I would think writers of all levels of experience and success would have had some kind of interaction with beta readers. If not, their book is likely terrible and has never seen the light of day. Yikes. I’m already off to a rant-y start to this post.
I think most writers would agree that beta readers are an important part of the book writing process that should be taken seriously. But are beta readers necessarily as important as one might think? For example, let’s say you have a group of ten readers. Let’s say that six of those ten volunteered to read your work. Let’s say that two of those ten never read your genre. And the last two of the ten are your close friends. See what I mean? The first six are very likely to give you positive feedback because they either know your writing or know you or like reading your blog. That isn’t to say they aren’t being honest, but people have a tough time being objective when they like or have a relationship with the person. Your two close friends have heard nothing but stuff about your writing for the last year, they’re not going to shoot down your dreams. And the final two likely won’t like your book much because they don’t like any other books like it.
There are a million different scenarios I could play out, but I think I’ve made my point. The feedback given by beta readers is not always because of the book. There is always something that will sway their judgment operating in the background. Even it it’s unintentional.
My experience with beta readers may or may not have been like that of other writers. First off, I knew all of mine because at the time my blog wasn’t nearly as successful as it is now and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sending my work out to some stranger. I sent my book to nine people, but only four actually read it. Shows how great the people I know are. And the feedback was all over the place. From just four people. Just goes to show that readers are always different.
The only thing I can say about using betas is that you should know exactly what you want from them from the start. I had a list of questions about the plot and characters and just about everything that I had them answer when they finished their reading. I have no idea how other writers do this, but I thought it worked well for me.
My current plan is use all bloggers for my current WIP, but even then the bloggers I have in mind all interact with me regularly. They’re really no different from friends, but at least they’re fellow writers and perhaps this will push their bias aside.
Tell me about your experience with beta readers or about your philosophy when using them.