As any seasoned author knows, you can only revise a manuscript for so long before it all just blends together. You can no longer tell whether the plot is compelling, the characters are interesting, or if it’s just a mess that belongs in the trash. (It doesn’t, we promise, but it sure can feel like it). This is why beta readers, or “early” readers who go over a manuscript before it’s published and give feedback, are vital. But you need to understanding the proper protocol of collecting feedback from beta readers.
Beta readers provide authors with a “temperature reading” of their work-in-progress and a reader’s perceptions. They help clarify confusing sections and/or areas for improvement. Beta readers aren’t usually professionally trained editors. Their job is not to fix grammatical errors—though some of them might do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Beta readers are meant to give you their overall thoughts on the content itself. This allows you to see it from their perspective rather than your own as the writer—a far-less-detailed developmental edit, essentially. (Looking for a professional editor to provide in-depth feedback on your manuscript? Contact Midnight Publishing’s award-winning editors to schedule a complimentary sample edit!)
In order to utilize your beta readers’ gracious thoughts and time, it’s important to streamline the process. This means following the protocol of collecting feedback from beta readers, as well as understanding how to process it.
Four Proper Ways to Collect Feedback from Beta Readers
1. Ask your beta reader how they plan to read the manuscript and accommodate them.
Some beta readers may want to read the book on their computer, while others prefer to tuck into it via an e-reader or tablet. There are several ways you can send your manuscript to beta readers. It depends on your needs and their technological availability. The easiest choices include an emailed Microsoft Word file or shared via cloud software like Google Drive, or an emailed PDF file.
2. Microsoft Word’s track changes tool is your best friend (or Google Drive’s “suggesting” option).
The reason you’ve enlisted a beta reader is for their feedback. So the best way to properly collect a beta reader’s feedback is having them utilize editing/commenting capabilities within the document. Microsoft Word offers a handy “track changes” tool that allows people to highlight a spot in the document. Then they can comment directly beside it in the margins. (Beta readers must select Review from the options bar at the top, turn Track Changes on, and select All Markup to see their in-line changes in red.) If they don’t have Microsoft Word, beta readers can still leave comments through the free software Google Drive using the “suggesting” option.
3. Provide a list of questions for valuable, applicable responses.
Some beta readers may inherently know what type of feedback you’re looking for. Just to be safe, the best way to make sure you collect beta reader feedback that is useful is by sending them a list of what to look for and tell you about. Example questions to include are:
-Were there any areas in which you became bored or disinterested?
-Were there any characters or parts of dialogue you felt weren’t interesting or seemed two-dimensional?
-Did you notice any turns of phrase or specific words that were overused or felt repetitive?
4. Thank your beta readers in the acknowledgments.
Don’t forget to give your beta readers a proper thank you in the acknowledgments portion of your book. This shows you appreciate their valuable responses. Those beta readers who actually send feedback back on time have generously read a manuscript before it is even proofread. In this time of busy schedules and flaky individuals, they deserve to be honored for their service!
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