My new book, Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art & Atomic Energy, is finished and formatted. I printed off some set to send out to beta readers. This is the nervous time for me. Essentially, it’s the public debut of the book. People have seen bits and pieces of it, but this is the first time it has all been put together.
I am using a mix of beta readers. Some I know, some I don’t. Some are writers and some are just people who like to read history. I figure that I have a good mix of readers.
Their feedback is important, particularly if more than one reader mention it. A lot of the feedback that they give me is opinion and I have to take that into account, but I do consider each comment. Some of them are very insightful even if I don’t want to hear it.
Beta readers are a great resource for you as a writer. If you don’t have any people who you trust to give you an honest opinion, you can join a writer’s group or even find a Facebook beta readers group.
Some things to keep in mind with your beta readers:
- Don’t take everything they say as gospel. Everyone has an opinion and some of those opinions will be conflicting. If five people say the same thing and one person says something different, then you should give more weight to the five. However, if it three saying one thing and two saying another, then you have a more balanced consideration to take into account.
- You can’t please everyone. There’s an old saying that a camel is a horse built by committee. If you have a vision of what you want the book to be. Don’t give it up easily. If you try and please everyone, you will wind up with something bland that probably won’t please you.
- Ask your beta readers for a review. Reviews are important for a book. Give your book a jump start and ask all of your beta readers to post an honest review about your book.
- You don’t need dozens of beta readers. I like to use three at a minimum because I feel that gives me a good well-rounded opinion of my book. For this particular book, I’m using six, mainly because more people got back to me when I started making inquiries about beta readers. More doesn’t mean better, though. You still want people who are readers and/or knowledgeable about writing and who will give you an honest opinion.
- Show your appreciation. I always make sure to send my readers a finished copy of my book as well as telling them, “thank you.”
Here are a couple other articles by other writers about getting beta readers.