The Process: Part Two – Beta Readers

When I’ve edited a piece and polished it to shiny brilliance, I send it to my beta readers. Some are selected for their linguistic skills, some for their knowledge of genre, all for their love of words and story. And all are trusted individuals. Deeply, deeply trusted.

My beta readers can only read the book for the first time once. I need to use that to best effect. The version they see is usually something I feel ready to send to an agent or publisher. By the time my books reach my beta readers, there shouldn’t be many minor edits left. There also shouldn’t be major plot holes, characterization issues, or head jumping (problems with POV). Finding and fixing those is my job.

A book reads very differently as a document on a computer screen. Because of that, I usually ask my beta readers to read my books on their phone. If they’ll be reading it on a tablet, I’ll sometimes even format the document to look like an eBook.

I want their experience to be as close as possible to what my readers will see when the book is published. I include a title page, dedication, the works. There’s a back-jacket blurb, table of contents, I even put in a dedication. In some pieces, there’s a teaser page. Not only does this make it more fun for them to read, it is a great reward to see what the book would look like “on the shelf.”

We meet for dinner or coffee and then I think over their comments and decide on my next steps. It could be back to the editing board or I might dive right into the synopsis. In the end, I’ve at least had the fun of sharing my work with someone else and hopefully a helpful boost in getting it ready to query.

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