What About Beta Readers, Endorsements, and More?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series

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Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions! I’m curious about the timeline or order of events from writing to publishing.

We write and rewrite and edit and polish our manuscript while working on our platform. I’ve read that we should send our work to an editor before submitting it to a publisher. Does that come before or after sending it to beta readers? Do we need to have endorsements before submitting or after? Should we have any extras, like a dedication page, foreword, and/or afterword on hand before submitting? Any help along these lines is much appreciated.

 

Even though I wrote books for publication for many years, I never engaged beta readers per se. My husband read every book I wrote before it went to the editor. He was a great help to me! However, I understand that not everyone has friends and family who enjoy reading, or they might not be helpful beta readers for whatever reason. Perhaps they don’t enjoy the type of book you write or don’t understand your distinct audience or market, for instance.

I’d say that your beta readers should be people you have connected with in the industry, who are interested in you and what you are writing. You can also ask people who care about you but aren’t necessarily writers themselves, to act as readers. I think this list of readers is quite personal, and you can be flexible in choosing the people who are most helpful to you.

If you are paying for a professional edit, I recommend giving that editor your best manuscript to work with, so I’d run it by beta readers first.

As for endorsements, agents always like to see that you have friends in the industry who might vouch for your book. A list of your published author friends who write similar books to yours is excellent. You don’t need to have them read the book and write the endorsement until the publisher is ready. Also, the list is simply that – a list. The list in a proposal does not obligate the writer to endorse your book.

As for front-matter copy, save that for later.

 Your turn:

Do you have beta readers? How did you make contact with them?

How did you meet the writers who might endorse your book?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”

 

16 Responses to What About Beta Readers, Endorsements, and More?

  1. Avatar
    OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU July 23, 2020 at 5:30 am #

    Thanks Tamela for this very informative post -especially the last line: it is just a list and the writer is not obligated to endorse….
    You have made life easier for many writers.

    I find that having Beta readers is very valuable. I have joined the Association of Christian Writers , Society of Authors and the alumni of my uni, college and former work place I worked when I was in Nigeria. It is amazing how fertile a ground these unions are for Beta readers. You give each other advice, feed backs, reviews and encouragement. At the end of the day, there will be no use for the service of a pro and you get to keep your money in your pocket. The House of God is very rich indeed. Look no further for a Beta reader else where!
    God bless you Tamela.

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    Tom Morrisey July 23, 2020 at 5:33 am #

    I have never hired an editor to “pre-edit” a manuscript. As for beta readers, those are usually colleagues that I might be turning to for endorsements as the book nears release.

    Books that are written by committees sound like books written by committees. Too often, they lose their lyric value.

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    Loretta Eidson July 23, 2020 at 5:53 am #

    Thanks, Tamela! I had beta readers once but they were close friends who only cheered me on. I rarely received any constructive edits. Finding quality beta readers has been challenging.

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      Lila Diller July 23, 2020 at 9:37 am #

      I’ve had trouble finding really constructive beta readers, also. I have a few friends who want to read my book, but they don’t give any other feedback other than, “I liked it!” or a list of typos (which are helpful). I think of beta readers as “big-picture” developmental helpers to make sure I’m on the right track with plot, pacing, and characters. I don’t really have one of those I can always go to. I do have a writing coach that I follow, and I do all of the challenges she posts in her Facebook group. I have won a developmental critique and an editing package from her, and that has been immensely helpful. She knows what she’s doing. I am an editor myself, so I do the proofing on my own usually, but I’m a detail-oriented person, so I need help with the big-picture vision of the story.

  4. Avatar
    Barbara Harper July 23, 2020 at 5:59 am #

    Thank you, Tamela! This is very helpful.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 23, 2020 at 6:11 am #

    Tamela, I suspect that culturally-encouraged self-effacement (with a dash of shyness) and the independent outlook that a writer needs can be quite a formidable barrier here…

    Never had a beta reader,
    that’s all Greek to me,
    and there’s naught that I could feed ‘er;
    where’s the dignity
    in asking that somebody read
    the book that I just wrote?
    I nurture my tree from the seed,
    and paddle my own boat.
    And endorsements, what’s the deal?
    I’m the Great Unwashed Unknown,
    and I’ve got to keep it real;
    this is not the Twilight Zone.
    If I’m to make the bookstore shelf,
    I’ve got to do this all myself.

  6. Avatar
    DAMON J GRAY July 23, 2020 at 6:55 am #

    I do use beta readers, and I choose them for specific tasks and reasons. I may choose one to check me on theological content. I’ll choose another to look for continuity of argument, flow, logic. What seems unclear or even flat-out wrong? I’ll choose another because I know he or she enjoys looking at detail, so they will check all of my references for accuracy.

