As always, if this is the first Road to Self Publishing post you’ve read, check out the master post here. It’ll take you through the whole series.
So, you’ve written and re-written your book several times now. You’ve gone over it with a fine-toothed comb. It’s as close to perfect as you can make it. The works over, right? No. Like every other blogger who’s gone through the self-publishing gauntlet, I’ve discovered that there is so much to do after I’ve hit my final draft. The things I have left, in no particular order are:
- Have my final draft beta-read
- Have at least one copy edit done
- Get my cover up to par (more on that in a later post)
- Choose publishing packages/vendors
- Figure out how to market this thing
Honestly, I’ve probably forgotten something, but that’s still a lot of stuff. So, where do we start? Well, currently, my book is good as I can make it alone, so I’m going with the first two. Specifically, I’m having my draft beta-read right now.
Why get your stuff beta-read? What’s it consist of? How do you do it? Who do you pick?! All valid questions here, and ones I asked myself before (and maybe I still am) I got it out there.
Let’s tackle the big question first. It’s also the one with the simplest answer. Why? I’m the author, why should I let other people tear it apart before it’s even published? The reason is up top. You’ve gone through the draft several times already, you practically have the thing memorized. If you were going to catch something, you’d have caught it by now. You need another pair of eyes (or several) to take a look at it from a different perspective and catch things you’ve been missing. FYI: this is also my argument for getting a real copy-edit done on your book. You need someone who hasn’t already glossed over your typo 50 times to look over it.
We know why, but who’s going to do it? Ideally, you’d have a diverse set of readers, with some preferably from your target audience. Many writers get their beta-readers from their writing group. But, what if you don’t have a writing group? I don’t. Well, then get your readers from anywhere and everywhere. Hit up your friends that are writers or avid readers. Hit up your friends that aren’t writers or avid readers, but maybe read a couple books a year. You definitely want some people who know what they’re doing with story and whatnot, but you also want some people who are maybe a little closer to your target audience (unless your target audience is writers, I don’t know you). Getting a good mix will help you get more diversity in your feedback. Finally, there’s always the internet. The NaNoWriMo site has excellent forums that actually operate year-round. Hit up the non-November sections and see if anybody wants to help out. There’s also Wattpad. This one is less about finding private beta-readers and more about posting it there to be read and reviewed by others on the site. I’ve personally not used it (yet), but it’s got good reviews, and you retain any copyright you give your work, they take none. The only catch, of course, is that you’ve just now posted it in a public forum, which you may not want to do. Lastly, there are a few Reddit groups worth checking out for this type of thing.
The first one is /r/writing. Use the weekly critique thread (located at the top) to find someone to read your stuff. One caveat here is that they may frown on you doing that if you haven’t been part of the community before. Don’t worry though, they’re usually pretty friendly people. /r/WritersGroup tries to make a sort of online writing group type thing. Like the first, they are pretty community focused, but having a community you can go to can’t hurt, right? Finally, if your self-confidence can stand it, there’s /r/DestructiveReaders. This one is exactly what it says on the tin. You put your stuff up and people give you only the most brutally honest feedback. Great if that’s what you need. Stay away if you have shaky self-confidence.
We’ve found out who’s going to read it, now what do I do? Well, first, unless you’ve decided to post to Wattpad, your first task will be to get it into a format that’s easily read. After all, you don’t want to give them a messy Word document, or worse, a Scrivener file. Print it out for them if that’s what they prefer (and I do recommend being as accommodating as possible, they’re helping you out, after all). For converting it to various digital files, see my earlier post, First Draft Done, Now What?
You’ve given it to them, now what? My suggestion: just leave them alone for awhile. I wouldn’t really prime them much for what’s going on. They really need to go into it with a clear head. While they’re reading, you can do things like make up a little questionnaire or survey and ask them questions about what you might thing are weak points in the story. If you trust your readers, trust them. They’ll tell you what they liked and didn’t like. They might not know how to fix what they think is wrong with it, but you’ll want to ignore most “fixing” suggestions anyway. That’s less likely to help you out than simply identifying what’s wrong.
And that’s it! Beta-reading is over and now it’s time to move on to the next on a seemingly-endless list of tasks before you publish, and maybe even another draft! If that’s in the cards, go back and check out What’s a Revision Anyway?
Next post: The Hardest Writing