I’ve always been slightly terrified of other people reading my work. Once I open up my little literary home and let people in, it becomes less mine and more theirs. I have to talk about the voices in my head and what they say to me; it’s a pretty intimate thing, which is why I’m surprised my beta reading process went so well.
Related Post // Why Writers Don’t Let Other People Read Their Work
In March, I posted on my blog and Instagram that I was looking for beta readers who were interested in reading my first completed novel, which was very much still in its developmental stage. It had a beginning, middle, and end, which I consider to be a good start, and needed plenty of help on the middle. I’d never done anything like this before, and learned an unbelievable amount on how to work with other writers, manage deadlines, and even write emails.
Disclaimer: I’m no professional on how to work with beta readers. This post is only describing my experience and how I managed the beta reading process.
Here’s the low-down on how I worked with beta readers.
I created an application because I wanted to be able to get to know my betas before sending them the first part of my draft. Also, I love using Google Forms and will take any excuse to make a survey, form, application, whatever.
With my Google account, I created a Google Form and linked it in my blog posts so potential betas could apply right from my blog. I also put a link in my Instagram bio and created an ad, advertising that I was looking for betas. I think I paid fifteen US dollars for the ad, which ran for seven days and got around 1,500 views.
The form asked for contact information like name and email and went in-depth about their reading and writing habits. I asked for their favorite genre, favorite and least favorite book, and for which identities they could sensitivity read.
I took this time to explain some of the structure I had put in place and how I designed the process. The manuscript was split into ten sections and betas read one section at a time. At the end of each section was a link leading them to another Google Form where they shared their reaction to the section and gave recommendations on what they thought could be improved. When I received their responses through the Google Form, I would send them the next section.
I did not financially compensate my betas for their time and specified this at the beginning of the application. I thought this would deter readers from applying, but I had so many applications that I had to turn people away, which I totally was not expecting to do. I did promise a signed copy of the book upon its publication (even though it’s nowhere near publication ready, I’m staying hopeful).
After a week of receiving applications, I looked at all the potential readers and decided who I wanted to actually read the manuscript. I looked for readers who wrote well-crafted responses with proper grammar above all, and beyond that my final pool of readers had little in common. I wanted a diverse group of eyes to read and dissect my work in their respective ways so I got a variety of perspectives. To accomplish this, I paid special attention to who could sensitivity read for certain identities and what the readers thought their strengths and weaknesses were.
After picking who I wanted to be my beta readers, I did a whole lot of waiting. Waiting for my readers to respond to my emails, waiting for their edits and comments to come in, waiting for my excessive Excel sheets to load so I could input even more unnecessary information (I’ve always firmly believed that you’re a real adult once you know how to manipulate a spreadsheet).
This was the most difficult step because I felt pretty powerless. My work was in my readers’ hands and all I could do was twiddle my thumbs and stare at my email, refreshing every few seconds just in case something came through.
After I received all the edits back from my readers, I got to work.
All that waiting that I did while they were reading? Yeah, that went away. I was left with a digital stack of papers to sift through, which is a beautiful and slightly terrifying thing. My readers left me with so many amazing suggestions that I’m still sorting through them and taking the time to consider each reader’s perspective.
To edit, I open up the reader’s copy and my master copy side by side. I scroll through the reader’s edits and use Track Changes to make any changes that I agree need to be made in my copy. Once I’ve read through all the edits on that section, I batch-accept them and then read through once more to make sure I’m pleased with the section. Rinse and repeat.
Have you ever worked with beta readers? How did my experience compare to yours?
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