How do you know if you have the right beta readers?

Not that I’ve ever published a book, but I recently saw someone who wrote a book, a sci-fi and fantasy, it was self-published I believe, but it’s clear this person did NOT go through a team of beta readers. Sure, the editing was up to par and everything, but everything else (from storyline, to world building, to character arcs, logic, to needs and wants) …it was literally a book of what NOT to do.

Either this author did not have beta readers…(which I find hard to believe. This person is much too bright to be doing something like that) …or this person’s friends did them DIRTY. At least that’s what the 100+ comments said in GoodReads.

Which leads me to ask, how do you know you have the right beta readers? Cause now I’m paranoid people are just trying to be nice. Which in itself can be dangerous as well.

2 Likes

Oh, I think that’s the million-dollar question. First and foremost, you need people who will be honest with you. Your close friends and family probably will not be honest with you out of fear of hurting your feelings. You also need a good assortment of beta readers. Not all betas are equal. I’ve had some who will point out every little grammatical error and inconsistency…but they don’t know a whole lot about the mechanics of writing, and I’ve had some who will pick apart the writing, and some who will say “Hey, I loved this” at the end without offering much more to me in the way of feedback. Obviously, the first two types are more helpful.

As far as knowing if you have the right betas, really, the more the merrier and the more varied, the more opportunities you might strike gold in that department. I’m not sure you can really know if the readers were right unless you land an agent or sell a whole lot of books.

On another note, I always worry about them just being nice. I make it clear that “nice”, though it’s great for the ego, it doesn’t get me any closer to my goal, that I need honesty at the very least.

2 Likes

I wouldn’t know, as I really haven’t put my stuff forward for reading like that.

But I can tell how disjointed a story is without a reader to tell me. That’s part of what’s grinding my gears about my NaNo.

But to consider a reader a “Beta Reader”, for me?

I’ve got to be challenged by them.

Otherwise it’s just a friend reading for fun.

I love the way you put that. I think that’s really sound advice.

I’m trying like hell to keep much of what I’m doing in the “for fun”
category, right now. But some day, since I write well enough for it to be better, I’m going to have to shift to being a bit more serious. Lol

If all my beta readers came from one bucket of my readership on Wattpad, everyone else would tell me to fire them because they were eviscerating me for no reason; if the groups were swapped, everyone else would complain the betas I’d found were too nice. We’re biased to think that a beta reader’s only done their job correctly, as a third party, if we agree with their results. If I traveled back in time and sent Nabokov Harry Potter and asked him to give it the feedback it needed, he’d toss it in an incinerator, and any modern editor would do the same for Lolita, but at the same time neither party would be too wrong. Most here, on Wattpad, and I’d wager on Goodreads would side against Nabokov on this one—feel free to substitute any modern writer with a comparable style if you think he’s old-fashioned—but that’s a product of demographics and not one side being the arbiter of literary justice.

Also consider that people simply might have tastes that predispose them toward “bad” writing. I have some very intelligent friends whose idea of a good novel is schlock everyone here would toss into the aforementioned incinerator. They, in good faith, would approve of the exact sort of novels that people online would castigate for not being beta read. History is written by the winners.

4 Likes

They don’t bs you and are fair and explain thing well.

1 Like

If editing is fine and they self-publish, they can have whatever story they want.

I workshop every book & do my best to look at the variety of opinions/where people come from. Say, if more jaded writers react with skepticism when my teenage lead tosses away a golden opportunity he thinks rightfully belongs to his friend, and the young readers go, he’s so loyal, wub! and the book is YA, I cross my fingers that my instinct is right.

The day one of my books explodes in reads, I would know that I finally hit the jackpot.

2 Likes

They aren’t a blind fan or a wet blanket. The beta reader must be somewhat invested in the story and have the skills to articulate clearly the strengths and weaknesses of your work.

2 Likes

Hmm. I had a (small) group of beta readers. From that experience, I think the most useful beta readers are definitely someone you have a good repour with, someone who knows their shit, and someone who’s at least a little invested in your story. It’s good to have harsh criticism (the grammar nazi beta readers are especially useful) but it would be a drag if someone who despised your story was a beta reader constantly criticizing it. Why some of what they say might be useful, could also just lead to an unwanted negative experience.

2 Likes

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.