Beta Readers FAQs

Current status as of January 3, 2017: Beta reading will reopen in January 2017.

(You can sign up below.)


What is beta reading?
What will I be reading?
Have you done this before?
What do you need from me?
Do you have any examples?
What if I have some bad news?
Deadlines? What deadlines?
What’s this about Dropbox or Kindle?
Can I share or discuss the story with other people?
Where do I sign up to beta read?


 

What is beta reading?

Good authors never send their books into the world without getting some feedback first. It’s very easy for writers to overlook the flaws in our own works. That’s why outside feedback is so important.

One way to get outside feedback is to send a book to an editor. Editors are great resources because they have experience refining novels to be as strong as they can be. They know a great deal about books, grammar, and even the publishing market.

But beta readers are just that — readers. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if one particular editor likes our work. Writers need readers. Getting a variety of opinions and impressions on what worked and what didn’t in the story is extremely helpful in making a book fun and interesting and cool.

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What will I be reading?

The current title of Book 1 is Riftblade, with a subtitle of World Asunder. The epic fantasy series will consist of 4 books, called The Rifts of Renjian.

The magic in this world revolves around whether an enchanter is born in the summer or winter. (Sorry, children of spring and fall, you have no magic powers!)

Riftblade currently sits around 97,000 words. (Compare to other books here to help visualize what this means… Zoom in.)

Here’s my synopsis so far:

Kanenn is a good soldier, but when his entire battalion is slaughtered by invading enchanters, he can do nothing to stop them. A lone enchanter throws him from the battlefield, leaving him the sole survivor. Now he must reconcile his people’s desire for vengeance with the knowledge that the enchanters aren’t all fighting on the same side.

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Have you done this before?

Yes, I put The Last of the Ageless through two rounds of beta reading. Thanks to readers like you, it maintains above a 4-star average on Amazon and Goodreads!

I admit to being somewhat demanding as far as beta reading goes. I’ll expect you to keep as close to those deadlines as you can, so that I can revise while you’re reading the next chapters.

See the deadlines section below.

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What do you need from me?

What I need most are your impressions. If I could ride along with you and read your mind as you looked at the story, I’d know exactly what needs improved upon. But I’m no telepath! So I need you to tell me what you thought at the end of each chapter, or what confused you, or where you got bored.

Honestly answering a few of these questions after reading each chapter will help:

  • What’s working? What isn’t?
  • What keeps you in the story? What throws you out?
  • Do the characters’ actions ring true?
  • Are the characters interesting?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Is the world I’ve created consistent and believable?
  • What do you think I could do to make this scene even better?

Once I have your feedback, I can evaluate what I’m trying to accomplish in that particular scene, and decide how to strengthen it.

You can also feel free to give me line-edits, punctuation, or word choice suggestions, but my editors and proofreader will take care of those later.

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Do you have any examples?

Here are examples of the type of feedback I’d appreciate receiving:

  • I’m confused by this paragraph. (Point out the paragraph)
  • The big battle felt anticlimactic for me because there wasn’t much tension beforehand.
  • Ricton is always angry at everything. It gets old by Chapter 6.
  • I don’t understand why Sora reacted this way.
  • Every time I see a chapter from Ricton’s point of view, I feel bored and wish I could skip ahead to a Sora chapter.
  • I thought Sora’s special powers let her do A, but instead she did B in this scene. This wasn’t well-explained beforehand.

Impressions are also helpful, because they let me peek into your head and understand whether or not I’m revealing information quickly enough in the story. A few examples:

  • I understand that Sora’s special powers let her do this and this, so I bet that will become important in later chapters.
  • I totally agree with Ricton’s anger at Sora in this chapter!
  • I think this detail is foreshadowing and will be important sometime later.
  • I’m really enjoying the scenery through here.
  • I’m dying to know what happens next!

With your help, I want to make this the best book it can be before I publish it next year!

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What if I have some bad news?

Like that you think the story is boring, clichéd, and stupid? If it’s really that bad, this book may just not be for you, especially if you don’t usually read science fiction or fantasy.

But if you’ve noticed a major problem with the book and aren’t sure how to give me the disappointing news, here are some suggestions:

  • Say right up front that it’s your opinion, even if you’re 100% right
  • Soften the bad news with some good news
  • Avoid sounding like you’re critiquing the author personally (in other words, avoid saying “you”) — instead say something like “I prefer” or “I felt”
  • Avoid exclamation points or all caps
  • Use tactful phrasing, starting with: I noticed, to me it seemed like, you might consider, have you thought about, possibly, maybe
  • Avoid phrases like: you need to, you have to, you must, you shouldn’t, you can’t, don’t, never, always

For more advice on giving bad news and being a diplomatic critiquer, visit this page. (Note: It’s not on my site.)

Or if for some reason you’re not going to be able to finish beta reading for me, just let me know as soon as you can. And if you’re still interested in reading future books for me, I’ll put you in the stasis chamber for next time.

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Deadlines? What deadlines?

Although I self-publish my novels, that doesn’t mean I don’t have deadlines. I need to get the novel off to the editor with respect to her schedule. I’ll expect you to keep as close to my deadlines as you can, so that I have time to revise based on your feedback before sending it off to my editor.

So for January 2017, you’ll need to finish reading the entire book and send me your feedback two weeks after I first send it over to you! If you survive this crucible, your name will appear in the print and ebook Acknowledgments!

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What’s this about BookFunnel?

BookFunnel is an awesome service that allows me to send you secret codes so you can download the ebook version to whatever device you prefer. Here’s how it works:

  • I’ll beam a new file to you using BookFunnel.
  • You’ll use the code to download it or beam it directly to your ereader, Kindle, tablet, smartphone, or other app or device of choice.
  • You’ll send your feedback to me via email.
  • I’ll email you more detailed instructions once you sign up.

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Can I share or discuss the story with other people?

When you beta read for me, any of the work I send you must remain confidential. You shouldn’t divulge any story situations, characters, or plot points, or even anything you see other beta readers mention.

Why?
If I heavily revise the novel based on your and other beta readers’ feedback, but you publicly mention details that I significantly changed, it would confuse future readers of the published work.

To be clear, no one has my permission to share beta reading files with anyone else.

What you CAN divulge
If you’re excited about the story, definitely feel free to share that! Also, feel free to tell people you’re a beta reader for me, and if they’re interested, you can have them sign up as a beta reader, too.

Talking to other beta readers
Please turn in your feedback and wait until after the deadline on that particular chapter/section BEFORE talking to other beta readers about that particular chapter. That way, your review isn’t biased. I’d rather get your uncontaminated and fresh impression.

For instance, if you think Ricton is angry for no reason in this chapter, and then you talk to another beta reader. They tell you Ricton’s angry because Sora’s more powerful than him. So then you decide not to mention that you were confused. But what if I intended for readers to think that Ricton’s actually angry about his father?

That’s another reason it’s good to give me your impressions, rather than just your feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.

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Okay! I’ll beta read for you. Where do I sign up?

Beta reading of Book 1 is in January 2017. Thanks for your interest. Please join us!

Sign Up To Read