How Beta Readers can Help You Avoid Disaster – Suzy Vadori’s Inspired Writing Episode 1

hi there i’m susie vidori and i’m a young adult author a book coach and also an editor and i’m here today with inspired writing which is my brand new vlog this is our first episode ever and you are in the right place whether you are just getting started out on your writing journey or whether you’ve been writing books for a long time already i’ve got you covered and i’m going to share with you tips and tricks about writing as well as my writing life that i’ve learned in the last decade of doing this so today we’re going to talk about beta readers what the heck are beta readers if you haven’t heard of them before i’m going to explain that i’m going to teach you where you might be able to find beta readers and i’m also going to share with you some of my learnings and the exact questions that i ask my beta readers to make sure that i get the most out of their feedback so first i’m going to talk about what beta readers are so there’s actually two types of readers that you get to use before you ever send it to an editor there’s alpha readers which we’re not going to talk about too much today but they’re basically your friends and family or that one trusted friend that you get to read a couple of scenes or that read your book before everything else so maybe you already have that in place maybe there’s somebody maybe it’s your spouse or your friend for me sometimes it’s my mom um that reads stuff and i’ve got some writer friends that i’ll send out scenes or like things that i’m just not sure if they’re working i can send that to those trusted friends and they can be like yes or no or whatever beta readers are a step beyond that so most of us got into writing because we want our stuff to be read right am i right um so you want your books to be read eventually and to do that you need to make sure that what you’re writing is affecting your readers the way that you think it’s going to so i talked to a lot of writers who haven’t done this step yet and it’s scary don’t get me wrong i get it the first time that somebody reads your baby that you might have been spending months or years or whatever decades on it’s really scary but you really really need to have that feedback in order to make sure that what you’re writing whether or not it’s grammatically correct great but is it actually telling the readers what you think it’s telling the readers and those are your beta readers okay so they’re the people who you’re gonna go to not for editing i mean if they catch a typo or two great that is not their job that’s the editor’s job please please please get your work edited i’m an editor and i send my my work out uh to other editors because you just can’t see it in your own work you skip and your brain fills things in for me it’s often missing words i don’t have an issue with misspelling or grammar or anything like that but when i’m typing really fast or if i’m editing um moving things around i miss words and i can’t catch those but my editor sure can so those are not what you want your beta readers to do okay so i’m going to tell you a little story about um when i use beta readers for the westwoods which is book two in my the fountain series i’m going to talk about how i found the beta readers for this i actually went back to some of the readers of the fountain which is book one some of the ones who’d reached out to me um because of my books are for teens but i also have adult readers and so i reached out to readers and i asked them if they would beta read and i was very very specific please be specific with your beta readers because otherwise they won’t get back to you um and not everybody does it i get um for this book i think i had probably 12 people that i lined up and maybe i got feedback from seven in the time period that i wanted so as you guys know when you’re writing the most valuable thing that you can get is feedback like fast right so as an editor i’m always cognizant of this and so i make sure that i have a two week turnaround time because you don’t want that time when you’re like waiting for feedback and you’re like oh they hate it they’re not getting through it or whatever or you’re thinking wow i just you know want to get moving with it and then if you get it back long an event or a long time from now maybe it’s not you know as timely and you’re not as close to the work anymore so i always put a time limit i say hey who can read this in two weeks and answer a list of questions okay i don’t expect my beta readers to know anything about editing or books i just want them to be readers i want them to love my work and to tell me how they felt about it when it’s done and then my job and my editor’s job is to figure out how to fix it if it didn’t work so when i went for beta readers for the westwoods i did this i reached out to teens and adults because i’m interested in their opinion and one of the questions and at the end of this video if you stick through to the end um there will be actually a link for you to get the exact questions that i asked these beta readers so that you can use them too with yours but in this scenario i asked them to read this manuscript so readers of my of my um of my first novel that was out uh the fountain and this is this the prequel to this novel and i asked them a series of questions i said can you get it done in two weeks and then i got the forms back and i got back um i think seven or eight and some were teens and some were adults who read a lot of teen fiction and i went through one of the questions i love to ask is what is your favorite scene and what is your least favorite scene because they have to pick something so even if you if you go out there and you say what do you like about it what didn’t you like about they say i liked everything and then you feel great right you feel great when your friends and family tell you that they loved your book but it doesn’t help you because you don’t know if that’s because they feel a connection to you or that’s because they don’t want to hurt your feelings you need to see what’s your least favorite scene because even if you love the book you’ve got a least favorite scene right and so i’m going through these these um these forms that i get back and i’m looking and all of the adults that returned their forms said that their favorite scene was this really juicy scene and i’m not giving any spoilers here because it’s actually not even in this book it was in the beta copy of this book it’s not in the book anymore their favorite scene and i’ll tell you why i deleted it later their favorite scene was a breakup so their favorite thing about this book was this heart-wrenching emotional breakup and i said yes i nailed it i knew that was good right wrong and then i looked at i got the ones in from the teens that’s my target market i write for young adults i got the ones in from the teens and they to a person said that their least favorite scene was the breakup

