Posted On May 13, 2015 by Print This Post

How To Beta Your Book by Bronwen Evans

Beta readers play an important role in a story’s success, but how do you find one who will give you constructive feedback? Author Bronwen Evans walks us through her process of selecting beta readers. (You’ll want to bookmark this post.)

Welcome to RU, Bronwen! 

You’ve typed ‘The End’ but is it? Often authors are too close to the story to see the wood for the trees, and while your editor gives you their perspective; nothing beats a reader’s take on your story. So, how do you find the appropriate beta reader and then how do you get the best out of them?

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is a reader who evaluates a manuscript. They read your book, and hopefully provide meaningful feedback to help you improve the readability, storyline, and, of course, the sale-ability.

I find my beta readers an invaluable tool for both my self-published and traditionally published books. They pick up mistakes, like blue eyes, whoops, which should be brown eyes, continuity, pacing, characters acting out of character, etc.

If, like me, you have suspense elements in your books, a beta reader will pick up anything they find confusing. We forget the reader doesn’t know as much as we do about our story and characters, especially their backstory. Perhaps we have hidden too much backstory for them to understand the motivations, or God forbid we have told too much!

Beta readers are not a replacement for critique partners. Critique partners are often your fellow authors and are usually there at your story concept, helping with plot and characterization. They usually read the book in drips and drabs whereas a beta reader reads the finished book from woe to go and has not been party to any initial story background or plot.

A good beta reader will give you written feedback, some long, and some short, and often the responses are different (more on this later).

Don’t forget, publishers, editors and agents have been using beta readers for ages. I have several agents and editors who have saidBron_300x421-2 to me, “I gave it to some of my readers to see if they liked it”. A book that has been edited, and has had beta reader feedback is usually more polished and will stand out in a slush pile! It’s rare that a book will shine if it’s had no feedback, and if you want to sell, you need to raise the percentage chance of your book shinning. Especially in this crowded self and traditionally published market.

The final comment from me on Beta Readers is that they help me make my book the best book it can be. That has to be good!

So, how do I find my beta readers? 

Finding a reader for your work is easy because readers love a FREE book, but finding a beta reader who will give you valuable feedback can be a challenge.

Friends and family are not ideal beta readers because they may not tell you the truth, and they might not have the skills or knowledge needed to provide the feedback for you genre.

I use social media to ask for beta readers, or my website, and my newsletter. You have to be careful asking for beta readers from within your fan base. Often they like you, the person, so may not be as honest as they should be.

When you get a reader who responds to your social media request to beta read for you, my personal opinion is that there is no harm in trialing them. What do I mean by that? Well, not every reader will provide you with valuable feedback, so you may never use them again, but you don’t know how valuable they are until you try them. You can also ask them a few quick questions before agreeing to provide them with a copy of your book, but I usually give everyone a trial run as they have taken the time to respond to my request.

However, I sometimes ask them:

  1. What genres they read – no point if they don’t read historical romance as the time period may throw up phrases and character behavior that doesn’t make sense to them.
  2. How many books they read a week – if only 1 pw then they may be too slow to be a regular beta reader as they might book up quickly
  3. Do they have a blog where they review books – go and check how well written, or insightful, their reviews are
  4. Do they review on Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads etc. – again read their reviews
  5. Do they like sensual reads (very important if you have lots of sex in your books) – may not be a fit with you
  6. Do they beta read for any other authors, if so who? – again, look for a fit. For instance, if they beta read for Julia Quinn they are unlikely to like my work as I write darker heroes and I can’t write humor to save myself.

I also approach bloggers who seem to review the books in my genre. They make fabulous beta readers because they read so many books and have enough experience to understand what makes a good story, and then how to express it, because they have to write an intelligent review.

Please note: good beta readers can book up quickly. Like the rest of your book release schedule, book your beta readers in advance, so you are not left waiting.

What do I ask of my beta readers?

  1. To be honest – give it to me straight. Don’t be scared to give me constructive criticism.
  2. Be specific – if they loved the book, why? If the pacing was slow, where exactly? If the character’s are annoying, why? Tell them to always ask themselves why?
  3. Be diplomatic – rather than being negative about a character, suggest a fix like, “I think he would be better to show more compassion”.
  4. Meet my deadlines – if you say I need it by this date, and they agree to that date, then they should meet it. However, don’t be rude if they can’t, life has a tendency to get in the way sometimes. However, if they are consistently late on each book then I may not use them. (This is why I suggest booking in advance)
  5. Respect my guidelines – if I want feedback on something in particular, they provide it.
  6. Respect what I do with your feedback – sometimes a writer doesn’t want to change something in the story. That’s my prerogative.

