After you type those magic words (THE END) into your manuscript, and you’ve made several passes through it to fix plot holes, grammar errors, and misspelled words, you will want to get some feedback. Many novelists recruit beta readers for this purpose.
Before giving them a draft version of your manuscript, you need to be clear about what you expect from them. Below are the instructions I provided to my beta reader team.
My Beta Reader Team
For my novel, The Thread, I convinced a handful of people whose opinion I respected to be beta readers. The group consisted of:
- My son, who is a published novelist
- A novelist and blogger I met in a critique group
- A school teacher
- Three friends who are avid readers
My Beta Reader Instructions
Before I get into the details, I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for your assistance in completing my first novel.
What is a beta reader? Someone who assists the author by reviewing a pre-release version on a book.
What do I expect? I expect you to be harsh! Tell me what you are really thinking as you are reading. “I wonder why the character didn’t…” or “What the Hell? That came outta nowhere” or “This part seems confusing.”
I am sure you will find typos, grammar errors and missing words. Please mark those so I can clean them up.
But I don’t want that to be your focus. I especially want your feedback on big picture items, like:
- Does the story engage you?
- Is the pacing proper?
- Are there sections that drag?
- Do the characters seem real?
- Do they behave and talk in a consistent manner?
- Did I leave too many clues so that you figured out the ending well in advance?
- Or did I not leave enough, making you feel like I pulled a fast one at the end? (If I did it right, you should be able to look back and think I should have seen that coming.)
I have completely rewritten the story five times, tearing it apart, shuffling scenes, deleting and inserting characters and tweaking the plot. I am worried there may be plot inconsistencies or characters who know things they shouldn’t know until later. So please let me know if you find any of these issues.
Most of all, I want you to enjoy the read.
Oh, how soon do I want replies? I’m hoping to get your feedback within 3-4 weeks, so I can get on with getting this finalized.
Microsoft Word Format (docx)
If you are using MS-Word, please ensure that the “Track Changes” option is turned on (Review Tab), that will enable you to mark typos and add comments. Just save your updates and email the file back to me when you are done.
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Some PDF readers will let you annotate the file. If yours supports that option, then make your notes in the file and return it to me when you finish. If your reader doesn’t let you markup the file, then record your notes in whatever format is easiest for you (paper or electronic) and send them to me when you are done.
Kindle Format (MOBI)
The Kindle format can be read using any Kindle or Kindle App. To transfer it to your device you’ll need to email it to your Kindle’s email address (found under Settings). Be sure to email it from the email address tied to your Kindle, otherwise it will be considered spam and ignored. For help, see this article on Amazon’s site.
Although Kindle will let you highlight and annotate, I don’t know of any way for you to send those to me when you are done, so you’ll have to take external notes that you can send to me when you are done.
Let me know If you have questions or problems with any of the attachments.
Whether you plan to send query letters to literary agents and publishers or self-publish, beta readers are instrumental in getting your novel ready for publication. So be sure to express your appreciation and be prepared to reciprocate.
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My brother recommended joining a critique group. It turned out to be the best writing tip I’ve ever received, not only did I finally receive quality feedback. I found friends who shared common goals.
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