and i reached out to them i said what how can that be how can that be and the adults really enjoyed it because it was emotional and heart-wrenching and the teens really didn’t enjoy it because it was emotional and heart-wrenching so even though i nailed exactly what i was hoping for in that scene in the west woods um it actually didn’t work for my target audience it didn’t work for the teens they don’t want to hear about a breakup that was terrible oh he just i couldn’t i had to put the book down or or i couldn’t go on or i couldn’t sleep and it just affected them so much and that wasn’t what i was going for i have a healthy dose of romance in all of my books and uh and so we want our teens feel it okay and we don’t want them to avoid my books because it’s going to rip their heart out so it’s just not what i’m known for if you’re writing a book where you want to rip people’s hearts out then maybe that’s the best feedback that you could ever have but hopefully they’re in the category that say that that’s their favorite scene right so what did i do i went back and i went oh my gosh what am i gonna do so for me i actually send out um to beta readers and to my developmental editor at about the same time when i get the feedback back from the beta readers in the developmental editor i compare and then usually they’re pretty similar uh in this case they the developmental editor hadn’t flagged that that scene was an issue because it was well written it was cool it was what i meant to do um but yeah i ended up doing this i i write in word so for those of you in scrivener it might be a little bit different or wherever you write but i highlighted five chapters and i hit delete no i didn’t hit delete i actually moved them off into some other documents so that i didn’t lose it just in case right so um anyways i had to really reconstruct the middle part of that book and reconstruct a lot of things so that there wasn’t a breakup um and so if you read the rest westwoods and you want to chat about how i did that i don’t want to give any spoilers away but there is no longer a heart-wrenching breakup in that book and i don’t think there there isn’t one actually in that whole series because the teams don’t want to read about that so keep in mind that even if you are writing exactly perfectly and doing what you intend that your reaction from your audience might not be what you expect so give them some credit and you know ask them because what you don’t want is to put your book out into the world and have something like that happen where people are like you know what it was well written and whatever but i don’t like it right you don’t want that and the westwoods actually went on to be an aurora award finalist in 2016. so i guess people liked it um and then book three in the series just came out this year so i just wanted to oh sorry that was 2018 um the fountain was 2016. so i bet you’re wondering where do i find beta readers if i don’t already have readers of course if you already have readers of your series reaching out to them is a snap right but if you don’t and you’re just starting out i get this question all the time from writers is how do you find your beta readers how do you get people to commit to this well number one i’m really clear here’s the commitment it’s two weeks um and i give you a list of questions so you don’t need to edit the whole thing i don’t need your pie in the sky opinion you don’t have to be an expert editor i want you to read it and react to it um so be really clear so you can reach out and just get volunteers anybody can do this as long as they’re willing to react to it and they’re going to be honest with you and i’ve structured the questions that i’m going to share with you in a way that it’s easier for them to be honest they don’t have to say that they don’t like something they can tell you what they like the least and if everybody says that they like that scene about the breakup the least then that’s a pretty big flag right um so that’s really helpful for you when you’re looking at it i would get at least i think the least amount i would try to get at least five because one person’s opinion isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all right so different people are going to react to your writing in different ways uh some places that you can go out and get strangers so first of all i would post on all your social media channels i would ask your friends and family i would be really really clear on the ask here’s what i’m gonna do i’m gonna send this to you you gotta get it back to me in two weeks you just gotta read it and then you gotta react to it and answer these questions um and so yeah but post it on your social media channels ask for volunteers volunteers are great volunteers are great and i i mean i can’t take everybody um the last i think for the book three in the series i posted on my social media links and i had 61 people tell me that they would beta read it i don’t want to get 61 forms back and i want to i don’t want to ask that of 61 people but i did pick the the first i think 15 and then i ended up getting 10 back because life happens and not all of your beta readers are going to get to it and that is okay because they are doing you a huge huge favor another place that you can go there’s facebook groups that you can go um where they beta read uh you can pay for beta readers although i wouldn’t um you don’t have to but if you really don’t have anybody there are services out there and they are excellent um some of them are really excellent if you are interested in that i can let you know where you can go to that but free beta readers are just as good um you can also go on goodreads there’s lots of communities within goodreads where you can find beta readers so just sign up there be active be like hey i’ve got this book here’s what it’s about get your pitch down so that they know what they’re going to read um and see if you can find them that way and again friends and family send out an email ask people or ask the people that you are getting to do that say here’s a commitment i also like to provide a paperback for my beta readers i just think it’s a nice gesture and in the days before covid when i could have a giant party to celebrate a new release i loved calling my beta readers especially the teens up in front of everybody and presented to them they are so proud to be involved um they are so excited to help and they love the series and all of those things so you’re creating goodwill and you’re also showing others at your event uh that people have read this book and given you serious feedback and and that you’ve listened and that the book is better for it and so i love telling stories about how i change my books i think i’ve changed every single one of them after i’ve had them vader read because you just don’t know how they’re they’re gonna react okay and then lastly i promised you guys that i was gonna share the exact questions that i used in the west woods that helped me avoid disaster um if i had put the book out that way i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t have been an aurora awards finalist because well maybe the adults liked it but i wouldn’t have um wouldn’t have satisfied that need for my teens to read it so you can find the link to that wherever you’re watching this video the link should be there uh to the exact questions that i ask them feel free to use them feel free to make them your own use my exact questions whatever you need to do and let me know if you have any questions about beta readers so today we covered what they are how to best use them a little story about how i use them and i’m sharing my questions with you so that you can go and do this yourself when you’re ready i hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of inspired writing if you’re not yet signed up for my newsletter then please go and follow the link in my profile or my bio to uh subscribe to the newsletter because we’re gonna have weekly tips like this and if you found this useful please let me know i’d love to hear from you until next time i’ll see you then