I love my beta readers. All of them. If I could, I’d buy them Lexuses, just like artificial rich people do in those obnoxious say-I-love-you-at-Christmas-by-giving-them-a-car-with-a-bigass-bow-on-it commercials. Yes, that much.
If you’re not familiar, a beta reader is someone to whom you show your polished novel (not an early draft–that would be an alpha reader), and ask for feedback. In working with many of the same beta readers for my second novel I used for my first, I noticed things I hadn’t anticipated or previously spotted.
And when I notice stuff I think might be helpful, I stick in on here. You’re welcome, interwebz.
What’s interesting is what I discovered was not with my writing or story this time, but with the readers. It happened when I had a minor conflict with a beta reader who couldn’t resist providing a type of feedback for which, I’d noted, I wasn’t looking . In thinking (way too much) about that, tendencies and patterns of behavior for all my readers formed, and what I’ve decided to call Beta Reader Archetypes came into view.
So what are Beta Reader Archetypes? Simply put, they’re ways to identify and group your readers by one or more of the following:
- Their willingness to read your book
- How they read your book
- The type of feedback they prefer to provide (the primary factor)
Now if you’re wondering why this info is useful, I have two reasons:
- It will make targeting/evaluating new beta readers much easier
- For existing readers, it’ll help filter out people when specific feedback is sought
OK, enough jibber-jabber. Here’s my poorly-constructed list of the eighty-seven Beta Reader Archetypes I’ve identified. Just kidding. There’s, like, eight. I didn’t count, to be honest, but there’s no way there’s more than ten. I think.
If anyone has any of your own, please add them in the comments.
The What Do You Need-er
Let’s start strong with the most coveted of beta readers: the What Do You Need-er. This person is a godsend. They ask you what kind of feedback you’re looking for, and deliver only that. Most folks do not fall into this archetype, though, because they’ll notice things you told them to ignore. That could be good, but could also be distracting.
The Here’s Everything I Saw-er
This person is the What Do You Need-er Nega Ninja. They practically line edit, even if you just want feedback on the story. It can be difficult to dig through their mountain of notes to uncover the stuff you’re after. If you want a thorough review, though, they’re your best friend.
The Send It To Me, But I’m Not Going To Read It-er
One of the unfortunate truths about showing your book to people is some will not read it. It might be because they’re too busy, or could be because they were just being polite when they offered. Either way, this person means well, but is ultimately ineffective in your ranks. Try to identify them early so for your next book, you know not to include them.
This is someone whose opinion you seek, but is not interested in your genre, hated your last book so doesn’t want to spend time on your current one, finds something on page one that makes them stop reading, etc. They will take FOREVER to get back to you, if they ever do, and their notes and suggestions won’t help since by then you’ve already been querying for months. Look elsewhere.
The Everything Is Awesome-er
The most well-intentioned by unhelpful beta reader, the Everything Is Awesome-er has no suggestions and can’t provide any meaningful feedback. All they do is tell you how much they loved your book and think it will make a great movie. It’s nice to have one of these if everybody else is hammering you, but that doesn’t make them useful to improving your work.
The Everything Sucks-er
The goatee Spock to the Everything Is Awesome-er, this person only tells you what they didn’t like, and offers no positive feedback. If you’re tough-skinned, their feedback can be extremely helpful. If not, what they say can make you curl up in the corner and pee yourself. Check your feelings at the door when enlisting one of these.
The I Could Do It Better-er
Having another writer make specific suggestions is great, but having someone who’s never written anything say, “You should do it like this,” is not. The reason is they can’t see your story’s big picture the way you or other writers can, and don’t understand how enormous an impact a seemingly small change can make. Have a grain of salt on hand.
Getting someone familiar with the publishing industry, current trends, and comp titles to read your book and provide feedback is the dream. They’ll tell you if you do/don’t have a good story, can/cannot write, and if your book is/isn’t sellable. I’m openly jealous of the few who have the In-The-Know-er reading for them.
The Publishing Layman
This person is the Yin to the Yang (please tell me you don’t need me to post a link to a pic for this one) of the In-The-Know-Er, so you might assume they wouldn’t be helpful. You’d be wrong. The Publishing Layman provides an unprejudiced view of your story–the ‘gut reaction’ to your book the vast majority of readers would experience. They’re extremely helpful, especially if they’re in your target audience, even if all they do is say they liked/didn’t like your book.
This one’s tricky, as it can swing either way. Family members/close friends might not want to read at all for fear of looking at you differently, or if they do read they may only want to compliment you so they don’t risk the relationship. Of course they might hammer your work because they feel that’s their right/responsibility. I say if they have a mix of feedback, they can be trusted. If what they offer is too one-sided, don’t take it to heart unless it aligns with what non-relation beta readers are telling you.
Well, there it is. See, I told you I was joking about the eighty-seven thing.
Thanks for reading,