Why Beta Readers Are Important

Every full length novel I’ve done, I’ve gladly invited Beta Readers to come with me on a journey to getting my fiction published.  I can’t afford to pay them what they’re really worth, not just to me, but to any author who uses words to build a universe.  Currently, they get to read my novel well before anyone else does.  They get a free e-book when the novel is published online and a mention inside the novel itself.  As I’ve promised before, if anything I’ve written goes best seller and I finally generate a workable income, they will be compensated as they deserve.  As for now, I rely on them far more than they rely on me, and they know the depth of my appreciation.  I just can’t say enough about that.

One of my first fans, a dedicated artist in her own right, and a good friend who has never missed a beta reading session yet, Amy aka Safeunderdark, doesn’t have English as her primary language.  That’s one of the rarest, most important type of beta reader a novelist could be blessed with.  Why?  If she doesn’t understand what I’m describing in my novels, then nobody else will understand it either.  If she can enjoy one of my books from cover to cover, then I’ve done my job.  Other international readers will also enjoy the novel.  As promised, I will not only discuss the beta readers for Darya Rising, I will share some of their feedback to me, (not all of it of course)  and how it shaped the results.

Amy’s Positive Feedback:  I just love how the story starts, how Darya get her training.  Love the interaction between Elisabeth and Darya.

Amy’s Not-So-Positive Feedback:  Yes that made me cry, I felt the moment of shock, and needed to put the book down for a moment just to dry my tears.

It’s important to note that not-so-positive feedback is more valuable to me than the positive feedback.  I want to hear about it all, of course, so I know which areas to focus on.  The moment Amy is talking about is when one of the various characters gets killed.  I won’t say who because I dislike delivering plot spoilers before the novel is released, but this particular plot component can’t be changed.  I’ve un-killed people before in my novels, but this part of the plot-hook was instrumental.  The fact she reacted so emotionally meant the story did what I needed it to do.  If Amy didn’t feel attached to the characters enough to warrant an emotional response of that magnitude, then a major re-write would be in order to achieve that effect.  Please note, I don’t enjoy making people cry.  My novels aren’t tragic in their core nature.  I’ve personally read novels and watched movies that got emotional reactions from me as well, and that I achieved that level of writing, makes me feel that I’ve written a successful novel.  Apologies Amy, I promise such deaths are rare in my books.  To show you all that she did enjoy what I wrote, read her next statements.

Amy’s Final Feedback Statement:  I give  this book a 9.5  You did well, my friend.  Thank you for having me a beta tester ^_^

Again, I omitted some plot spoilers, and Amy will understand that.  All of my testers know that I would never intentionally misrepresent their comments, but I think I’ve done an alright job in keeping the value of their intentions, while preserving the content of the novel under wraps, until you’re ready to read it for yourself.  I don’t want anyone saying, “Aw man, why did he reveal that?  Now I know what’s going to happen before I finish this chapter!”

While I’ve opened beta reading spots to have up to ten people, it doesn’t always work out that way.  I prefer to have four readers, more is always a bonus.  Sometimes, real life makes it too busy for some of my dedicated readers to sign up, or have to drop out when they do.  I have two more beta readers finish the book in the time allotted, and the next sections are about their input.

Carol Higgins is a first time beta reader for me.  She has followed my blog for some time, read my previous fiction and decided to give it a shot.  What did she have to lose?  Nothing.  She gets a free e-book from an author she enjoys reading, and she gets to interact with me about the actual story.

Carol’s Positive Feedback:  This novel can be considered hard-core sci-fi, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed from the first word to the last.  You have a gift for description.  The interaction was near perfect for the characters you created. I could actually visualize them as I read the words.  Superbly done.

Carol’s Not-So-Positive Feedback:  I feel a disconnect, like too much time went by without knowing what went on between the last word of chapter eleven and the first word of chapter twelve.  I can see Kendra wanting to help Elizabeth and Darya, but its like she knew too much during chapter twelve.  When did she get told about Martin’s history?

It’s moments like this that I wish I could pay my beta readers a wad of cash today, right now.  The disconnect she discovered was real, she was spot on with her feedback about the gap between chapter eleven and twelve.  That was fixed by an additional 124 words at the end of chapter eleven, forming two more much-needed paragraphs to tie everything together.  The gap was resolved, the disconnect was erased, and the story flows even better than ever.

Such things can happen, as we writers already have the story laid out in our own minds.  We don’t always write the chapters in a linear fashion, due to motivation or plot defining, which can leave an accidental ‘gap’ in the storyline.  This was noticed and fixed.

My final beta reader for Darya Rising is a gentleman.  Randy Leffler needed to drop out of a previous beta reading for Rulers of Valinthia, who sent me an apology email way back then.  He signed up again for this session, and was able to go the full distance.  He is an accomplished reader, one who ‘consumes’ books, usually ten to fifteen novels a month.  He’s read all of my novels, and expressed enjoyment of the Passion Trilogy, even though romance isn’t his genre of choice.

Randy’s Positive Feedback:  You promised an action novel, boy did you deliver!  How you did the combat training for Darya is pure genius.  Don’t change any of that, or you’ll hurt the overall effect.  The shock bot… all I can say… I was laughing my ass off over that.  My wife gave me funny looks because I couldn’t stop cracking up.

Randy’s Not-So-Positive Feedback:  Sword of the Night Sky?  Are you talking about naming one ship, or a squadron of twenty-four fighter craft?  Pluralize it, it fits the squadron as intended.  If you don’t, you’ll suck whatever immersion you created right off the page.

Randy is right on target.  Swords of the Night Sky it is.  Most might consider this detail minor.  For any serious author, no detail is too small.  I missed the plural aspect of it because I wrote around eleven thousand words in one sitting, when assembling that part of the novel.  That’s a lot of work when creating dialog, situations and scene settings.  The fact that he caught it with a fresh pair of eyes means that nobody else out there has to have their flow of reading interrupted when noticing the tiny detail for themselves.  It’s been fixed, and the story flows better because of it.

Every beta reader expressed their enjoyment of the story, and each one gave it high marks in their personal emails to me.  Now you know what to expect.  Hopefully, you can see the value in having beta readers on board, and that in the end, the novel you’re going to invest in will give a high amount of entertainment in return.  A Science Fiction Action novel that’s been waiting to be published for a while now.

When the novel releases by the end of this week through the Smashwords distribution network, it won’t be long before it also shows up on Amazon.  Remember, this one is going to be an e-book only.  No paperback will be available unless I get enough of a response to warrant creating one.  Until that moment arrives, here’s the cover for it.  See you all next week!

Darya Rising Cover

About Daniel A. Roberts

I'm an Independent Author. I've written both fiction and non-fiction.
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