Pulling the Trigger: Beta Readers

I’m a very private person.  Maybe this isn’t a surprise, but I’ve never really been the outgoing or ‘social media junkie’ type.  Aside from a 15 year old website and a now debunked Tumblr, I’m not the type to discuss my daily life or even my interests.  I remember having Facebook back when it was only opened to college students, and I ultimately found it useless.  Despite being anxious in a crowd, I’m not exactly anti-social either – I take part in certain social events (usually with the help of a heavy drink) and am not afraid to speak in front of a crowd.  Really, what I’m most afraid of when it comes to public discussions is being ‘wrong’.

And that’s why I need beta readers.

I’m at the point in my writing where this is my next step.  I’ve edited the story to death over the last year, poured over blogs and writing columns for any advice to make my words come alive, had my husband read it twice, read it out loud myself, and I’m at the point where I need to take a break and have someone else do the dirty work of telling me the honest truth about my novel.  Am I scared?  You bet.  Aside from my husband, no one else knows my writing hobby exists.  Like I said – I’m a private person and I don’t what to be ‘wrong’ in my novel and have everyone hate it or the blood-and-sweat I lost over it be for nothing.  But if that’s what the next step is, so be it, and best to have someone I have little connection with (that is, they value the story’s content over a relationship) tell me that.

My goal this week is to find five beta readers.  I hope to have two unpaid and three paid.  Why not go for all ‘unpaid’?  One, I’m hoping to find a couple people who find that the story stands on its own – that they don’t have an incentive (money) to finish the story and provide feedback.  In my bit of research, I’m finding finding that it would be difficult for all five beta readers to do this, but two is reasonable.  Second, I have my own questionnaire for the unpaid readers to fill out.  I’m curious as to how they answer my form, whereas paid beta readers usually abide by their own questionnaire (which is fine).  Third, the two unpaid beta readers are friends of my husband’s, but not mine, and he can vouch for their authenticity of being avid readers.  Still, because of the relationship, they may hold back just a tad.

On the other hand – why not go all ‘paid’?  Il ike the guarantee that this would ‘get the job done’, but I will only use this as a last resort.  Most beta readers charge $50-$100 per read, and while (according to their websites) they have a reputation of doing a thorough job, I’m also trying to save up for a new vehicle by October/November this year, as well as an actual editor for my novel.  If the two unpaid beta readers fall through this is still an option for me, but not an immediate necessity.  If I can save the extra $100-$200, it works for me.

So , pulling the trigger on not only distributing my novel to other people, but trusting them with it.  Not just in a copyright sense, but that they’ll give me the honest truth I need to know before going any further with my story.

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