Getting feedback On Your Manuscript (What Questions To Ask Beta Readers, etc.)
You’re at that glorious stage where you’ve finished and self-edited your manuscript to get that perfect flow and sexy syntax in the right place. You even brushed it up with Grammarly or similar, and now you’re aching for some honest feedback.
You need a Beta Reader just as much as any company needs people to try out their product before it’s launched it into the world. That’s how it works for everyone out there.
If you haven’t dedicated any time on writing the blurb of your novel, start now!
You’ll have to pitch it to a Beta Reader in order to convince them to take your project on, especially if you’re looking for a free service.
Paid Betas charge a variety of prices, so make sure you investigate the market and their reviews before striking a deal.
TIP: Whether you’re writing under a pen name or not, at this point you should get yourself a PayPal account under your author name.
Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?
Many authors prefer hiring a professional editor before handing over the manuscript to Beta Readers, but I believe it’s a question of preference.
If your manuscript is clean, consistent and decent enough for someone to read, my obvious choice would be sending it to Beta Readers first.
Why? Well, to save you money and hassle.
To begin with, a professional editor can be very expensive, and you want to make sure all the necessary changes are made before the final round. You want to make sure your story is attractive to your readership.
What Is A Beta Reader
A Beta Reader is an individual who will read your book and offer you honest feedback on plot, character development and overall storyline.
Basically, angels assisting the author with the difficult task at hand: finding out if your story is in fact engaging and if your work has all the attributes of a successful novel.
That’s why a Beta Reader is fundamental to the writing to publishing process.
You can’t put your book out there for everyone to see without any relevant feedback, you’d risk your reputation.
What you’re looking for is getting that reader to come back to you after reading your novel and possibly take interest in other books you have in stock.
For many of us, the natural process is to have our close peers read our first manuscript, and although it’s handy, it is definitely not ideal. If your gran is not into alien fiction, then she’s probably not going to give you the feedback you actually need.
A Beta Reader is first and foremost a fan of the genre, they know what’s out there, they could probably even tell you if your work has too much in common with novel X, Y, Z, if it sits well with your genre and your audience, etc.
Maybe in your head, you’ve written the perfect YA novel and your Betas will tell you it’s in fact, NA. Maybe the chosen topic is too complex or maybe it lacks complexity.
Because that’s what a Beta Reader does, they encompass your relevant audience for topic and genre.
TIP: Beta Readers can also help you promote your novel once it’s out, in other words keep them close and cozy because this is a relationship you want to build.
Beta Reading services can be free or not, just follow the thread below for all the details.
Where To Find Beta Readers
Does Goodreads ring a bell?
If it doesn’t, I’ll have you know it’s the largest reader/author platform out there, so hurry up and get a nice profile there before your book is out.
Launched in 2007, Goodreads is home to all the people in the writing industry, from Beta Readers to Editors, Proofreaders, Reviewers, Readers and Authors. Consequently, it will be your home too.
Goodreads is huge but it’s not the most updated nor user friendly platform, it does however hold all the professionals in one place, so you’d better get the hang of it.
There are tons of Beta Reading groups on Goodreads and you can reach out and pitch your manuscript to them in a post.
Facebook also has Beta Reading groups, you just have to search and join the ones appropriate for you:
- Beta readers and critique partners
- Free beta readers, critiques, reviewers and editors
- Beta Reader Writers Club
Twitter, where the next Beta Reader is only one hashtag away.
Fiverr.com, the platform joining the supply and demand of… everything.
Investigate the market, check out their reviews and the type of feedback they got back from clients.
How To Approach Beta Readers
If you’re looking for free Beta Readers, you have to pitch your manuscript and make people wish to invest their precious time in reading your novel.
By all means, free or paid, remember the Beta Reader is doing you a favor and not the other way around.
Sure, reading a book for free has its perks, but still, you need Betas more than they need you and they have to feel their input is valued.
This is the info you can’t forget to add in your pitch:
- Genre and subgenre (Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Fantasy)
- Number of words (75k, 95k, etc.)
- Blurb (you usually find the blurb on the back of a cover, a little incentive to provoke your readership’s imagination)
- How many Betas you are looking for (five is a decent number)
- Time expected to finish the novel and receive feedback (anything from one week to one month on average)
Once you found and clicked with a few Betas in your genre, you can now send them your manuscript.
Remember, this is a relationship you want to build on mutual trust and respect, so when you finally email them your novel, don’t forget to mention the confidentiality of your agreement.
I usually add a separate document with questions about the manuscript.
Found this one on Goodreads:
Does any part of the story drag?
Are there parts that you skipped to get to ‘the good part’?
Do I over-inform (info-dump) anywhere?
Did you understand every phrase / term I used?
Do any of the love scenes seem overly cliché?
Were the love scenes too fast, too slow, or too frequent?
Was there any part where you had to reread the scenes to understand who was doing what?
Any action in the love scene made you cringe?
Did it make you hot?
Does one scene lead logically into the next?
Do the scenes flow smoothly from one action to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?
Can you see every action clearly while reading?
If you went there in real life, would you recognize the places?
Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who was doing what?
Does the Dialogue sound realistic for the individual characters?
Could you see what the characters were doing while talking?
Could you see where the characters were while talking?
Could you see what each character looked like clearly?
Do their actions and reactions seem logical and realistic?
Could you feel the emotions between the characters?
Does the story stay focused on my main character?
Were any of my characters too much of a jerk or too aggressive?
Were any of my characters whiny, wimpy, or overly dramatic?
Are any of my characters too stereotypical?
Who did you like best and WHY?
Did you hate any character and WHY?
Do any of the characters get in the way of the STORY?
I hereby attach my novel, X for beta reading and a list of questions you’ll need to answer upon reading the manuscript. Once again, I’d like you to know that I value your dedication towards my project.
I have to stress how important it is to be to receive feedback before mm/dd/yyyy due to having already booked an editor. It goes without saying that any information I share with you has to remain confidential.
Should you have any doubt, do not hesitate to contact me and I look forward to working with you on more projects to come.
Feedback And Rewrites
The ugly truth is now awaiting in your inbox. Never take it personal, take it as constructive criticism meant to improve the quality of your writing. Print all the feedback you received and highlight the parts they have in common.
Betas know what’s out there, they’re experienced readers and sometimes, they’ll be harsh in their feedback. You can always email them asking for specifics, even suggestions on certain aspects.
If more Beta Readers say your ending is too abrupt, chances are you’ll have to work on improving your flow. The advice you decide to keep and discard is entirely up to you.
Some Betas also highlight the parts they love and that’s a huge boost for the author. It gives insight on what you’ve done right and that’s priceless.
Rewriting will now take a lot less and determination is key. Polish that manuscript until you’re ready to read my next post about Finding & Hiring The Right Editor For Your Book!