Beta test your manuscript before you publish
You finally typed THE END. Congratulations! Your accomplishment is noteworthy. I know because I am an author of both fiction and nonfiction books and suffer the inevitable pains and triumphs of the writer’s journey. So, now what? How do you know if your manuscript is ready? The answer is, you beta test your manuscript before you publish.
Underdeveloped writing is one of the top reasons manuscripts are rejected, and self-published books sell poorly. Launching a book too soon is a recipe for disaster. You can avoid this by using beta readers. They will let you know if your work is good enough to compete with the thousands of other books your readers have to choose from in your genre.
Your beta readers will help you weed out any plot holes, confusing scenes, awkward dialog, and lengthy narratives that slow your story. Feedback is how best-sellers are born. Your readers have very definite expectations and unforgiving natures; you may not get a second chance. It’s not all about mistakes and weaknesses; you will get positive feedback that inspires, motivates and validates your efforts.
EVERY new product is beta-tested before launching to the mass market. The results drive the direction of manufacturing and marketing. Beta testing is a vital part of product development. In this case, the product is your manuscript.
The power of feedback
Unfortunately, too many writers either skip the beta testing process or receive useless feedback. You invested years getting to THE END. Don’t drop the ball three inches from the finish line! Readers don’t care how amazing your website is, how broad your social media presence, or how extensive your email list is if your book disappoints.
Understanding what a beta reader is and harnessing the power of feedback to craft a better story, become a better writer and sell more books is not a part of the information flow in the writing community. The material available is fractured, confusing, and often misleading.
The basics to beta test your manuscript
Following are the basic techniques and tips to effectively beta test your manuscript. It will save you time, effort, and frustration on your author journey. It is my pleasure to help writers achieve success by publishing their best work.
Qualify before you recruit. A beta reader is your ideal reader from your TARGET MARKET. They must be an avid reader of YOUR genre. Not an editor, a critique partner, a book coach, or family member. A “pure” beta reader already reads your genre and can evaluate your story based on all the other books they loved.
Download the free questionnaire
Always provide a questionnaire to guide your beta readers. Ask specific questions to get actionable feedback. Your beta readers don’t know what you need. Ask open ended questions like, where did the story hook you and what feeling were you left with at the end? “I liked it” and “it was good” are NOT usable critique points. Grab a FREE copy of a beta reader questionnaire I use for fiction books at www.clpostill.com or click this link for direct access, FREE Manuscript Questionnaire Download
I strongly recommend printing your manuscript and sending along a tool kit to encourage your beta readers to write notes, highlight scenes, and mark any issues. It makes the critique process easier and more effective. The tool kit I use includes a pencil, a highlighter, some sticky notes, and sticky flags. Reading with a pencil in hand results in twice the feedback and a window into your reader’s thoughts as they go. This feedback is priceless for writers.
Get reviews and referrals
Reviews are essential and very hard to get. You will have several reviews for sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and for your book cover and promotional material before you even launch. It’s part of the questionnaire.
Whether you are self-publishing or plan to query literary agents and publishers, you need book comparisons. Ask your beta readers for titles they enjoyed similar to yours. You will be prepared when asked for a list of similar titles and have the confidence of knowing that your comps are current and relevant because they came from your savvy beta readers.
Ask your beta readers for referrals. Add them to your growing email list of potential buyers and future beta readers.
Once you receive the responses it is up to you to determine what needs changed and what doesn’t. If you spot commonalities, it is a good practice to focus on these first. Share the feedback with your writing group, critique partner, and/or book coach then make edits you feel are appropriate. If you make a lot of changes you may want to beta test again. I advise against using the same beta readers for your second round, you need fresh eyes.
Make beta testing part of your process
Make beta testing your manuscript a mandatory part of your publishing process.
I made mistakes, tested, and retested until I had a reliable, easy-to-use system to beta test a manuscript that maximized outcomes. The results exceeded my expectations! The step-by-step method, techniques, and tools, with some bonus marketing tips, are in my new book How to Train a Beta reader and Sell More Books. Available at Amazon and BARNES&NOBLE.
Here’s what writers are saying about the results they achieved.
Writers praise How to Train a Beta Reader and Sell More Books
“Stephen King talks about writing with your office door closed and then with it open. This guide to beta readers is a must for writing with the door open. — (Cherie) offers advice that I wish I had heard years ago.”
“— a direct, no-nonsense guide to finding, qualifying and receiving useful feedback from beta readers. — It will cure the ills of many a writer’s manuscript and undoubtedly increase the chances it will provide what readers in your genre expect and love.”
“This is such a critical step in the book writing process — If you ever need someone to provide a testimonial as to how critical beta readers are in the book writing process, please let me know. As a result of my beta readers input, my book will be exponentially better.”
“I got so many great ideas from this book. What an amazing and valuable tool for authors — I haven’t seen so much useful information on this topic put together this comprehensively and this well. This will be of my toolkit moving forward and I will use these methods for my future manuscripts. Thanks to the author for providing this terrific resource to all us other authors!”
More about Cherie
I invite you to visit my site at www.clpostill.com and get started with a free manuscript questionnaire. While you’re there, purchase a copy of my new book How to Train a Beta Reader and Sell More Books to learn how to beta test your manuscript like the pros. Your readers will be thrilled and you will sell more books. If you are interested in attending a workshop, check out my events page.
I would love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know if I can help. You can find me on Twitter an Instagram.