Some writers have no difficulty finding beta readers, but not everyone knows what to do with them once they’ve got them. Here’s my advice.
If you read my previous blog posts What Are Beta Readers, and Do I Really Need Them? and Where Do I Find Beta Readers? your next question may be: What do I do with them now that I’ve got them? Do you just send them a PDF file and ask them to tell you what they thought? Or is there more to it than that?
As you probably guessed, getting good and useful feedback from beta readers requires a structured approach. Here are my suggestions on how to do that.
1. Be clear about your expectations with regard to time frames. Set a deadline. You don’t want a beta reader who’s going to take a year or even six months to read your book.
2. Give them as good a final product as you can. Before you ask someone to read your work, you should go through it numerous times to make sure it’s as free of errors and formatting issues as possible.
3. Offer to deliver it to them in the format of their choice. Some people may prefer a physical printout, while others might want a Word document or PDF file they can read on their computer or their smartphone. Ask them what their preference is.
4. Include a synopsis of the story. This ensures your beta readers have an idea of what the book is about before they read it, which can be a great help. A synopsis is a well written summary of the story and themes, not just a bunch of bullets that list out the plot points.
5. Give specific instructions. Remind your beta readers that they’re not proofreading your book for errors but are helping you to make it better. Encourage honest feedback. You’re not looking for an ego boost. You’re trying to make your book the best it can possibly be.
6. Write up a questionnaire. Not everyone will know how to deliver their feedback in an organized fashion, but if you can come up with a list of questions, it’ll make it easier for them to do so. Questions like “Did you find the plot of the story easy to follow?” or “Were the characters believable?” should start out the list, but don’t be afraid to ask a question like “Tell me what you really hated or disliked about the story.”
For a more specific list of ideas on what questions you should include in your questionnaire, read What Questions Should I Ask my Beta Readers?