Why you Need Beta Readers – Guest Post by Christina C. Jones

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Happy Wednesday, All! So, today we’re all in luck because the uber talented Christina C. Jones is guest posting today about beta readers (click here to check out her post on building your author platform). And guess what else? Her latest release, Fall in Love Again, is now available! It’s the third book in her Serendipitous Love Series (check out all the books here) and if you haven’t read one of her books before, do yourself a favor and hop on over to Amazon.

I’ve said it here before but I’ll say it again: Christina is one of the most talented and prolific authors I’ve come across. Believe it or not, Fall in Love Again is her tenth release–since last year. She has an amazing work ethic so I can’t wait to share her advice with you all. Enjoy!

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In my (humble) opinion, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your book is recruiting honest, outspoken beta readers. Now, I’m not one of those people who believes in the “value” of harsh critique — let’s get that out of the way up front. I gain nothing from having my work ripped to shreds by people who are supposed to be “helping” me. So, I’m certainly not recommending you find people who will do that to you. I am, however, suggesting that you find people who can point out inconsistencies, give their respectfully honest opinion on what works — and doesn’t — for them, and ask questions about things that left them confused. That is a good beta reader to me.

My chosen genre is contemporary romance. As such, I deal with a lot of different dynamics in the relationships of my characters, which can draw some pretty heavy lines in the sand for readers. What my betas do for me is: give me their thoughts as they read — helps me discern if my words are giving the same emotional reaction I think they should, make inquiries about certain elements — lets me know that they’re engaged, interested, ready to see what happens next… or just friggin’ confused, and answer a set list of questions that I give them at a particular point in the book — usually mid-way.

I ask a lot on this list. What’s your opinion of XYZ character, can you clearly picture them in your head, do you understand their actions/reactions to this event? Are the love scenes developed organically? Do they make sense? Is there any part of the book that feels slow? Does one scene lead smoothly into the next?

These are things that I’m too close to the story to see for myself. I don’t use my betas as an idea factory, I use them to make sure that my ideas are clearly translated onto the page, because their value isn’t in telling me what to write — it’s in telling me how they feel about what I wrote.

If only one of my betas understood that I was including commentary about the next generation of our children inheriting violence in our world, by having a kid playing with a red ball at a park (get it? Ball=globe, red = blood… okay, yeah, I’m stretching it, huh? Lol!), then I know I need to rethink my words. If everybody except one understood… then maybe I still need to rethink my words for clarity. But it does tell me that for the most part, my words have been understood.

I have a team of betas who are (mostly) unknown to each other, and fluctuates in size. As of now, that number is seven. They vary in reading preferences and speeds, age, personality, etc, which is so important. You don’t want all of your betas to be just like you, or just like each other. That way, you’ll get a nice variety of opinions to sift through and pull out what works for you and your project.

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Every critique you receive from your betas isn’t something you should go rushing to change or adjust. Remember, it’s their opinion, but your work. Ultimately, you should always make the decision that feels right for you, your process, and your book, but it should absolutely be an informed opinion.
Several of my betas were readers that I approached, and a few approached me, but they’ve all been super valuable, especially in this last project. My characters get themselves into some messy — maybe even unrelatable — situations, and my betas reacted. Boy, did they react.

And… I got scared.

Sure did!

They were mad at the hero, mad at heroine, mad at the secondary characters, lol! All with good reason, honestly. Some things I adjusted — most I didn’t — but I ended up with a project that is as I envisioned it. I told the story I intended to tell, and my betas let me know that Charlie and Nixon’s story is beautiful, flaws and all. The helped bolster the confidence to just tell it!

It’s actually my favorite so far, and I’ve heard from several readers of the series — this book, Fall In Love Again, is my tenth release, third in a series of standalones — that this one is their favorite as well.
Do yourself a favor. Find some trusted (some authors even have their betas sign release forms and such, but I’ve never personally felt a need for that) readers in your genre, send an email, and ask!

Quanie, thank you again for having me!

 

FILAcover

Everybody knows you don’t marry the rebound guy.

And yet, that’s exactly what Charlie does. But once the husband is out of picture — kinda — she’s ready to leap forward with her life. She returns to the neighborhood she left, the business she missed, and into arm’s reach of Nixon — the reason she needed a rebound guy in the first place.

Other than rebuilding her life, Charlie has one main goal now that she’s back in the place she considers home: Stay as far away from Nixon as she can. But their long history, his magnetic charm, and a certain sense of unfinished business makes that much, much harder than Charlie thought.

Nixon is willing to own up to his part in their break up, but for Charlie, finding a place of forgiveness is going to take much more than that. She’s willing to take a chance on friendship — something they’ve had since they were kids — but falling in love again? That’s a whole different story.

 

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Christina Jones is a budding author on a mission to show the beautiful — but not always pretty — journey of love in all stages, with a focus on people of color. When she’s not immersed in writing it, Christina is an avid reader of her favorite genre, African American romance.

