Who are your test readers?
As a writer, you have plenty of opportunities to get feedback on your books and texts, both the already published and especially the material you haven’t finished or that you’re still working on.
It can be a little difficult to grasp, who can help with what and that’s why I’ve gathered a little guide for you here, where you can see some of the different types of test readers and what they will often be able to do for you, before you send your manuscript to a publisher or press “publish”.
(Read this post in Danish here>>)
As I see it, there are two categories of readers, who can help you, before your text is done. There are the Professionals and the Beta readers.
Beta readers could be your friends, family, coworkers, strangers or other writers and aspiring authors you know.
It’s called Beta readers because they are testing the reading experience before the ’product’ (your text) is completed and still missing some editing or chapters.
Professional readers are typically the editors, proofreaders, dramaturges and others who work professionally with words, texts and stories in some capacity.
(Read the blogpost on professional test-readers here>>)
Who does what? – Beta readers
Family is the most complex test-reader, because it’s the most complex personal relation. If you have a great relationship with your family, they might not want to be too critical of your work or maybe they really just think everything you create is wonderful. Maybe it’s not something they’re actually interested in or they can’t find a way to tell you things in a nice way so you end up not wanting to write again? With family, it is important for you to consider your relation and tell them clearly what you expect from them in terms of test-reading your material.
Friends are almost as difficult to navigate as family, when it comes to test-reading of your material, because they want the best for you (if they don’t, get new friends). You can get their brutally honest opinion or you can risk that they are unwilling to help, because they don’t want to risk your friendship, in case they don’t like what you’ve written – and both scenarios are okay! Friends will most likely give you advice and tips on how to improve your text, but if they aren’t backed up by a professional background, it’s important that you listen to your gut and sort out what you can and should use and what you shouldn’t.
These people can be great to ask when you just need a direct, honest opinion about where you are in your quest of becoming a great writer. Here you can expect less praise from the feedback and more constructive criticism, but it might not all be constructive. It is important here, that you have cleared in advance with the test-reader, what exactly you want them to be focusing on when reading and then discuss with yourself whether or not you are ready to be critiqued, good or bad, and then take what you can use and trust your gut with it.
Fellow writers are often super ready to provide backup, support and feedback, and that is great because they know what it’s like when you’re giving a text away and waiting intensely on the feedback. Here m yadvice to you is to be careful that the other writer doesn’t “feed” you their own ideas and stuff they think is cool, if it truly doesn’t fit your story. They might be holding back on the constructive criticism too, if they don’t want to upset you, by showing you where your text is lacking and needs improvement.
I usually tell actors to be wary of the advice they receive from other actors, even though they mean well, because it’s the director who is in charge of the grand vision and can see things your colleagues might not.
(I gathered up the rest of the test-readers in a Part 2, read it here>>)
No matter who you choose as a test reader, one very important thing to remember is to decide up front, what you need from them. Then tell them in a nice way, what they can help you with. Maybe you could draw up some open-ended questions for them to answer when they’ve read your text. Make sure you and your test-reader both know what the deal is, so no one’s feelings get hurt, especially if it’s someone you know. No test-reader is better or worse than the others, as long as the agreement is clear. You should also be thinking that this person can really help you become a better writer!
Always remember to thank people for their help – useful or not!
Is there a type of test-reader missing from my list? Do you have any experience with test-readers? Make sure you tell me about it in the comments below!
I would love to hear your experiences with test-readers and getting feedback on your material, and if you’re considering asking a dramaturg for help, please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’d be happy to tell you more about what exactly I can help you with. 😊