I’ve got projects approaching completion. Or at least I think they’re nearing completion.
Where they really are is ready for me to show them to someone. But does that mean I’m sending them off to a publisher? Nope, not if I’m smart.
Does that mean I’m showing them to an editor? Some stuff, yes. Some stuff, no. Either way, I’m taking one more step before I get the professionals involved…
It’s time to unleash the beta readers!
What (and who) they are
Beta readers are readers who are (hopefully) in your target audience; or at least audience adjacent. They’re a sample of your prospective readership who can give you feedback and reactions to your work.
Back at the university, getting other grad students or friendly faculty to read things over was a good idea for article submissions or conference proposals. As a writer of YA fiction, I have a couple of avid readers in the YA audience that I run things by before I do that “one last time,” editing that precedes sending things out to agents, editors, and other professional types. Usually there’s someone around who’s willing, credible, and trustworthy. You just have to look.
In fairness, you should probably be willing to return the favor for beta readers, especially in a professional setting.
You should also understand what beta readers aren’t.
What they aren’t
Beta readers aren’t professional editors. Some of mine are fantastic, but they’re not paid editors. If you want editing support, call in an editor, not a beta reader.
Beta readers also shouldn’t be fanboys (or fangirls, or fanwhateverdescriptionisinthisweek). You want people who will give you genuine feedback about the story and their interaction with it. If your readers are just cheerleading, they’re not helping you.
Usually (in my world) beta readers aren’t paid, not in money at least. You might exchange something, beta reading for beta reading, beta reading for help of some other kind, et cetera. But you’re not looking at a paid service (If I’m paying for someone to go over my stuff, it’s an editor or some other pro…).
(Two reasons) why they’re important
So, beta readers are just randos you let look at your stuff?
No. That’s not it at all. As I’ve said, beta readers are generally people in your intended audience. They’re going to give you feedback about the work and their experience reading it. They’re not professional editors or designers (generally they’re not even sales people), but they represent the people you’re trying to get to read your stuff.
That means what you should get back from your beta readers is a sample of how your intended audience reacts to your material and what they think about it. These are the people you want to read your stuff, so maybe you should pay attention to what they’re saying.
Beyond feedback, there’s at least one other major reason to work with beta readers. It’s natural to have anxiety over the things we write, but too much anxiety can be crippling. Working with beta readers can help build confidence in what we’re working on while helping us find the stuff we should worry about and need to fix.
It also helps protect us from those nasty surprises that turn up if we just send stuff off to publishers without thinking. Beta readers are that second (and possibly third, fourth, fifth…) set of eyes that help us make sure that we’re on the right track and ready to move forward with our writing. They’re a valuable help and worth working with.
Well, dear reader, I have stuff to get to my beta readers. If you write, write your best. And, I’ll see you next post.
Challenge accepted. And offered!
I’ve set a challenge for myself. Starting this month, I’m going to put out a story a week in addition to my other work.
Back in the old days, in 2015, when I started this, I set a goal to write 1,000 words per day. Well, after seven years, seven NANOWRIMO wins, a few books published, and two blogs, I can say 1000 words is no trouble what so ever (for me at least).
Last year I shifted my goal to averaging 1500 words per day. The change encouraged me to write more and accounted for days when life was happening. Unfortunately, I kept the premise that any words written counted toward the goal. The goal was pushing me to write, but not necessarily to finish anything…
So, the new, new goal is to average 1500 words per day that contribute to significant writing projects, and to publish a story per week in addition to my other writing.
One result of this push is that you’ll be seeing more stories here (in addition to ones I’m submitting elsewhere).
Pushing ourselves helps, dear reader. We don’t want to over-extend. But we don’t want to under extend either. Using wisdom and pushing ourselves just enough in the right way helps us through.
I’ve accepted my challenge, dear reader. And now I extend one to you. Push yourself constructively and then follow through. Good luck dear reader, and I’ll see you next post.