THE BETA READING PROCESS: 10 CRITICAL STEPS
I'm starting to get beta feedback on the last draft of TUBE (just in time, before I plunge into final revisions in September), and since I shared some of it, many of you have asked about my beta reading process: how I do it, how many beta readers I have, what I send them, in what format, what I ask for in return, etc.
I dug around in my blog archives and found not one, not two, but four posts on the same topic. One from 2012, on luring beta readers with cookies. Two from 2013, on connecting with beta readers and on adapting their feedback. And one from 2015, on 10 things to know about beta readers.
I think it's time for an updated post, since it's 2017 and my process has improved. So here goes.
- FINDING BETA READERS.
Where do you find these wonderful people who'd be willing to spend their precious time on reading your almost-baked story? People who'd trade the fun of torturing their enemies in their basements or chasing wild bears out of their yards with pitchforks for sitting quietly on a sofa and poring over your words? Unless you already have a beta reader list built over the years of writing books (I have exactly 480 at the moment on my list—took 5 years to build), you start with the classic FFF: Friends, Family & Fools. Ask them if they'd be wiling to beta read your book, and offer them something for their time (ain't nothing done for free in this world, hamsters).
- GIVING YOUR BETA READERS INCENTIVE.
All right. Let's say your elderly grandma agreed to scrutinize your story though her looking glass, and maybe your niece did too, and maybe even your neighbor who owes you for sparing his life the last time you were hunting for neighbors for dinner. What's next? Treat it like any other business transaction. What do your beta readers get out of it? Several things.
The thrill of reading it first. If they're your loyal fans, they'll get the thrill of reading the almost-finished-book first and give you feedback that you'll incorporate into the final version. But what if you don't have loyal fans?
Their names in their book. You can offer to put their names in the Thank You section of your book.
The ARCs of your book. You can offer ARCs of your book (I send all beta readers who send me feedback an ARC—there is always a percentage of beta readers who never get back to you because they weren't interested in the story, or life happened, or whatever—don't get pissed, thank them for their time anyway). So they get it first, before anyone else. It's a perk.
Your time in exchange. You can offer to beta read their work. This often works when you're in a writers group of some kind. It never worked for me, though. I'm a loner even among writers.
Cold, hard cash. When all else is lost, you can offer to pay for beta reading. Or take out your beta readers for coffee. After all, they're giving you their time. So treat it with respect.
- SETTING THE FEEDBACK DEADLINE.