  7. Avatar
    Dan Story July 23, 2020 at 7:06 am #

    Today’s blog about beta readers raised a question I’ve wondered about. I have a list of potential writers in my ministry (apologetic related topics) who I think would be willing to write an endorsement for my new book (now with an agent). Who would be best to send them a request, me or the publisher?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2020 at 10:16 am #

      Dan, in my experience, there are two times to decide about endorsements, as a rule. One is to include one or two in your proposal from those who have already read your book or are familiar with your previous work. The second is to secure a contract and to work with the publisher during the process to see your book to publication. You’ll receive proper guidance at that time.

  8. Avatar
    Sharon K. Connell July 23, 2020 at 7:32 am #

    Thank you for saying you don’t use Beta readers, Tamara. LOL We hear so much about them that some writers feel it is a necessity.

    Critiquers from the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) are who I use to go over my story. Through the years, I’ve gotten to know several critiquers who always send back a CRIT when I send in a submission. They are faithful to me. By the end of the story, they have already read it through from start to finish. Many of these critiquers are authors and I’ve received endorsements from them. Most write in the same (or similar) genre.

    When you are a part of a great organization like ACFW, you get all the help you need in finding errors and hiccups in your story.

    My editor is not in the group. It’s been beneficial for her not to have read the story along the way but to have fresh eyes on it. She reads it through from cover to cover before she starts working on it, just to have the story in mind, and to see if it flows well. She has also given me endorsements.

  9. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield July 23, 2020 at 7:46 am #

    I choose different beta readers for different books. The main character in the book for which I’m now sending out queries is a nurse practitioner, so I asked Ann, the former dean of a college of nursing with whom I worked for 19 years, to critically read it. She is an avid reader, a published writer, and a devout Catholic. I knew she had the background to catch anything related to nursing that wouldn’t work (I worked in nursing education but am not a nurse), and she would have a little different context from mine for the main character’s spiritual struggles. I knew that while she knows and likes me, she would critique candidly. She found several missed typos. She loved the whole nursing context. She encouraged me to make the spiritual component even more prominent. She said once she started the book she was drawn in immediately and hated to put it down to go to bed that night. I know that you, Tamela, want to know the MC’s challenge or objective asap, and one other beta reader thought the book got off to a slow start, so I did subsequently take a lot of backstory out of Ch. 1 anyway so the MC’s goal and the barriers to reaching it are clear on page 1; but Ann was the perfect beta reader for this book and I took her advice in the rewrite.

    As for getting endorsements from other writers, I don’t have a clue. I hope others have some great ideas and/or you will address that in another post.

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    Ann L Coker July 23, 2020 at 8:31 am #

    For the first time I had beta readers for my current book in process. I chose friends and the teachers gave me the best reviews. Comments ranged from structure to content, some generalities and some specifics, but all helpful. I’d do it again. As for endorsements, I’ve not made contacts yet, so thanks for the gentle push.

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    Wendy July 23, 2020 at 9:58 am #

    I’m writing my memoir. Friends and family are my beta readers for now, since many of them journeyed with me through my experience. I’ll expand the group to include others when the manuscript is complete. Finding the right editor for my project is a challenge since it involves medical, legal, and faith elements, but I trust that will come together.

    There are two fellow writers I plan to ask for endorsements. One has coauthored several classic Christian books, some of which became movies. I contacted her via her blog when I discovered that a quote on a plaque in my foyer came from one of her books. She graciously responded, and we communicated about my story via email and phone. Her words of encouragement help inspire me to press on.

    The second author ministers through a well-known Christian organization. He’s published several books through the in-house publishing division. I knew his sister while growing up. They lived just one street over and up the hill. But I didn’t meet him until he became my pastor years later. I stay in contact with him and his wife via social media, and I’m hoping they’ll both be beta readers, and perhaps endorsers.

    I love seeing how God is weaving His plan even when we don’t realize it. He brings the connections we need when we need them. God is the Master Storyteller.

  12. Avatar
    Lorie Davis July 23, 2020 at 10:25 am #

    I self-published a novel based on true lives during 2 World Wars and sold it locally. It was a terrific hit, given raves by the hundreds of people who read it. Would those readers be considered beta readers now that I’m trying to find an agent to get it nationally published? I give a lot of book talks to clubs, and when I tell them no agent seems interested, they are stunned and say the agents must be daft. I still get dozens of letters asking me to sell them more books. Would it be any help to tell an agent that?

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    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. July 23, 2020 at 11:17 am #

    Tamela, I met my beta readers in different ways. One of them loves the kind of fiction I write and has read extensively. Another is a writer herself; we met in church but found that we both enjoyed writing stories. Another is a free lance editor; I paid her to read my book and then realized she had only scanned it…. Live and learn.

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    Megan Schaulis July 24, 2020 at 3:29 pm #

    I wonder how well known my endorsers need to be. I don’t know any published authors, but I’m connected with several ministries. Would the leaders of those ministries be good to include in my proposal? I’d hate for an agent to read the list and say, “Who?”

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