Monday, May 12, 2014

Beta Readers Can Strengthen Your Novel

Finishing a novel is like giving birth.

It's messy, painful, and something you can't put back once it's done. That bad boy is out there, waiting in all its afterbirth glory to be read by the masses!

However, giving birth doesn't have to be messy or painful--at least, giving birth to a novel doesn't! After all, they say that if you've done it once, you know what to expect the second time around, right? You've learned so much from Baby No.1!

When you're an indie author, you have to really pay attention to feedback and figure out how to refine your processes for the next book. One of my favorite little tricks is to employ the help of Beta Readers!

Beta Readers are those special people who love to read. They often can be convinced to read an early draft of a work and provide you with feedback. Some authors hate sharing their early drafts with anyone, but I disagree. I think once you've gotten your manuscript up to the 3rd or 4th draft, it's time to let someone else take its temperature and see what's going on.

Here are a few reasons Beta Readers can strengthen your novel:

1. Another set of eyes. We all make mistakes and sometimes skip things that should be obvious. A misspelled word, a badly written sentence or gasp!--an unresolved plot point. I'd much rather have a Beta Reader catch that than some Amazon reviewer who is all set to tear me apart.

2. Too much back story! Don't you hate it when you send your work to an agent or small press and they say things like, This was good but there was too much back story. Back story can be the kiss of death on a novel. It slows down the pace and takes the reader out of the tale. Having an early reader make you aware of this can save a lot of time for you and future readers.

3. Different Point of View. Authors get so immersed in their work that they can only see things in one way. Sometimes just having another person point out a different idea or direction for a particular plot point can trigger a new stream of creativity and strengthen a story line.

Who should you ask to be a Beta Reader? As I mentioned earlier, choose people that love to read and read a lot in the genre you're writing. After all, that will be your target audience eventually. When I'm scouting for people, I usually send something out on Facebook or even Twitter telling people that I'm interested in a Beta Reader for whatever genre novel I'm working on. They should private message me if they are interested. Goodreads also has several forums where Beta Readers gather and you can post your genre and book info for them to peruse.

Be careful about only choosing family and friends as Beta Readers. Those are the people who make good cheerleaders, but also want to protect our feelings. It can be harder for the ones closest to us to be honest. Try to get people you don't know as well for an objective opinion.


  1. I'm certainly guilty of number two. My stories often include about three extra chapters because I know that, by the time it goes to publishing, those chapters of (usually) backstory are painfully removed just like a doctor removes skin plugs checking for cancer. It's painful, bloody, and I've been known to cry like a baby during the process.

  2. JL,
    I would say number two is my downfall, too. That's why I rely on my beta readers to help identify too much backs story before we get to the publishing stage.