Questions on Betas and Revising

I have a secret manuscript I may or may not be close to finishing the first round of revisions on this summer and I have a couple of questions for those of you who have published (specifically traditional publishing) successfully about Beta Readers and revisions.

  1. How soon did you start seeking out beta readers?

I’m about halfway done revising my story and I know I’m going to need beta readers when it’s done, but I don’t want to push it too quickly for fear of them dropping out before I’m done. However, waiting until I’m totally done seems too late. Ideas?

  1. How many beta readers is a good number to get a decent amount of feedback and thoughts from various audiences?

Since I’m gonna be looking, how many should I look for? Are there ways to vet and make sure I get betas who can really help me and not just bash my book or send only praise? (I know not to ask relatives or close friends since they’ll overlook the flaws)

  1. After the betas finish, how many times do you repeat the revise/beta read, revise/beta read process? How many rounds does it take before the story is polished enough to go to an editor or be ready for querying?

Since I’ve never reached this stage before, I don’t know how many rounds this takes and I don’t want to accidentally miss anything and try querying with too rough of a manuscript. Ideas?

Thank you for all the help!

Betas are people who give you feedback from the READER perspective. They read the whole thing and tell you where they laughed, where they cried, where they were confused, where it dragged, etc.

What you want are CRITIQUE PARTNERS. You want other writers who can go through your work chapter by chapter and give you feedback on the craft.

I do betas at the end, AFTER I’ve done my revision, and I think I’m pretty much DONE. How many betas? Eh, I would ask half a dozen or more, and expect a small fraction of those to actually provide feedback.

Hmmmm, maybe? I’m kind of looking for more of the reader perspective, but maybe both?

I mean, these are revisions that I’m doing now.

Until it’s ready. Unfortunately there’s no set formula to determine how much work if will take. The more you do this process the better you’ll get at estimating how much time a given story will take.

You want both, like Ximera mentioned. Crit partners will be the fresh eyes to find problems and suggest solutions to help your story get better. Beta readers can tell you where they lose interest or if something isnt working for them, but crit partners are about the craft. Story structure, character arcs, format and what is and is not working.

It’s usually hard to swallow at first, but it helps the end product significantly. (Reminds me, I need to find a new crit circle… bleh)

2 Likes

Both will be on the list then. Thank you!

I empathize!

Each author is going to have their own “system.” I’ll be glad to share mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s what you should do.

  • Finish the book, usually at this stage I’ll have some notes of things that have to be addressed (usually because of a change later in the book and I go back and surgically make those changes.

  • Rest - I put the book away for at least 2 weeks, maybe as much as 6 weeks and I go on to write something else. I’m hoping to forget much of what I wrote so I can look at it with fresh eyes.

  • Read book front to back, and make changes as I go through the book.

  • Give the book to my alpha reader (my wife) and wait for her to “tear it apart.” She is an exceptional “structural editor” and finds flaws in logic, character motivation, plot holes, or pacing issues. If you don’t have an alpha reader - this is the where you would insert CRITIQUE PARTNERS.

  • Address alpha read feedback.

  • Give the book a good pass of line edits and copy edits.

  • Read the book from front to back “Like a reader” to make sure I’m 100% happy with where it is.

  • HERE is where I get beta feedback.

  • Incorporate beta feedback

  • Another layer of polish for line and copy.

  • Now the book is ready for "others’ - either my publisher (if I’m going traditional) or my copyediting team if self-publishing.

3 Likes

Now to answer your questions:

I wait until the story is a as good as I can get it on my own.

Well, if you are getting input it’s not “done” is it? Seriously, I think you need to get “your vision” first and then see what others feel about your vision.

I’ve done as many as 50 and as few as 10. But I’ve got a really robust beta program. For someone starting out 3 - 4 REALLY GOOD beta is probably the right number.

[quote=“sarakbeeksma, post:1, topic:120102”]
Since I’m gonna be looking, how many should I look for? Are there ways to vet and make sure I get betas who can really help me and not just bash my book or send only praise? (I know not to ask relatives or close friends since they’ll overlook the flaws)

[quote]

I’d look for a few more than you need, because not all betas will see it through to the end. If you want 4 - get 7. If you want 10 get 13.

[quote=“sarakbeeksma, post:1, topic:120102”]
Are there ways to vet and make sure I get betas who can really help me and not just bash my book or send only praise? (I know not to ask relatives or close friends since they’ll overlook the flaws)

[quote]

I use a survey to vet people, and I give them a document to set their expectations as far as what I’m looking for.

I usually only do one beta. For one book I ended up doing 2 but that was because (a) I had plenty of time to do so and (b) there was a fairly major change that was required after the first set of beta feedback and I wanted to see that I fixed the problem.

1 Like

Oh I just meant done with the first revisions :sweat_smile:

Note to self: find editor wife AND new critique circle.

2 Likes

You’re lucky! For me, 6 weeks is like yesterday. I laid one aside for a year, and could see a little more. But I still liked those darlings too much. Another aged for two years, and only then could I read some parts and wonder: did I write that? That helped. I think it had to do with having got more interested in other projects meanwhile.

Here’s a small personal suggestion, which might make no difference to anyone but me. I found that the single most helpful innovation when it came to killing those darlings that needed killing, was to switch to an editor that retained revisions automatically. It was a purely psychological effect. Once I knew that all that old cruft - I mean those darlings - were not really being deleted, but only squirreled away into cold storage, it became much easier to take the knife to them. I don’t think I’ve every hauled a single paragraph out of the crypt. But I know they’re all there.

3 Likes

My “rest” period has nothing to do with removal of “darlings” it’s related to the plot and pacing of the story. My “darling killing” comes during the copy and line editing stage, which happens once I’m 100% set on the tale being told.

1 Like