The Value of Sensitivity & Beta Readers

Kevin G.

If you’re an Indie author like me, you probably already know the value of beta readers.  In a well-planned book production process, you should send out an early manuscript (even before you send it to your editor) for beta reading. After you have completed a first draft (or second, or third), when you think the story is pretty well finished, beta readers give you feedback you can only get from the perspective of different eyes.
This is not the copy edit. It’s when you find out that there’s a huge plot hole you didn’t see, or a logical jump you need to explain, or a character whose personality changes without explanation between chapter 2 and chapter 22.
You need to cultivate a bench of beta readers who are objective, tough, creative, and who will tell it to you straight when you need to change something in your story. Having many different people read your draft will always improve your book, and you should always want to improve each book. Therefore, you should welcome critical comments and use them to fix your draft. Editors are wonderful, but you want the manuscript you send to your editor to be the best it can be. Plus, no matter how good your editor is, he or she can’t see every flaw and fix every problem.
The Value of Beta Readers
Here’s a perfect example from my own writing. I published book three in my Mike Stoneman Crime-Thriller series, "Lethal Voyage", in November of 2020. In June, after I finished the first draft, I sent it out to 10 beta readers. Among other useful critical comments, 7 of the 10 readers told me there was a serious lack of action between chapters 3 and 19.
In chapter 19, the book really starts moving along when one of the characters aboard the cruise ship is found dead, having fallen (or jumped, or was thrown) from her balcony and landed on a lifeboat five floors below. Was it a suicide? An accident? Or a murder? If the book started there, it would be an action-packed story.
It would also be only about 50,000 words. My beta readers told me I needed to cut down the description of life aboard the cruise ship, and the subplots involving the relationships between the characters. I needed to “get to the action” quicker.

Read the entire article in the April 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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