I hope you had a chance to check out yesterday’s video, Beta Readers Part 1, where I talked a little bit about betas.
Today, I’m going to break down my own beta reading process for you. I stole the basic premise from author Jenna Moreci, but I clearly like people even less than she does because I want as little actual interaction with my betas as possible. Ha!
So, specifically for Bible studies, THIS is my beta reader process:
STEP 1: Ask people
I used email and Facebook messenger to ask people because I wanted to give the EXACT SAME pitch/spiel to everyone.
Hey [insert name here]!
I am super excited to tell you that I wrote a Bible study! God used the devotional I wrote up for the MOPS Steering meeting a few weeks ago to inspire me to give it a try. I seriously never thought I could do something like this because I felt like my writing brain was just a story-telling brain (and I just told my friend Katie this!). However, with the serious encouragement of James and my friend Amy, I did it. I wrote an 11-chapter Bible study.
Now I need some people to test it. I’d like a fairly large group of testers and that’s why I’m contacting you. I am wondering if you would be interested in beta testing my Bible study for me.
What this means for you is:
-Working the study in order from front to back in less than 16 weeks
-Providing some demographic data so I can determine to which demographic of people this study is most suited
-Providing completely honest feedback for each chapter in the form of completing a questionnaire
-Sending back your anonymous feedback in an envelope I will send with your study
This study is different than any Bible study I’ve ever done. Most Bible studies I have worked feed me information without requiring me to do a whole lot of digging into the Bible itself in order to draw my own conclusions. I also tend to find the discussion questions a bit wanting. This study could be considered more akin to a guided self-study, though I do have aspirations of it working as a group study too. I am intentionally using the reading of entire chapters (or two!) in the Bible to help guide readers to draw conclusions based on what the Bible says and not what I say. I believe that context is paramount and this study reflects that.
So, now for the ask. Would you consider helping me by testing this study? You will receive a paper copy of the study that is yours to keep, though you will need to remove all questionnaires and send them back to me, and I will check in once every four weeks just to gauge progress (or offer a reminder to continue) via your preferred medium – facebook message, text, or email. I also ask that you not talk about this in the public sphere for a couple reasons – I haven’t announced it to the world yet and I am asking people privately to participate because I am seeking a wide demographic of testers, in age, spiritual maturity, location, and background.
The study is currently in alpha reader stage. What that means is I have two individuals currently going over it to check for MAJOR errors, but they are not working the study itself. They are simply checking that the Scripture references make sense, that questions make sense, that the flow is good, and offering their overall opinion. I expect that alpha reading and the final edit will take around three weeks, so it could be a month before you have a study in your hands. I’m asking now so I can get my list of testers, compile my spreadsheet of information, and be ready to move as soon as editing is complete.
My goal is to have a completed study to pitch at the writer’s conference I am attending in mid-July. So, all that said, please let me know if you would be willing and able to commit to help me out. If you have ANY questions at all before jumping onboard, please ask away. I don’t want this to be a burden or a stress on you. I am asking you because I trust you. I have given a lot of thought to who I want to ask, but if you feel that you aren’t in a place to participate (spiritual maturity notwithstanding – I have taken that into consideration), my feelings are not hurt at all.
Please let me know either way, though, so I can work on recruiting more individuals if I need to. Thank you for at least considering it. I am really excited about this and I sincerely hope you can join me on this journey.
That is the exact letter I sent out to 45 people. In all, 35 agreed (not bad, right?). That is a big reason why I suggest individually asking people instead of throwing out a public call. The less pressure and obligation your readers feel, the better, too. I wanted people to say yes because they actually wanted to do it, not because they felt like they HAD to say yes. I wanted them to know that saying ‘no’ was a perfectly legitimate response, too.
STEP 2: Organize, organize, organize
Get all your beta information in ONE PLACE – I used Google sheets. I have a spreadsheet of ALL the information I need.
This is a screenshot of my actual beta readers spreadsheet. Obviously, I scrubbed out all the personal information, but you still have a really good idea of what information is there.
When I mailed out or delivered, I entered the date my readers got the packet in their hands. That meant that I contacted everyone once it was mailed and asked them to tell me when they received it. If I hadn’t heard from anyone in a reasonable time, I checked in, too. Heaven forbid it got lost in the mail and I never knew about it!
I used bold to indicate which readers I’d contacted for the 4 wk check. Once they replied, I simply entered in the chapter they were on. I want to keep track of how people are progressing, or IF they are progressing. I am only contacting everyone one time per month, so if they don’t reply, then it just stays as a date in my spreadsheet. As time goes on, their lack of reply may be significant, but I don’t know yet. That’s why data is SO exciting!
STEP 3: Packets
This is the part where you spend a lot of money if you’re doing it right. I purchased 1/2″ three-ring binders. I didn’t realize that the UPS store has their hole punch at half an inch. If I had to do it over, I’d get a 1″.
I prepped the binders before I’d gotten the study printed and I wanted to make sure that each person received a binder and that I didn’t duplicate numbers (for data anonymity). I randomly paired names with a number and wrote those on a blank sheet of paper, which I inserted into the front liner of each binder. I did not write down ANYWHERE whose name went with which number. I have assured my readers anonymity in their responses.
Once I got the printed studies, I clipped them into the binders and went through and numbered each questionnaire according to whose packet I had (if I was working on 26, all questionnaires were numbered 26). This ensures that each data set will stay together. I included a demographic questionnaire because I wanted see where my study was the most successful.
I included manila envelopes in every single packet. Those that were mailed also had my address and sufficient stamping on the envelope to return questionnaire sets. As I receive studies, I transfer data sets into their own numbered envelope for storing/tracking purposes.
Once I’ve received all the feedback, then the data mining will begin. I don’t know exactly what that process will look like yet as I’ve not received all my feedback, but when the time comes, I’ll definitely share it.
That is my beta reader process. It’s pretty involved and demanding on both ends, but I believe it will be worth it.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll talk about those questionnaires more in depth and provide some sample questionnaires.