Pulling the Trigger on Publishing: Beta Readers

I don’t have too much to say today, the cold hasn’t gone away as quickly as I’d hoped and I’m a big baby so ya’ll get the short end of that stick.

What I do have to say involves how you choose your beta readers and how you react to them afterwards.

The people I have read my work are people close to me, whose opinion I trust for a variety of reasons. My wife is honest, reads a wide variety of fiction, and is someone who’s opinion I value immensely. My mother is the person who brought me into fantasy and science fiction and has an immense collection of books going back thirty years, everything from Tolkien and Stephen R. Donaldson to C. H. Cherryh and C.S. Friedman). I have a few other people as well, but I’m focusing on these two.

These two people stand on different ends of the spectrum. One is an avid fan of the genre, loves the monsters, the magic, the theory behind whatever the hook of the story is; the Force, the elfstones, how the navigator folds space for intergalactic travel. The other couldn’t care less, and just looks at the story, and tends to skim all those details. Honestly, I can’t even begin to understand how she reads a book because she pieces together the theme without remembering any of the details.

When I first presented my work to them, I did not make myself clear as to what I wanted. I just told them to let me know what stood out and what they didn’t like.

Big mistake, and for two reasons.

First, from a personal standpoint, it didn’t give me any gratification. This was the first time anyone had ever read anything I’d written. I grilled my wife after every chapter about every detail, most of which she skimmed right over because that’s how she reads. Secondly, I wasn’t getting the information I needed. She became continually more and more frustrated with my pestering and I had to lay off.

My take the second time around will have a few generic questions.

  1. What did you like and don’t want to see change/cut?
  2. What bored you?
  3. What confused you?

This is something I want to grow as I continue, and I think there will probably be specific questions on a few scenes to make sure they’re understood.

The big thing to remember though, is patience. The people who are reading your stuff are taking time out of their day to shuffle through a ream of paper filled with typos and half baked writing (depending on how far along you present it to them). Fit that into your planning, and know what you want. It’ll be different for every person, and every project.

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About enathansisk

My name is Nathan Sisk, and I am a writer and aspiring author.
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