Here is what I ask my beta reader: 

Some authors don’t ask their beta reader anything. They simply give them the book and wait. I think that’s fine if you have used the beta reader before, and you know what they will provide you. I have one beta reader who I don’t have to give any direction to. I usually end up with 3-6 pages of fabulous feedback.

For a new beta reader I always give them some kind of guidance.

Did you find anything confusing about the story?

What did you love?

Did the story take any turns that lost you?

What did you think of the characters?

Would you change anything?

Is there anyplace that you felt the protagonists acted out-of-character?

Did you find the ending satisfying?

I tweak this depending on any particular issues I feel a book is having, and of course I invite the readers to give me any other feedback as well – but it’s nice to give them a place to start. Remember, it’s great to get feedback, but trust your own gut feelings as the author. It’s all just their opinions, which you can take if they resonate. 🙂

What’s in it for the beta reader? 

  1. They get a free book to read and review and hopefully enjoy.
  2. They build a connection with you the author and feel involved in the works you produce and can become your number one fan.

In return:

  1. Thank them – never take them for granted. It’s a time consuming task for your beta readers. They have chosen to give up their time to invest in your book, and therefore they should be thanked no matter what feedback you receive.
  2. Never get into an argument with a beta reader, it is their opinion and they are allowed it, you’ve invited it. You can certainly ask for clarification of any points but grin and bare the negative feedback.
  3. Don’t take offense if they don’t love your story or characters. It may simply not be their cup of tea. It’s better to understand why they don’t. That is what is useful.
  4. Let their feedback sit for a while before you act on it. Think it through when emotions have cooled.
  5. I always apply the ‘majority rule’. If I get several similar negative comments on a character or plot, then I know I have a problem. If I only get one person not liking an aspect of the book, I tend to think about it and if I agree, fix the problem. If I don’t, then I leave it. This is why I have many, many beta readers. I like looking at the trends.

Beta readers are useful, cost effective tools in your writing arsenal. You can make a fan, get great word of mouth publicity, and also make your book the best it can be. DON’T take them for granted. Nourish the relationships, with your beta readers. Give back with free, signed books once it’s in print. Give them other goodies, dedicate your book to them, name a character after them etc.

Treat your beta readers with kindness and respect, remember, that’s how we should treat everyone!

Do fellow authors make good beta readers – why or why not?

***

ATouchofPassion225x300A Touch of Passion (Loveswept – March 2015)

In the latest Disgraced Lords novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans, a vivacious thrill seeker clashes with her dutiful defender—causing irresistible sparks to fly.
 
Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion.

After losing his mother and two siblings in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart.

***

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dog Brandy. 

Bronwen loves hearing from avid romance readers at Bronwen@bronwenevans.com.
You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website, or connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.

***

What’s next? Friday, May 15th – Your Ancestors as Fiction by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi

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Discussion

10 Responses to “How To Beta Your Book by Bronwen Evans”

  1. Bronwen, thanks for sharing all that information. It’s very helpful. Can you please say how many beta readers you might use to read each book?

    Posted by Erica | May 13, 2015, 12:51 am
  2. Hi Erica

    There is no limit to how many Beta readers you want to have. I have about 20 regular beta readers. I know other authors have many more and some have less.

    Cheers
    Bron

    Posted by Bronwe Evans | May 13, 2015, 4:04 am
  3. Bronwen, thanks for the great post. I’m using Beta readers for the first time with my upcoming novella. The feedback I’ve been getting has been amazing. It’s interesting how each of them have an eye for different things.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | May 13, 2015, 5:01 am
  4. Great blog, Bronwen!

    Posted by Suz Brockmann | May 13, 2015, 8:48 am
  5. Great post, Bronwen! I appreciate your checklist, which I will definitely use – and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | May 13, 2015, 2:37 pm
  6. Thanks for the lovely feedback, I hope the info helps!

    Posted by Bronwe Evans | May 13, 2015, 5:15 pm
  7. Hi Bronwen,

    Thanks for sharing your fabulous checklist. I’ve had beta readers who haven’t read romance, but in some instances, they’ve brought up points that other betas, who’d regularly read romance, didn’t catch.

    It was a pleasure to have you with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 14, 2015, 12:08 am
  8. Very interesting information, thank you.

    Posted by Bernadette Dunn | May 14, 2015, 5:47 pm
  9. Thanks for sharing this information about beta writers. It’s a great way to fix all the mistakes or make sure your book as good as you think it is:)

    Posted by Pimion | July 11, 2015, 4:24 pm

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