Getting the most from beta readers


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Thread: Getting the most from beta readers

  1. #1

    Getting the most from beta readers

    I've seen that some people send out structured questionnaires, others just accept whatever free-form advice comes and anything in between.

    I've seen people recommend anything between 1-5 beta readers. Even saw one place that said 20, but it looks like an outlier.

    Some recommend using other writers while others say to avoid them as they have a writer's eye, not a reader's eye.

    How do you go about it?

  2. #2
    Personally, I'm part of a private writer's group that is made up of, at present, 26 published authors (self and trade published) as well as a bunch of people who are family, friends, etc. of the authors involved. We work only on completed manuscripts in a narrow range of related genres. Whenever someone is ready for betas, they put up a link to their book and whoever wants to do so, does. I typically get responses from 20-30 people. Most of us use Google Docs or Survey Monkey or whatever to post questionnaires so that we can get specific questions asked, although most have a "general critique" section where people can tell us whatever they want to about the work. It works really well IMO. You aren't forced to read things you either don't want to read or don't have time for, but there are enough responses to make the process worthwhile.

  3. #3
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    Both sides give different benefits, I suppose.

    Having fellow writers as beta reader supposedly they will be more reasonable and able to give inputs from technical standpoint - as we can see from this forums.

    Whereas having non-writers/readers supposedly will serve you more blatantly and on the downside can very much possibly biased and selfish, careless attitude (the "it sucks coz I don't like, follow what I say if you want success"-type of person), with potential in borderline conceited behavior and underestimating towards the process (the "How hard can this be? All you need to do is just [insert invalid tips they have no idea about]-type of person).

    IMO we need both, but we need to keep the door unlocked when we are in the room with non-writers/readers beta readers, so that once they're putting their feet on the table, starting to shove their words as irrefutable fact that has to be followed, then we must know that it's time to leave.

  4. #4
    I gladly took anyone I could get. Beta readers aren't easy to find and you never know who will notice something you missed.

    I didn't use questionnaires or in any other method of influencing what they focused on because I wanted their input, whatever stood out to them enough to mention. That may well differ from whatever questions I might think to ask them.
    Last edited by Ma'am; February 4th, 2020 at 03:25 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ma'am View Post
    I gladly took anyone I could get. Beta readers aren't easy to find and you never know who will notice something you missed.

    I didn't use questionnaires or in any other method of influencing what they focused on because I wanted their input, whatever stood out to them enough to mention. That may well differ from whatever questions I might think to ask them.
    This right here. It's very difficult for me to get anyone, writer or non-writer, to want to spend their time to read my stuff and give me their opinion. However, if you clearly are not enjoying the work and have to be a jerk about it all throughout your critique, then just don't finish it. I'd rather you didn't finish it than be a jerk. I want constructive criticism, not criticism showing me how much of a douche you can be.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    Personally, I'm part of a private writer's group that is made up of, at present...
    I can see how such a group would be beneficial. How do you sort through 20-30 responses? Sift through them looking for patterns?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir-KP View Post
    Both sides give different benefits, I suppose.

    Having fellow writers as beta reader supposedly they will be more reasonable and able to give inputs from technical standpoint - as we can see from this forums...
    Do you find you need more readers than you would writers, to smooth out the noise readers can generate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ma'am View Post
    I didn't use questionnaires or in any other method of influencing what they focused on because I wanted their input, whatever stood out to them enough to mention. That may well differ from whatever questions I might think to ask them.
    It should be easy enough to have both a say what you want section and a few questions if there is something in particular you need feedback on.

    Quote Originally Posted by tepelus View Post
    It's very difficult for me to get anyone, writer or non-writer, to want to spend their time to read my stuff and give me their opinion...
    I'll start to look for betas soonish so guess i'll find out. I'll probably start here. I'll also have to become a beta - always been a bit reluctant as i'm terse with my feedback: if i thought something was good and i couldn't spot any real problems i'll just say 'good'. A questionnaire would probably help get more out of me.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by epimetheus View Post
    I can see how such a group would be beneficial. How do you sort through 20-30 responses? Sift through them looking for patterns?
    When reading through free-form responses, I take a lot of notes. Where crits start to mention the same things, I take notice.

  8. #8
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epimetheus View Post
    Do you find you need more readers than you would writers, to smooth out the noise readers can generate?
    Definitely. While professional and seasoned writers can give weighty insight, there are some flavor of feedback that only 'commoners' and amateurs could give.

    I've gotten such much more on other art forms, such as drawing, general graphic design, and photography. So long we can pick the bad apples away, IMO they can be useful.

  9. #9
    Anything more than one beta is good.
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    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

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  10. #10
    I'm doing a beta for someone currently and I'm going beyond the norm by making suggestions about language etc. that should probably be the remit of an editor and proofreader. I'm okay with doing that because there aren't any strict time constraints.


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