My paid beta reader experience

In January, I sent the first draft of my suspense romance novel to a paid beta reader for feedback.

I’m new to the world of fictional writing, and most of the beta readers I had were not fans of romance, so I wanted to give this a try.

I found the service on the Romance Refined website.

I sent my manuscript in on Jan 23 and received the feedback on Feb 9. It was supposed to be a two-week turn-around but it took a while for the payment to weave its way through the net. I paid $62.50 for the service and my manuscript is 50,000 words (the fee is based on number of words). You can receive feedback in 1 week if you’re willing to pay more.

The feedback came to me as a 22-page Word Doc with the reader providing answers to 84 questions that the editor/business owner had drafted. It’s basically an enormous form.

The reader filled out a few questions after reading Chapter 1 (so I had an idea of what she thought when she started the story), and then answered the rest after reading the entire book.

What I learned from this paid beta reader:

  • Her feedback aligned with what my non-paid readers had said.
  • My antagonists needed more work (my other readers also flagged this).
  • My prologue needed to go — it didn’t fit and it was the wrong POV (this was confirmed by 4 other people as well).
  • She found a huge racial error I’d made, which I have now fixed (I’m so glad she commented on it — no one else caught this).
  • This reader feedback was kind and gentle and good for my fragile wanna-be-an-author ego.
  • This reader provided little critical feedback for me to work off of (she flagged 3 items to resolve — prologue, antagonists, and racial error — 2 of which I knew of when I sent her the doc).
  • Beta readers are not editors — and I need both.
  • My work is good for a novella — it needs to be longer (about 20,000 words more)  if I want to pitch it as a full novel.

Here are my most fav responses to the editor’s questions. The beta reader was asked ..

  1. What the characters’ goals were and if they achieved them. 
    Her responses were lovely and I’ll weave them into my synopsis. 
  2. About her fav scene.
    They happened to also be the ones I had the most fun writing. 
  3. Would she read the next book in the series? 
    She said yes, she wants to know when this book is published so she can get it, and she identified the character she wanted it to be — and that is the character that I’m writing about next.
  4. Was it easy to set the book aside at the end of chapters? 
    She said she couldn’t put it down once she’d started. 
  5. How would she rate this story if it were published exactly as is?
    She said “4.5 out of 5 but only because of proofreading errors.” (That was hands-down my fav bit of feedback.)

I paraphrased the questions above because I signed an agreement saying I wouldn’t share the actual questions that the editor had used with others, but I’m happy to answer any other questions you may have about my experience with the service.

Some friends have asked if I would use the service again.

I will if my amazing pack of beta readers are not available when I’m done the manuscript for Book 2.

I loved the answers to the 84 questions. They were great. This was an affirming and positive experience, and it helped me accept that I was done with beta-reading phase and ready to move on to the final round of editing.

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