How I write my novels a 10 step beginners guide. Step 9: Get some beta readers!

In How to begin your novel in 10 steps, On writing on April 30, 2013 at 5:35 am


Writing a novel can be a daunting task. I know because it’s taken me 7 years to complete my first one.  However, writing is easier for me now, than when I started. I realize that there are many of you who want to write that first novel, so let me lend my acquired experience to make your journey easier.

I have 10 steps that I realized I have used to complete my book.  During the next 10 weeks I’m going to provide you with the actual and specific tools that have used.  I am going to put them up on this blog for you to see, and I am going to give them away to you for free!  Yes, free because I want you to be successful! I know that they will work for you  some of you are more computer literate than others, so my tools are going to help you no matter what level of proficiency you have in software or hardware.  All you need is a desire to learn, and a willingness to implement the steps.

Ok here is step nine: get some beta readers.

A beta reader (or betareader, or beta) is a person who reads a work of fiction with a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the public.

Another way to think of a beta reader is as a product development tester.  Essentially, you have someone who represents a sample demographic of the market for your book to gauge consumer reaction.

I like the idea personally of a beta reader being more than someone who checks for grammar, spelling and the like.  But thinking of this person(s) as representative of your selling demographic will really tell you if your writing is connecting with your audience, and what you might need to do to improve.

Where can you find beta readers?

Well there are various areas that you can look.  A few of the best I’ll just list out and link for you.

  1. Family/Friends
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Good Reads

What are the basic steps?

  1. Send out your manuscript.
  2. Get back the replies.
  3. Go through the replies, and thank each person by email phone or a mailed note.
  4. Follow up and see if they are willing to look at further work
  5. Determine if their input warrants changes to your draft.

Things to watch out for

People who don’t respond!  Yep you might have some that say will do it, you provide them with the information but they simply don’t follow up, or through for whatever reason.  This is why you want more than just a couple of readers.

Secondly be very clear on what you’re looking for from a reader.  Having a reader tell you the story was good.  Or it was awful wont help you become a better writer.  What was awful?  Why?  The more you can help focus your reader on monitoring how they are interfacing with your work the better off you will be.

Thirdly, you have to decide how much of your work you want to give out.  Will it be a couple of pages?  A scene of work?  A chapter?  The whole novel?

My recommendation is that you give out based on do you trust the person to not ‘steal your work, and are they providing feedback?

Register with the copyright office. The best way to protect yourself legally from any copying is by registering your material with the US copyright office ( While each and every material produced by you is automatically copyrighted upon publishing, registering with the Copyright office will give you more extensive legal rights. In the event that someone publishes material that is exactly the same or similar to yours, having a formal copyright will make it easier for you to prove first instance, which means that you are the first author of the work.

Send any correspondence via email. The email provides documentation that you are the source of the material.

Typical Beta reader questions

Interest:  Does the story hold your attention

Were you ever bored during the story?

Was your mind ever wandering?

Can you tell me in the story where it happened?  Where do you remember losing interest?

World creation: is more detail needed?

Was there ever an occasion during the story where it seemed not “believable”?

Was there a point where you said, “Oh come on!” or where they any “logical fallacies” which you noticed?

Exposition: How was it handled?

Where in the story were you confused?

Was there anything you had to read twice?

Are there characters you found you didn’t care about?

Did you like the character(s)?

Did you hate the character(s)?

Did you keep forgetting who the characters were?

Was there any plot questions left unresolved for you?

Tension: Are the plot lines resolved?

What do you think will happen next?

What are you still wondering about?

Remember  the reader is reporting on their experience of what they are reading…their opinions are not wrong.  They are helping you to acquire great clues on how a reader is interfacing with your writing.

Again always make sure you tell your readers thank you!


  1. Timely post, thanks! My novel manuscript is currently with six beta readers out of a total seven. Only one — an author swap of the you-read-mine-I’ll-read-yours variety — has responded so far. I encouraged everyone to take as much time as needed and they certainly are. Sounds like this is a common situation, busy people, busy lives and all that. I’m bookmarking your excellent list of questions. What’s your magic number for beta readers? And I don’t want to badger these kind volunteers, so how long do I wait before I look elsewhere for feedback?

    • Hey Cyndi!

      I’m glad you like the article. I would say don’t wait at all. Go find some more beta readers. Join an online group, check in with LinkedIn, or Google +, for great groups where you can find persons who would be interested in doing it. There’s no need to wait and hold things up on your end while your waiting for responses from people you’ve already queried to read. Just keep pressing to find new people until you get the sufficient level of input you think you need. I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: