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Writing Advice & Discussion > Some words of wisdom about the beta reading process

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message 1: by Kevis (last edited Oct 15, 2016 08:43AM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) | 130 comments Because of the tumultuous nature of life and sometimes predictably unreliable behavior of some beta readers to disappear without giving any feedback to the author they agreed to help, it's usually wise to request help from more than one beta reader rather than risk getting left stranded if one, or more, beta readers bail on you. One obvious advantage to doing this is that you get to see if multiple readers have the same complaints about a certain section of your book. It’s a great way to know if what the beta is telling you is simply one person’s opinion or a major flaw in your work.

In addition to requesting the aid of multiple betas, I highly recommend that authors use multiple rounds of beta reading to achieve the best results. This helps an author in many ways. First, it gives you time to discern and implement the feedback you get from your betas during every pass. But it also helps the beta reader too. Because once you’ve made changes to your manuscript, you should be able to find out if those changes worked or not by sending the updated manuscript to a new set of beta readers.

The main reason I mention this is because I notice some authors are using several beta readers to see if anything needs fixing, but they don’t follow up to see if those changes worked. On the other hand, many authors are sending out the same broken manuscript to too many beta readers so that even after they have made changes to their story, they’re forcing new betas to read their story with pre-existing problems that no longer exist.

Personally, I feel it’s unfair to ask a beta reader to revisit mistakes you’ve already worked out of your story. It’s a waste of time to have to re-address something that no longer exists in the latest draft of a story.

If you’re using multiple beta readers, consider limiting how many you use, and instead, use new betas for multiple passes, each time sending them the latest version of your manuscript. So instead of sending your manuscript out to a dozen beta readers all at once, use 3 or 4 beta readers for a draft revision, consider their recommendations and implement changes, then repeat this process 2 or 3 more times. Not only is this a great way to scrub mistakes from your story, it also makes it easier on both the author and beta reader. In this case, the author doesn’t have to work their way through feedback from a dozen beta readers all that once, but rather do it in stages which simplifies and speeds up the process. It’s also good for the beta reader to read the best and cleanest version of your story because it makes it easier to point out major mistakes rather than get caught up trying to nitpick every single thing that’s wrong.

In summary, beta reading seems to work best when you do multiple passes with fewer betas during each pass. Having to sludge your way through a mountain of feedback while making your betas point out mistakes you’ve already fixed is a waste of everyone’s time. At least, I know it is for me, both as an author and a beta reader.

*Edited to add that I know many of you are already doing this. This is just a public service announcement for many of the newer authors who are just getting their feet wet with publishing and don't realize how much unnecessary work they are creating for themselves (and their betas) due to not having laid out an effective strategy as to how to best get the feedback they need to work the kinks out of their books.*

message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann Swaim (chirpyann) | 83 comments I'm getting ready to call for beta readers, after this edit cycle. It's my first time and I'm so nervous xD thanks for this advice! Truly :)

message 3: by Kevis (last edited Oct 20, 2016 07:30PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) | 130 comments Chirpyreading wrote: "I'm getting ready to call for beta readers, after this edit cycle. It's my first time and I'm so nervous xD thanks for this advice! Truly :)"

No doubt there's some work involved. But beta reading can be fun especially if you work with the right author who wants to learn how to make their book better and doesn't shun constructive criticism. We've got some really cool beta readers in this group, so I'm sure you'll do just fine. Welcome aboard and Good Luck!

message 4: by Rosie (new)

Rosie (RoseandBurn) | 6 comments This is very smart. Thanks for the advice!

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