This is part 1 in a 3-part series about beta reading.
On my last post, I talked a bit about my marketing plan and a friend of mine, Cassie, left a few great questions!
“I have a question. How did you begin your beta-reading process? What steps did you go through?
Oh, and how do you come up with questions to ask beta readers?”
I realized that I never really talked much about my beta reading process before. I touched a little about how I’ve used beta readers, but not my exact process. So, that’s what this post is about today!
To start off with answering Cassie’s questions, I began my beta reading process with a bunch of research. My research mainly came from YouTube, since there are so many amazing authors over there who have amazing processes and tips on organizing beta readers and feedback. I watched as many videos as I could find, taking all of their tips and tricks and morphing them together into some sort of modge-podge of beta reading guidelines that I wanted to use.
I knew I didn’t want to send the manuscript all at once. That would be easiest for the readers, but it would provide the least detailed amount of feedback. With an entire manuscript to look over (in most of my cases, over 70k words), a lot of things can get lost if you’re doing one report of feedback at the end. That’s why I decided to break my beta reading files into chapters. Five at a time. For WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR?, I had five rounds of beta reading. Chapters 1-5, chapters 6-10, chapters 11-15, chapters 16-20, and chapters 21-25. I spread it over five weeks—the readers would have one week to finish a collection of five chapters. It actually worked pretty well! Plus another advantage of separating the chapters like that is that it totally weeded out those who weren’t really interested in helping me grow the book. It gave me a little peace of mind too, knowing that if anyone were malicious enough to try and steal my book, they only got little segments at a time.
And there were times when I stopped asking people to beta read. If they were too vague on answering my questions or their timelines were a bit too busy to send the feedback in on time, I politely told thanked them for their help and that I’d let them know if I needed them again.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: What were the questions? How did you find those beta readers? How did you weed out the bad ones?
I’m glad you asked!
When it came time for beta readers, I sent out a blast to my platforms. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my newsletter, even my Tumblr account. It was a “Calling All YA Romance Readers” kind of post. If you want an example, there are two blog posts on my community blog page that you can check out. On the social media sites, I asked for beta readers using the link to that post. Whoever wanted to sign up was directed to that post, which had a link to the sign up application questionnaire.
So I use a form site called JotForm for my questionnaires. I have three in total. In this post, we’ll be going over the Beta Reader Application.
So, of course, I ask for their name. I have to know who I’m working with! I usually ask first and last, though some people just put their last initial.
I also ask for their email, so I know how to contact them if I choose them. I used to send a confirmation email when they sent in the application, but a few people confused that with actual confirmation that they were chosen to beta read. To make things a bit simpler, I just emailed them if I chose them to help me.
I asked them how they heard about the beta reading project. I wanted to know exactly where they were coming from, so I could fact-check. It was a multiple choice question with all of the places I’d announced the beta reading. If they chose, say, Instagram, I could find their account and see if they were even following me.
Which leads me to asking for their social media handle. It helps with the fact-checking process.
I also go over the timeline, and whether or not they can stick to it. It’s something good to have answered up front and repeated, so there are no surprises later. But life does happen, so that’s okay too!
What genre do they read? That’s an important question. Even though variety is good, you wouldn’t want someone who only reads scifi-fantasy to read a romance novel, especially if they never read romances.
I ask them how old they are, even though that’s supposedly a “rude question.” But it also helps with the feedback. Like I said above, variety is good, but knowing what spectrum you’re working with is important.
I ask them have they ever beta read before? This one is kind of just a question for me. It’s not a deciding factor on whether or not I’ll choose them for beta reading, but it is nice to know ahead of time what quality of feedback I might receive.
How do they like their document? Do they prefer Word docs, PDFs, or Google Docs? I want to make this process as painless for them as possible, so I offer whichever form they prefer!
I also have a question that’s along the lines of if they’re chosen, do they agree not to disclose any information and keep everything confidential? If they vote yes, awesome! If no, then that’s a quick line through their name. (No one’s voted no as of yet—I feel like I would laugh out loud if someone would.)
I ask them if they have any questions for me before we start the process. A catch-all for any final things they might be curious about on my end.
And finally, I require their signature. It just agrees that they know this manuscript is under copyright and that they’ll be willing to keep everything confidential.
I feel like these are questions that really helped me understand who is applying and where exactly they’re coming from. Weeding out the scammers or spammers, finding the people who are genuinely curious and interested in helping me in my journey. So far, only people who are interested have applied. Since everyone was interested, I was forced to break it down a bit further. Who reads in my target genre, who has a good social media profile (and by good I mean kind. I definitely don’t want any bullies reading my stuff!), and things like that.
I’ll be going into Part Two next week, where I’ll talk about what I ask for my Chapters Feedback Questionnaire and why I asked these specific questions to get specific feedback. In Part Three, I’ll talk about the Final Feedback Questionnaire I ask my betas to answer, and how I found these questions to be the most detailed for when I move onto the next draft.
Have you gone through a beta reading process before? What was your experience like? Leave a comment down below!
My YA Romance, WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR?, is out NOW! It's available on both ebook and paperback.