I’ve received both informal and formal feedback from a handful of beta readers for Rising, and so far the general consensus is: They are loving it! Of course, there are little sticking points here and there. I have some definite edit spots that I want to go tackle. But I’m going to wait on a few more formal replies before jumping in and working on sections.
For those who are curious about my beta process, this is probably a good place to list out exactly what I’m doing and why.
Sending out a novel for a beta read is a terrifying process. In some ways, I think it might be easier to hire an editor, and then push it out for publication and let the chips fall where they may. But I still have this dream of traditional publication. Call me old fashioned. I also know the state of the industry. Competition is stiff, and I want to give my book every advantage. Having people read and respond before throwing it to the wolves is a Very Good Thing.
My beta team consists of some wonderful, willing volunteers who range across the industry from casual readers to editors to journalists to other authors, both in and out of my genre. I chose people who are both familiar with where the book is set, and those who have never even visited the area. In order to form a beta team, I asked really, really nicely if they’d read my book and answer a few questions. I had people respond with an enthusiastic “GIVEITNOW!” and I had people say, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time.” I kept asking… until I felt like I had a solid base of readers. And then I gave it to a few more people, just to be sure. There are about 15 people or so who are currently reading.
The questionnaire I sent was as follows (feel free to snag this, edit it to your liking, and use it for your own purposes):
Questions for Beta Readers
The Hook –
Rate the hook, 1 to 10, 1 being “Immediately hooked” to 10 being “it took forever to engage/I never really engaged”:
1. What hooked you into the story in the first few chapters?
2. Was there anything that disinterested you in the first few chapters?
Plot and Pacing –
Rate the pacing, 1 to 10, 1 being “It clipped along and kept me on the edge of my seat” to 10 being “It couldn’t be more boring if it tried”
1. Throughout the story, did anything feel rushed? Alternately, did anything seem to drag on too long?
2. Did the story arc feel complete? If not, what elements did you feel were left out?
3. Were you able to connect with and understand the back-story?
Characters – Rate the main characters, 1 to 10, 1 being “I understand his/her motivations and personality” to 10 being “he/she was all over the map”
Kessa St. James:
Rate the supporting characters, in general, 1 to 10, 1 being “They seemed real, and added to the plot and overall story” to 10 being “they were flat and lifeless, and the story could live without them”
Supporting Characters (Schild, the Rushing family, etc.):
1. Who was your favorite character? Least favorite? Why?
Setting – Rate the setting, 1 to 10, 1 being “I was there with the characters” to 10 being “I wasn’t sure there was a setting”:
1. What scenes really stood out for you?
2. What painted the picture and immersed you in the world of the characters?
1. Yes, it’s a fantasy novel. Were you able to suspend disbelief? Did the immersion of the characters into their new reality seem plausible? If not, what removed you from their world?
Overall reaction –
Just give me a few sentences on your overall thoughts, and any suggestions you might have.
So far, out of the responses that have come back… no one exactly followed the questions. Of course they didn’t. That’s what I would expect them to do. Can’t have that!
No, what they did instead was far, far better.
They added additional, side characters to my list and rated them. They included line edit notes (OMG THANK YOU!). They expanded on ideas in my questions, and added specific, detailed notes around what did and did not work for them, sometimes calling out exact page and paragraph references. One reader who knows the setting well enough to drive it blindfolded pointed out an inconsistency that only someone from the area would catch (a product of the fact that I haven’t lived there for 20 years). Another reader who has never visited that area called out her confusion to a local reference that wasn’t clearly defined.
While it’s true of any edit process that I won’t implement every suggestion, I appreciate the time, effort and honesty of my beta readers. I do take every suggestion to heart, and they will ultimately affect the final shape of the book.
I look forward to returning the beta-reading favor for authors. Each and every one of my beta readers is helping me propel this book forward. They’re champions to my ambitions and goals. I’m not sure what I did to deserve such wonderful people in my life, but to each and every one of them, I am eternally grateful.