Her first published work was released in November 2013, and since then, she has released ten titles:

Love and Other Things
Strictly Professional
Unfinished Business
The Trouble With Love
Finding Forever
Chasing Commitment
A Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Didn’t Mean To Love You
Catch Me If You Can
Fall in Love Again


25 thoughts on “Why you Need Beta Readers – Guest Post by Christina C. Jones

  1. Great post! It can be hard to hear harsh criticism about your writing, but after the initial sting wears off I usually find I have a lot to think about. Some of the best things I have done for my writing have stemmed from other authors who have read my ms and given me feedback. So much easier to have someone with fresh eyes find what isn’t working. 🙂

    Fall in Love Again sounds like a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing!
    Stephanie@Fairday’s Blog recently posted..Monday’s Riddle: Flavor Magic…My Profile

  2. Great advice! Up until last year, I had very little experience with beta reading. I wanted to learn more about the job before offering my services to my close author friends.
    I think the best thing about beta reading is making sure the author’s work is clear. Getting rid of the mumbo jumbo and junky phrases helps the story make more sense. And you brought up a great point about this!
    gina stoneheart recently posted..Monday Feature and the Power of Unleashing a Positive PresenceMy Profile

  3. Fantastic post. Beta readers are the best. I’m not comfortable with a story until at least four people have read it. Two tips I use:
    While I have my trusted betas that I always go to, I try and find at least one set of fresh eyes. I’ve found that sometimes a “fan” will forgive minor plot errors.
    Second, Authors and readers will often give different advice. I try and mix my beta reader with both.
    Gina Drayer recently posted..NEWS: Upcoming Books, Covers, and LogoMy Profile

  4. This, all of this. ^_^ I’ve been lucky enough to find a few really good beta readers, and I stick with them like crazy. I have a tendency to think I’m being perfectly clear when I’ve actually written something that I only understand because I wrote it, and they’ve been great at pointing that out. (Among other things.)
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..Choose This.My Profile

  5. Hey, this post is just for me! I’ve actually posted about beta readers myself this week. Because thing is, I’ve just finished my novel and sent it over to my betas and I can’t wait to hear back from them.

    This is the first time I work with beta readers. I’ve been part of an online workshop for seven years and I’ve given and received hundreds of critiques, but this time I’ve seen I needed something different (must have something to do with this being my seventh revision), so, I asked some of my fellow writers on the workshop and some of my fellow writers in the dieselpunk community and most of them agreed to read the story. I’ve read and critiqued (and was critiqued) by most of these people, so I know the way they work and build a story.

    This said, because this is the first time I work with beta readers, I’m not sure how to go about it, actually. I’ve kind of decided to see what they say first, and maybe develop a dialogue on what they come up with. This is how I normally work with my fellow critters of the workshop.
    I’m also beta reading for a friend and this is the first time too. He didn’t ask anything specific, so I’m planning to crit as I do in the workshop and see what he responds.

    It’s an interesting experience on both sides 🙂

  6. Another ‘keeper’ post, Quanie! You’ve certainly got your finger on the pulse of “all things writerly”!
    Christina, your titles are enticing and your following speaks volumes. I guess I know what I’ll be reading this year! I appreciate your honesty regarding beta readers and the fear of feedback while emphasizing the need to have them in the first place. Besides, deep inside, we all want to know. Don’t we? How would you suggest I go about recruiting beta readers when I write in two different genres?

    • Hi Diedre! If you can find readers that like both genres, that’s EXCELLENT! Most readers have really diverse tastes, so it shouldn’t be too hard. With that said, it’s okay to not use the same betas for every project. As an example, SEVERAL of my betas weren’t feeling it all when I sent them the paranormal project I’ve been working on. PR just isn’t their “thing”, so I won’t use them for that particular project. They’ll come back into the lineup when I’m working on something that fits better with their preferred genre.

      I would recruit separately, based on the genre, and then just ask what their reading interests are. If they fit, ask them to work on both projects with you!
      Christina Jones recently posted..Still on the MoveMy Profile

  7. Quanie: Thanks for having Christina here again. Love her insight as a prolific author whose voice and work I enjoy very much.

    Christina: What an excellent post on Beta Readers! This is really timely for me because this year I’m going indie and will be relying heavily on my chosen beta readers. I love that you have very specific questions to help them think about the story in a way that will give you viable input on how the story is working. I also loved this quote:

    “[T]heir value isn’t in telling me what to write — it’s in telling me how they feel about what I wrote.”

    Definitely sharing this post!
    Reese Ryan recently posted..Cupid, Psyche and…Mom #MWTease #Bad Boys Gone GoodMy Profile

    • Hi! I casually mentioned in a blog post one day that I needed some people to give me feedback on a project I was working on. Several responded, but of those, I only still work with two. Many people *think* they want to beta read for you, not understanding that it involves more than just reading your book and saying “great job!”. It’s honestly a little bit of work, and not to be taken lightly! The two that I recruited that way both have a strong passion for reading, and were also fans of my work. More importantly, they have strong opinions, and a willingness to express them!

      The other betas were very vocal readers, who had connected with me via social media. I saw how open they were about offering their opinions (mostly good, sometimes not so much) about different aspects of my work, so I reached out! I gave them very clear explanations of my expectations, and they agreed!
      Christina Jones recently posted..Still on the MoveMy Profile

  8. Great advice from an author who’s obviously got her stuff together! The first book I read by Christina was Catch Me If You Can and I really enjoyed it. Now, I just bought the first in the Serendipitous Love series and I’m looking forward to diving into it as soon as I get a chance.

    I totally respect the process of creating beautifully flawed characters. It’s what I aim to do as well, and yes those beta readers will get you told! I just remind myself that they wouldn’t be so frustrated with the characters if they weren’t emotionally invested-which means I’m doing my job!

    Great post ladies. 🙂
    Faith Simone recently posted..Book Review: The Stolen Girl by Renita D’SilvaMy Profile

    • EXACTLY Faith! The last thing you want is a “meh” reaction from your “public” readers, so if your beta readers aren’t feeling anything, you’ve got some work to do! That emotional reaction, good or bad, is absolutely the goal.

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Catch Me If You Can, and happy reading on Crazy Love! It’s one of my favorite projects, and I think you’ll enjoy it!
      Christina Jones recently posted..Still on the MoveMy Profile

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