Beta Reader Process


I hope you had a chance to check out yesterday’s video, Beta Readers Part 1, where I talked a little bit about betas.

[Note: This process has changed since the original writing of this post. The post will reflect my current beta reading process.]

Oh beta readers – those people who desperately want to read your book for free to help you out and then never actually read it, right?

Haha! Writer’s joke, come on.

Betas, are of course, some of the most important people in your writing life. Finding betas is a chore and staying on them to read is even more of a chore, BUT the result is SO worth it!

Let’s hearken back to the 3 reasons to take a break post and the familiarity section.

Betas are UNFAMILIAR with your work and therefore can see problems that you do not see with your own manuscript. How I hate when they point out things that aren’t working that I desperately want to believe are working. Or when many of them are confused about something I don’t find particularly confusing because I WROTE IT!

Betas are the people who agree to make you feel the worst about your manuscript that you’ve ever felt because they continually point out what’s wrong with it.

Which is exactly what you want from them.

So, how do we recruit betas?

I know many people who really struggle to get betas, but truth be told (no hate mail please), I’ve never actually struggled to recruit betas. I have struggled to get people to READ them, but I claim fault on that in my method (which is why it’s changed). Since changing my method, I’ve not had issues with betas finishing.

Now, this is the more annoying part – I swap. Yep. In order for someone to read for me, I read for them. AND I read for people long before I EVER had anything to offer.

You see, people are not quite as complex as we want to believe in some ways. For the most part, people are very interested in themselves and their own progress. If I can help other people along in their goals with NO EXPECTATIONS, I build good will. Not only do I build good will with them, but I build good will with those they TALK TO.

Did you know that I’ve had people come to me privately to tell me to back out of a beta reading deal because of THEIR past experience working with said person?

Our reputation matters, so I spent a year or more just helping others.

And now, I’ve built a network of people who have good reading will toward me and me toward them. There are writers I OWE reading favors to (and please, cash in!!), and others who still OWE ME.

I’ve talked about Author’s Tale a lot around here and that’s because I believe so fully in the group. It’s an amazing place and I’ve found such generous people there precisely because I am generous FIRST. Not in return, but FIRST.

So, my step 1 of beta recruiting is generosity toward others.

Step 2 is asking them.

Step 3 is keeping in contact. It’s easy to keep in contact (how’s the reading going?) without coming off as pushy or insistent. If I haven’t seen some crits come through in a while, I don’t have a problem asking how it’s going. Now, that has built over the last year or so. I don’t make a huge deal out of it.

I understand that people are busy and forget about things (like I’ve not been great at finishing up a beta reading project of my own that I BEGGED to be allowed to read when it was finished. Well, it’s finished and here I am updating instead of beta reading…). I understand that it’s hard. And I understand it takes time.

Which leads me to step 2.5 (I know, out of order): Be CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT.

I’ve been known to just read how I want, essentially providing a full edit for free (exhausting, don’t do that), but I’ve relaxed in recent months and am better able to keep in mind what the writer wants from me. I don’t have to provide a full edit on every reading swap. As long as I know what they are looking for and as long as I clearly communicate what I want, everyone wins.

And this is way less time consuming and stressful than my slightly-control-freakish plan of 2 years ago.

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