beta readers should have certain qualities [Click to tweet] e.g. a good grasp of language and grammar, a specific interest in your genre, etc...
2) Ask yourself "Do I trust this person?" when selecting your beta readers. [Click to tweet]
3) You don't have to be nasty when giving criticism. Keep it constructive. [Click to tweet]
Also on the subject of constructive criticism Sherry Auger told me “When I beta, or someone betas my work, I always try to be precise- what I feel doesn't work or what does and give my thoughts on what will work.”
Something that can be useful for both your beta reader, and yourself, is to enclose a question sheet with your book. As some readers may not feel comfortable giving criticism this can be a good way to get their feedback without them feeling guilty. It also means you get answers to the areas you specifically want feedback on.
Here's a round up of a few articles that look at different aspects of finding and working with beta readers:
Seek quality, not quantity http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/peer-reviews-seek-quality-in-your-beta-readers-not-quantity
Tips for working with beta readers http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/03/5-things-you-should-know-about-working-with-beta-readers/
Practicalities of working with beta readers http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/12/11/beta-readers-copyediting/
Implementing beta feedback http://thewritelife.com/ultimate-guide-to-beta-readers/#.udbmmr:OjfU
What has your experience been with beta readers? How did you find beta readers for your books? Join the conversation in the comments section below.