So, you’ve finally finished writing your novel. You’ve spent countless hours writing and rewriting your novel until you’re sort of happy with it. But what comes next? If you’re already zooming ahead and looking to submit your work, I recommend taking a step back and finding yourself a beta reader.
What are beta readers?
Beta readers are volunteers who will read your novel and provide feedback and critique on any and all areas you think need improving. After all, we can sometimes become blind to our novel’s faults and perfections, especially considering how long we spend looking at it.
They can help you to understand your book. They can point out what works, and what doesn’t (for them, as a reader,) and give you some insight into your weaknesses and strengths as a writer.
An avid reader is often the ideal choice to use as a beta, especially if they read a lot in the genre you’re writing in. They’ll have a solid opinion on what works and what doesn’t and can give some great reactionary comments. People say ‘don’t use writers,’ because they’ll read the book as a writer, but I haven’t found an issue with any of the writers who I’ve used as beta readers. If anything, they know more about what it takes to revise a novel and can critique accordingly.
Where do I find beta readers?
I’d like to advise against using close friends and family members as beta readers. After all, they’re almost programmed to be as nice as possible to you. But I know a lot of people who have formed great friendships online, especially in the writers community. As long as you’re sure the friends you ask can put aside personal feelings and be as thorough as they can, I see no problem in using them.
Aside from that, feel free to find willing volunteers online. Use twitter, tumblr, your blog- any social media outlet you frequent. Guaranteed you’ll find plenty of people to help.
I simply posted that I was seeking beta readers, gave a quick explanation of my novel, genre, length and deadline I was looking at. I found that the best way to find completely unbiased volunteers, on platforms I knew the writing community was strong.
How many beta readers should I use?
There’s no set number. Some people recommend 3-5, and others may recommend a different amount. It’s completely up to you.
Based on my own experience, I suggest double digits. I started with 10-15, but accepted just over twenty. You want a good pool of readers, because you want a range of comments and opinions. Every reader is different. They’ll pick up different issues, different highs and different lows and you want as many of these as you can.
Yes, so many differing opinions can be overwhelming. And it can be difficult to sort through. But this is how you can weed out the majority issues, and the minority ones. If 6/10 beta readers mention an issue with your plot, then you’ll need to give it a tweak. If 1/10 beta readers mention an issue with a sub plot, chances are you can keep it the way it is.
I also suggest finding more than you need, because you never know how many beta readers will drop out, won’t meet deadlines, or straight up never get back to you with any comments at all. I started with 24 people who volunteered to beta for Nephilim. Out of those, 7 never got back to me regarding which format they would like, 2 dropped out, 4 never got back to me after they received the manuscript and 4 never finished the beta session at all.
The deadline has long since passed, and out of 24 volunteers, 7 have completed the beta session in its entirety. If I hadn’t signed up so many to participate, I might not have had any feedback at the end at all.
Beta readers are an asset, and I highly suggest using them before you start submitting your novel. They can make you see your novel in a whole new light, and bring forth unknown aspects of your novel you never even thought about.
Next week, we’ll look at part two of working with beta readers- your manuscript and beta goals.
Good thoughts and happy writing!