Beta Readers: What’s the Point?

As I get ready to ship out version 1.4 of the rewrite of Flight of the Spider: Book 2 of the Black Orchid Chronicles, to beta readers, I’m reminded again of the value of these early readers.

What’s a beta reader? You ask.

It’s someone who agrees to read your unpublished manuscript and provide an opinion about the work as a whole and comment (briefly) on things that worked and didn’t worked. Quite frankly, the comments about what doesn’t work are more valuable to me than anything else.

If I don’t realize something is broken, I can’t fix it.

And believe me, the manuscript beta readers get is far different from the first, second or even third version. Most, but not all, of the characters have survived. About 75% of the action is the same.

Much else is completely different. In the latest rewrite of The Flight of the Spider, I deleted 98 pages of material and wrote 100 pages of new material in a manuscript that comes in at about 420 pages.

Two other thoughts about betas:

  1. They are getting a manuscript I think is ready to publish. In my mind, there are no more rewrites — unless, of course, the beta readers say it’s necessary.
  2. Beta readers are not writers or editors: They are READERS. I want their opinion as readers.

What I Ask of Beta Readers

The point of a beta reader is to perform a reality check. Is this really a story? Are the characters interesting? Do they do interesting things? Does the ending justify the beginning and middle?

Here’s what I want to know:

(These are literally the questions I send to beta readers.)

  • questionsDid you enjoy the book? Why? Why not?
  • What part or parts bored you?
    • Was there any part you would condense or delete?
    • Was there any part you wanted more of, or greater detail?
  • Was there anything that confused or frustrated you?
  • Were the characters believable?
    • Could you relate to the main character?
    •  Did you have a favorite character? Who? Why?
    • Did you find Empaya Iba frightening, scary or evil in any way?
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
  • Did anything offend you?
  • What would you change?
  • Would you recommend the book to a friend? If not, why not?

Flight of the Spider should make its appearance in late spring or early summer. Watch this space.

If you would like to be a beta reader for Book 3 of the Black Orchid Chronicles, tentatively entitled Spider’s Revenge, drop me a line using my contact page.


Reviewer Can’t Wait for Sequel

Jane Cairns, the person behind the Mystery Reviews + Writing blog, reviewed The Mark of the Spider, Book 1 of the Black Orchid Chronicles.

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She calls it ” a good beginning to this supernatural series” and says:

I look forward to reading the second installment and learning the ongoing fate of Arnett, Campion and T.

You can read the entire review here.

Progress on the Sequel

The rewrite of Flight of the Spider: Book 2 of the Black Orchid Chronicles is almost done, despite accidentally destroying the manuscript once and discovering 10 pages of material I intended to remove still survived.

I’ve deleted 98 pages of material, dropping the word count from about 76,500 to around 73,000.

That translates into rewriting about 100 pages of the original.

I promised to deliver the completed manuscript to beta reviewers on Feb. 1. Yeah, I didn’t make that deadline. It’s looking more like mid-February. (More on the value of beta readers later.)

Once I hear back from the betas — they get four weeks to read and report — I’ll know when it will be ready to publish.

BTW, I’ve already written 200 pages on Book 3 of the Black Orchid Chronicles, tentatively entitled “Spider’s Revenge.”