One of my beta readers Jack from Arizona recently asked me what I look for in terms of feedback when I test books. I thought it was a great question, and something which is still evolving. Since BookHive Corp. soft launched in January 2015, I’m learning something every time we work on a new manuscript. First off, when recruiting beta readers, I of course consult with the author who they think their best demographic would be. From there we nail down the gender breakdown and age range. Internally when I recruit, I’m looking for beta readers that seem like they would naturally pick up the manuscript we are testing off the shelf. I always send the synopsis to the prospective beta readers, and from there, they get to choose if it’s a fit for them to test.
The BookHive report captures the overview reader experience while being very specific. Each author will receive responses from eight to ten beta readers. Our questions probe about which characters are captivating, writing style, which parts slow down, the effectiveness of the ending, and so on. The raw data is about 35+ pages of feedback, both qualitative and quantitative. For instance, if an author receives low quantitative numbers on how hooked beta readers were after the first ten pages, we can look to the qualitative to hopefully answer why. As a general rule, I look for more than two or three beta readers to remark on something to flag it for the author. But even then, research isn’t the law of course. It’s a guidepost of suggestions for the author to consider. If three or more beta readers find a character less than engaging or the ending unsatisfying, personally, I’d take a look. The BookHive report can also solidify what is working, which is equally important.
I look for a few things in my beta readers. It really takes them testing a book for me to get a feel of their style. First off, I expect them to be kind. I’ve had a select few beta readers test manuscripts that they didn’t end up liking, but there’s a way to express that without being snide or cruel. If I see that kind of response, I will take out that whole beta readers replies. I would never want my author to feel attacked.
Mostly I’m looking for them to be specific and honest. I have an internal verbosity meter so I do keep track of how people respond. All ways are fine. But my hope as I continue on, is to have a mix of beta readers per testing, those that are succinct, those that are in the middle, and the great orators via print.
Lastly I’m trying to fine tune the process of linking the right manuscript with the right beta readers As I’m building my data base of diverse and eloquent beta readers, it’s a main drive I have. I want to provide a process that goes beyond friends and family for the author.
Thanks to Jack for asking this question!
And to everyone, what do you think makes a great beta reader?
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial feedback for authors. Coupon code BUZZ takes $100 off. Visit us at: https://www.bookhivecorp.com
Jennifer Bowen, QueenBee/CEO, of BookHive Corp.