Having almost finished editing the sequel to my first book, I thought I would blog about my initial experience of using beta readers. Now I have never had any before and got the idea from some of my writer friends on Twitter, so I amassed (I say amassed, really it was just about 15 people this time round!) a group of people who had enjoyed my first book and asked them if they would sign up to beta read for me. I set up a Mail Chimp account – all very new to me – and experimented with using a template to send my first mass email, which wasn’t actually too difficult. I sent a welcome email first, to test the water and the way the system worked, and then emailed out a link to the final draft of my new novel, The Search.
That was quite a while ago now, but since then I have been so pleased with the response that I am set on using beta readers every time in the future! I tried to gather a range of people in terms of age, gender and interests. For example I specifically asked a couple of men who are not at all into “chick lit” to read it and see what their perspective was on the book, as last time I had a few reviews suggesting that I had written something cross-genre, between a thriller and chick-lit. This led to some negative reviews and made me rethink my target audience and genre. I definitely want to learn from any criticism I receive. The range of beta readers also meant that a couple of people managed to finish the book very quickly, as they are retired and have more time on their hands. This was helpful as it meant I could gather some fairly instant responses to gauge how the book was being received. However I also really appreciated some of my beta readers who, despite juggling full time jobs and children, took more time to read the book, but subsequently got back to me with more specific editing ideas and proofreading suggestions.
Overall, the beta readers restored my faith that I can write and that my book is entertaining. They also used their eagle eyes to spot the odd small typo I had made, which has allowed me to correct before publishing, thus making my product more professional. Finally, am very thankful to those who noticed inconsistencies in the story, such as a character being extremely badly injured in a car crash and then arriving only one day later, a cast on his leg but otherwise seemingly unaffected by the accident. Some rewrites later, the scene makes far more sense and I’m much happier with it.
So having errors pointed out to you by a beta reader pre-publishing or an unhappy reader slamming you in an Amazon review? I know which I would rather!