How First Time Authors Can Use Beta Readers to Prevent Their First Book From Failing

After well over a year in the making, I’m pleased to say I’ve (almost) completed the first draft of my new book. 

As a first time author — particularly one who’s self publishing — there’s a huge risk you’ll end up creating something that’s (a.) not very good and (b.) nobody wants to read.

One way to prevent both of the above is to collect something known as “beta-reader” feedback.

In a nutshell, this is about finding your ideal readers and getting them to provide feedback — before you release your book publicly. 

This allows you to: 

— Find and remove sections that people find boring or feel like skipping

— Eliminate unnecessary “filler” material

— Understand what’s working well – so you can do more of it. 

If you’re writing a book — or plan to in the future, and want to use beta-readers to reduce your risk of failure, I’ve outlined my process in the article that follows.

A Process for Collecting, Organising, and Implementing Beta Reader Feedback


Part 1: Collecting Feedback 

1.) Recruit 40 beta readers and add them to a google sheet.

Think of people in your network who might be interested in your book. Reach out to them via email, social media, and text.

2.) Divide your list into “Cohort A” and “Cohort B”, with approx. 20 in each group.

Background info:

1.) Cohort A will give you feedback on your current draft.

a.) You will implement the feedback from cohort A. 

b.) After you have implemented the feedback from cohort A, you will send the revised version to cohort B.

2.) Divide your book into chapters, with a separate google doc for each chapter.

3.) On Monday of each week, starting with chapter 1, email a new chapter to Cohort A. 

**This is sent as a google document with instructions and a question list at the top. (Please click here for an example.)**

Part 2: Organising Your Feedback 

For each chapter:

1.) Create a “Beta Reader Feedback Folder” (You can do this on your desktop or on Google Drive)

 

2.) Create a Master Feedback Document which you will use to organise all of the feedback in a simple to digest way. (Please click here for an example.)

[Note: Beta Readers will be instructed to email you a completed word document containing their feedback on each chapter.]

For each reader who provides feedback: 

1.) Find their profession, add it to the google sheet you created in step 1, and update their status as “feedback completed” for that particular chapter. (E.g. Mental Health Professional / Coach / Entrepreneur / Teacher / Accountant)

**This step is important because the source of the feedback matters. 

For example, if your book is aimed at entrepreneurs, then you might want to pay more attention to feedback that comes from that group than someone who works in HR or accounts.**

2.) Upload their word document to the “Beta Reader Feedback Folder”

3.) Add their name as a sub-heading (use “Heading 2”) in the Master Feedback Document and then hyperlink to the reader’s full feedback word document.

(This will enable you to see their comments.)

4.) Open their full feedback word document and copy the “Feedback Question List” section:

 

5.) Paste this below their subheading in the master document. 

 

6.) By the end of this, you should have a well organised feedback document for each chapter that will enable you to extract the key takeaways for what you need to implement.

Part 3: Implementing Feedback

Background Info: 

  • I will be dividing my beta readers into two separate cohorts. 
  • The first cohort will begin on 1st April and the second will begin on the 15th may 2024 (approximately a six week gap between cohorts).
  • Starting on 1st April, I will release one chapter each week to cohort #1. 
  • After receiving the feedback, I will implement it to improve the chapter. 
  • After the improvements have been made, I will schedule the revised chapter to be sent to cohort #2 on the relevant date. 
  • Because there is a six week gap between cohorts, this gives me enough breathing space to fully implement the feedback in a quality way before sending it to the second cohort. 

Process for Implementation:

When you receive the completed feedback for each chapter:

1.) Open the master feedback document.

2.) Create a “next action list” at the bottom of the document.

3.) Read through and bold all of the actionable points. 

4.) For each sentence you have bolded, convert it into a next action and add it to your next action list. 

5.) Implement each next action in your list to improve the chapter.  

6.) Finalise the document and schedule it to be emailed to cohort #2 on the appropriate date. 

I will repeat the six steps above for each chapter in the book. 

Then, once cohort #1 has been completed, I will repeat steps 1-5 for each chapter for cohort #2. 

The book I’m working on is about finding deep clarity on the work that makes you come most fully alive, so that you can meaningfully impact the lives of others. 

If you’re interested in this subject, and if you’d like to join the beta-readers list for it (currently 65), please email me on niall@theweekenduniversity.com, and I’ll add you to the cohort.

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Niall McKeever

Niall McKeever

Writer and Founder of The Weekend University. Passionate about making great ideas more accessible.

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