I like Beta readers. I really, truly do. We have a small core group of authors who also act as our beta readers when needed. Like most small publishing houses, we wish we had more but, beta readers often require one thing we are slack on – money.
I don’t hold it against the beta readers. They are doing something for another person, and it should require payment of some kind. We simply lack in that area right now. So, we improvise. I ask those authors who are part of our writer’s group to perform the beta reader function and in return we beta read theirs – at no charge.
At present, we have ten full time beta readers. It isn’t a lot, but I know each of them. I know what they like and what they don’t. More importantly, I know I can count on them for a true opinion. Especially since I often only send out a partial part of the material to be beta read.
I do this on purpose. I want to know if the person reading the piece wants to continue after I have sent them three or four chapters from the middle. It is often easier than you think to get a person’s attention in the first chapter, but to keep it? That’s the hard thing.
My beta readers have no mercy. They ask for no quarter and give none. Which is what I like most. The fact they ask for no mercy on their own works when sent out to beta read is what thrills me.
Most writers and authors never get to see the comments the beta readers make. The editor or publishers take those comments and adjust the book to match what they feel is a sellable version. Often without the author’s knowledge or approval. They don’t need approval. The publishing houses’ contracts allow them this privilege. My contracts, however, do not.
We here at The Pyrateheart Press let our authors in for the full experience. Which means when we send something out to be beta read, we let the authors see the comments once the reader has completed their task.
This is where it gets hard for most authors. This is where their egos are put to the test. Most send out their manuscript with high hopes. If, and/or when they get a publishing deal, they are ecstatic. However, once they must deal with editors and then beta readers, the shine comes off their faces quickly.
My beta readers happen to be worse than most. I send out the work often to those who don’t like the genre. If the manuscript has staying power, it will capture the beta readers desire to read more regardless of the genre. It is truer than not.
Example: I send out thrillers to Miranda Cummings since she despises them. Miranda loves erotica in all forms and supernatural romances. She loathes thrillers. Therefore, if she likes it, it must be good.
My own opinions are often tainted since I work so closely with the authors and writers. I read the manuscript over and over and lose sight of whether they are good. If they are good, then they are marketable, which means we might make money on them.
Which in the end is the true purpose of a beta reader. Beta readers can look manuscripts over and tell me about plot holes and grammar, structure and content. Beta readers love to tell you their opinions. However, in the end, all I really want to know is if they enjoyed it. If they didn’t, then none of the rest matters.
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.