Beta readers are those valuable individuals who read your manuscript (with no prior knowledge of the events) and give you detailed feedback on everything from plot to characters to pacing. Their role is to show a writer how a future reading audience will interpret and react to their work.
Once I finished editing my first draft, I was ready for beta readers!
Like many writers, I wondered exactly where and how to find them. I’m most active on Tumblr so I thought that would be the best place to look. Since I’d already built up a (small) audience on that platform I thought my post would be able to get some traction.
I’m not someone who does things half-assed. If I was going to do a beta post, then I was going to do it right. Well, my version of right. This started with me commissioning some art work of my protagonist. I was very lucky that Crystal Graziano one of my favourite artists on Tumblr was open for commissions. She was a breeze to work with and in less than a week I had some gorgeous artwork of my main character.
Protagonist: Synnove Raja
Next I wrote out a brief synopsis of my book, making sure to include trigger warnings. Followed by a very detailed section which broke down what my beta process would involve. It was not about to be a process for the faint of heart. I split my book into five sections, a few chapters each section. Betas would be required to read the section and afterwards answer a detailed questionnaire pertaining to the chapters they’ve just read.
I was a bit nervous some people would think my beta process was “too much” but I had to be true to myself and do what I felt would work best for my book. So, with a breath and a gulp, I published the post.
Special thanks go out to my good friend Jenna who is well known in the writing community. Her reblog of my post exposed it to an audience significantly larger than mine.
Over the next week or so, my beta post made the rounds on Tumblr and picked up quite a bit of traction. This was very important to me, because the more people who saw it, the more diverse my potential beta readers. My story has a wide array of characters and I was hoping to find betas who reflected that. I wanted readers of different genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities.
Seventy-six people filled out my beta application! That was at fifty-one more applicants than I’d even hoped to get. I was thrilled. Now came the hard work, going through each application and selecting beta readers.
Since there was such a positive response, I was able to select several betas and split them into Group A, Group B, and Group C. My plan was to have a handful of people within each group read the manuscript and complete it before I sent it out to the next group. This would ensure that if there was a trend among Group A betas, for example if there was a concept the majority found unclear, I could work to clarify it before sending the story off to Group B.
Group A began reading in August 2016 and by November 2016 they were done with the manuscript. Not only had these wonderful people taken the time out of their lives to read my story, but additionally they provided me with such amazingly detailed feedback. I was very lucky to have the beta readers that I had for Group A.
On a personal note, I can’t even explain what it feels/felt like to have people react so positively to my story. I’m a fucking writer and yet I cannot find the words to express this sentiment. To see my betas come up with book theories, hear about who their favourite characters were, and discuss what moments made them laugh/cry/anxious – it was magical.
Before Group A, my story had only been read by close friends and critique partners – who are also close friends. Basically, it was seen by people who love me, so they were naturally a little biased. My betas on the other hand were internet strangers, with no emotional attachment to me whatsoever. Yet, they too loved the book!
After my Group A beta round was done, I took two months to review my manuscript and work on some edits in preparation for my next round of readers. When the edits were complete I was even happier with my story than I had been the first time around.
Group B betas started reading the book in mid-February of 2017.
It’s currently late Feb, so far things are going great and the feedback has been very encouraging. I look forward to the readers getting deeper into the manuscript and seeing their reactions to some of the scenes that were not in the book when Group A read it.
In the meantime, I’m following my ‘manuscript to-do list’ and working on my outline for the second book! It’s been a challenge, but I’m getting a handle on it. That however is another blog post for another day.