Hello Lifers! Today, we're diving into a topic that's critical to your journey in self-publishing: beta readers.
Beta readers are the unsung heroes of the self-publishing world. They're the first readers of your manuscript, providing feedback on everything from plot holes to character development, pacing, and even those pesky typos that slipped past you at 2 a.m. while you were drunk on the godlike power of CREATION (and also just tired because you have a day job and the kids won't stop asking you for things and the voices in your head are planning an attack on Ancient Greece).
Now, you might be thinking, "I've got a great editor, why do I need beta readers?" Or maybe you're thinking, "I don't need an editor, or beta readers. I'm amazing!"
To the latter: you do need them. You're amazing, but for different reasons. If you think you don't need help, one of the reasons you're amazing is, you know...amazingly bad business decisions.
Seriously though: while editors are invaluable, they're often looking at your work from a technical perspective (and if they're looking at story as well, they tend to be WAY more expensive). Beta readers, on the other hand, approach your book as readers first, giving you insight into how your audience might react.
So, where do you find these magical beings? Look for avid readers in your genre, whether they're in your local book club, online forums, or social media groups. Remember, you want beta readers who represent your target audience.
If you have a mailing list (and you SHOULD!), these are GREAT folks to ask. Most of my beta readers are people who interacted with my mailing list or my Facebook page. After a while, I'll reach out and ask if they want to beta read for me. I now have a list of about 200 beta readers, and boy are they AWESOME!
But don't just pick anyone. You need beta readers who aren't afraid to give you honest, constructive feedback. Your mom might love everything you write, but she might not be the best beta reader (unless she's a ruthless critic, in which case, go Mom!).
Working with beta readers isn't about handing over your manuscript and then making every change they suggest. It's a dance, a back-and-forth where you take their feedback into account and then make the final call.
Create a clear process for your beta readers. Give them guidance on what you want feedback on and how they should provide it. And remember, always be gracious. They're doing you a favor, after all.
Beyond their feedback, beta readers offer other benefits. They can become champions for your book, leaving reviews, spreading the word, and creating buzz. They can also provide a morale boost. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and having a squad of beta readers can remind you that you're not alone.
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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