Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beta Readers: Do I Need Them? by Rob Pruneda

The Birth of a Beta Reader

Up until about eighteen months ago I had no idea what a beta reader was. It wasn’t until a fellow author, Sara Furlong Burr, approached me on Twitter and asked me if I would be interested in swapping novels with her for a beta read. Neither one of us had ever done a beta read before, but she at least knew what it was all about. Basically, the task was just like testing a new product (a beta test), read the novel, help her catch any flaws, and give her some general feedback about the story overall. That sounded simple enough. Plus, I got to have early access to an unpublished novel. So, I agreed and we swapped manuscripts. Today, I think Pursuit of a Dream is a better novel because of it. It was my first novel and probably could use more revisions, but overall, I think the beta reading process was very beneficial to me.

Devil’s Nightmare Beta Testing

   Fast forward to the Fall of 2012 where my horror-thriller Devil’s Nightmare is in the editing stage of the publishing process and I now have three beta readers. Sara once again agreed to read the second draft of my manuscript for Devil’s Nightmare while she was in the final stages of publishing her first novel Enigma Black (now available on Kindle); great story, by the way! I enlisted two other beta readers (also fellow authors) Dannie Hill and S.G. Lee to read over my manuscript. While all three of my beta readers combed through my manuscript, I printed out a hard copy for myself and proceeded to paint it with red editing marks. This in turn morphed into a third revised draft. After receiving valuable feedback from my three beta readers, I was able to polish my manuscript even more. Soon after that, Devil’s Nighmare was finally ready to hit the virtual bookshelves for the global market. You can read more info on that at the end of this post.

Beta Readers are Not Editors

   So, why am I sharing all of this with you today? Simple. You absolutely must have another set of eyes reading your manuscript before you even think about publishing your book. Don’t make the mistake of writing your novel, going over it yourself once or twice and then think you’re ready to publish. You’re not. I’ve been there and done that. Even if you can only manage to get one beta reader’s commitment, that’s better than nothing. However, I do recommend at least two or three beta readers. Also keep in mind that a beta reader is not a substitute for an editor.  If you can’t afford to hire an editor, then beta readers are the next best thing. I can you hear you now. “I can’t afford an editor.” Trust me, I’m with you there. I was actually in that same boat when I wrote Devil’s Nightmare
   Money was extremely tight, so I did the editing myself, since I have some editing experience from working at a newspaper for several years. I still don’t recommend this, even if you are an experienced editor. You just can’t look at your own manuscript the way an outsourced editor would be able to. You have too much invested in it. It’s your baby. It’s your literary child. You really can be your worst critic . . . by not handing that red pen to someone else. And I’m pointing at myself when I make that statement. As much as I believe Devil’s Nightmare turned out very well (thanks to the help of my beta readers), next time around, I will definitely take advantage of both my beta readers and a professional editor.

The Benefits of Beta Readers

Bottom line is it is extremely important and to your benefit to have some non-biased eyes reading your manuscript. I personally found it very helpful. My beta readers helped point out simple things such as spelling errors and general grammar issues, but they also helped me with a few plot holes and trimming some unnecessary fat to the tune of three thousand words. I never would have been able to make Devil’s Nightmare what it is today without the help of my beta readers which is why they are the three people that I recognize in my acknowledgments.

So, if you don’t have any beta readers today, I you should seek out at least one that you trust with your manuscript. Find someone that is not family or your best friend, but someone who will be able to give you honest, non-biased feedback. And remember to put on that thick skin when you get that feedback. It’s constructive criticism, and it’s okay if you don’t agree with everything your beta reader points out. It is still your novel and your voice. Keep writing, pursue your dreams . . . and never look back.

About the Author

Robert Pruneda is author of Pursuit of a Dream (FREE on Kindle US, Kobo and Smashwords) and Devil’s Nighmare, now available on Amazon (Worldwide), B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords. Connect with him on these social media networks:

Devil’s Nightmare by Robert Pruneda

   Investigating homicides is what Detective Aaron Sanders lives for. There hasn’t been a case he couldn’t solve or a suspect he didn’t find and put behind bars in his entire career. He’s proud of this fact, but his abilities and his fortitude are about to be put to the test when he investigates a brutal double-homicide where an eleven-year-old boy’s parents are found mutilated in a Texas home. The boy is the only witness to the crime and his clothes are stained with his parents’ blood. 
   His clothes are also tainted with the blood of other victims from a separate and even more horrific crime scene at a nearby cemetery. All of the victims appear to have been killed in the same manner and the boy knows the true identity of the evil responsible for the multiple deaths, but he is unwilling to talk. No one would believe him. A threat on the boy’s life and a disturbing nightmare causes Detective Sanders to question his beliefs and his own sanity. This investigation ultimately leads Sanders in a fight to save himself and the life of an orphaned boy from an unimaginable evil that is spawned from the curse of the devil’s nightmare.