By: Stephanie Burkhart
You’ve finished your manuscript and are ready to submit your “baby” to several literary agents and or/publishers. Wait! It might be a good idea to have a beta reader look it over first.
What’s a beta reader? Someone who is willing to read your finished story and give you the feedback you need to ensure your story is consistent, makes sense, and holds one’s attention. They should do it in a timely manner so you can tighten your story before sending it off. A beta reader should be willing to read your work and offer honest feedback on what works – and what doesn’t.
While just about anyone can be a beta reader, be selective in asking. You want to look for readers who read the genre you’re writing in and can offer thoughtful feedback.
You might consider 1-3 beta readers so the feedback is varied. The big thing in asking someone to beta read for you is not to pressure them to do it and stress to them that you want their honest thoughts and feelings. Give them a timeline to read the story and if they can’t do it in the time allotted, let them know there’s no hard feelings. I always show my appreciation with a Starbuck’s gift card. Remember, they are taking time out of their schedules to read and offer you feedback, so thank them.
Provide your beta reader with a list of questions that you want feedback on. Examples:
Is “Johnny” likeable?
Did the opening confuse you?
When did you know what the story was about?
Is there a scene that made you sad, happy or angry?
Once you get your feedback, than your betas, compare notes, and identify the area you need to tighten up. You might have to rework your opening or add a scene to clarify you main character’s motivation. Be open to making the changes if they make your story better.
For me, it’s about honesty. I want my beta reader to be honest with me. I’ve got to let them know I’ll be okay with their feedback regardless if it’s glowing – or not. If they tell me hero is cold and aloof, and that’s not my intention, I’ve got to be open to receiving that feedback.
Question for you: Do you use a beta reader? How many? How do they help you? Do you take all their suggestions to heart?
Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. Her latest childrens book with 4RV Publishing is “Brady’s Lost Blanket.” She enjoys coffee, adores chocolate, and strives to keep up with the active boys in her cub scout den.
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