Weird Publishing Project: Beta Readers!

In the first post about my Weird Publishing project, I explained why it was weird and stated that I would share my journey here so authors could benefit from my success or failure and what I learned by doing it.  This post is about beta readers, and I’m posing as someone being interviewed, because I use them…differently.

What is a Beta Reader?

My definition of a beta reader might be different from yours.  Instead of free editors, I see them primarily as the trustworthy readers I give my special creation to, the ones who will give me an honest opinion about that content—whether or not it was worth reading.  If it was, I want to know what they liked and didn’t like and why.

When Do You Use Them?

I’ve published three books already and have only used betas once.  That time I asked for beta readers because I wanted to see if I was communicating clearly on that topic (historical origins of the trendy Law of Attraction–the formulas, not the spiritual law which is timeless).  However, because publishing my current project will be like an extreme introvert standing buck naked under very bright lights, all alone on a stage in front of a huge audience, with no script, I really needed assurance there was a good reason for me to continue.

Where Did You Find Them?

My list of eleven people to invite included both old and new friends, but most importantly, people I saw as strong enough to speak their truth, no matter what; only one of those is a published writer.

How Did You Ask Them?

On September 7, 2016, I sent an email invitation to each person on my list of eleven, hoping at least five would commit to reading and responding with feedback at least by September 20, allowing 12 days to read 10 pages/day with 2 days left over to consider and note their feedback.

The Invitation

This was my first time to spell out everything, but I wanted to be as precise as possible with my language so they would understand exactly what I was asking them to do.  My invitation included these elements:

purpose of the email:

“I just completed the rough draft of the first book of a four-book series,  and am looking for beta readers.”

I also gave them the working title so they could get an idea of what the book was about.

“Beta readers” defined for this project:

People who read a book prior to publication, offering their perspective about its readability, worth, and making suggestions to improve the product.

Length of the project:

120 typed pages, double-spaced

the terms of the agreement Listed:

  • feedback about the story by September 20
  • what you liked and didn’t
  • suggestions to improve the product

Full disclosure re’ use of comments:

I clearly stated my intention to use their comments for promotion if applicable:  “If you say something nice that could be used as testimony in promotion, I’ll take your agreement to be a beta reader as permission to use it—as is.  (Obviously doesn’t apply if you don’t like it.  Yikes!)

What You (Beta Readers) get

Besides the satisfaction of contributing to better books with your contributions, all beta readers will be included in the Acknowledgements, are invited to be on my launch team, and will, of course, be notified when the book is free, either way.

how the book will be published

The book will be offered first only on Amazon and only as a Kindle book.

(This was important because previously, I had given each beta reader a copy of the print version of the book when it was published simultaneously with the eBook version.)

Call to action

Well?  What do you say? If you agree, I’ll send the document by email.

Response from the Invitation

Of the eleven invitations sent, all but two responded with “Yes” or “no” causing me to wonder if I had current email addresses (oops!).  Five people said they would be happy to read and give feedback.

Response from the Beta Readers

Of the five, only three responded with feedback by the agreed upon deadline, and of those, only one gave me the kind of feedback I specifically sought, but that was totally OK!

Her email feedback was so encouraging, so supportive, such a clear GO signal that I printed it and pasted it on my desk to read when the ugly doubts came up again about being so vulnerable.

Another one told me clearly what she liked and what didn’t work for her and she even patiently waited for me to write notes about what she was saying because she gave her feedback by phone.

The third reader apparently missed all the stuff I’d sent in emails, because her feedback was like sitting in a critique session of a writer’s group considering my FINAL draft.  She raised very specific questions and gave very specific directions for what should have been included that was not!

Even so, I totally appreciated everything she said–even the bits that didn’t make sense, the ones suggesting she might have scanned the book too quickly on her phone because she said she’d lost the draft I’d sent her by email and asked for it again three days before the deadline to give feedback.

Ha!  Another reason for me to delay getting a Smart phone!

Every feedback is important, because it’s a view from an actual reader!  And it’s easier to hear it if you remember they’re reporting their experience.

I was fortunate. Even though I had fewer beta readers this time, each one was a super star! In my corner!  And each one generously gave me what they believed I needed to hear. I needed to hear all of it!

That said, of those three excellent readers, I’m betting my nickel on the first one, making my decision whether or not to continue with this project based on this:

I told you, I don’t read a book, I live in it.

The thing is, there are so many others who are like me. Who also live in the books they read. Who have had feelings and experiences that may be similar, or at least contain common threads. People who will read this and feel like they know you immediately. Like they would love to go on a nature walk with you and just sit and listen to the river sing. People whose hearts can hear yours and speak back to yours as well.

This has to be published!



Have you used beta readers?   If so, want to share your experience?



Till then, be kind to everyone you meet for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi

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