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Beta Readers

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Does anyone use middle-grade students as beta readers? Has anyone partnered with teachers at a local school to identify beta readers? Also, what kind of feedback are you looking for from beta readers and how do you use the feedback?
#1 - May 21, 2020, 02:06 PM

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Using students can give you some insight, but do not mention it in a query letter. Kids are very honest, and you'll know if they laugh at the jokes or lose interest. Not all of them are cut out to be literary critics though. You'll even have some who don't like reading.

I had my niece read when she was the right age, but she forgot to mark the text. Having a teacher read a chapter at a time and discuss with the class might benefit you more, and them too, especially if they read the edits you've made based on their comments. I have no idea if this works though.
#2 - May 22, 2020, 06:20 PM
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Thank you.
#3 - May 22, 2020, 07:01 PM

Using students can give you some insight, but do not mention it in a query letter.

Curious, why shouldn't it be mentioned in a query letter? I work a lot with research and A/B testing so I'm used to backing up all of my work-related pitches with data. I would have thought being able to show qualitative interest from the demographic would have been similarly powerful when approaching an agent/publisher. Interested to hear why publishing is different!   ::-)
#4 - June 12, 2020, 07:08 AM

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Too many writers have approached too many agents and editors with pitches like: my daughter and her friends love the book and so does my mother, or my son's teacher read it to her class and they loved it. Then the ms turns out to be sub par. People who have a personal connection to you are not usually reliable beta readers. As Debbie said, children can give you insights, but don't use them as references.

Sometimes someone with a close personal connection can be helpful, but often not. I have six children. I only use one of them as a beta reader, but I wouldn't use her as a reference in a query. The one child I use is trained, understands what I'm looking for, and follows directions. For example, I might ask, "Is there too much romance or not enough?" or "Does the sidekick take too much attention away from the MC?" She gives me valuable feedback, but it's not relevant in a query.

#5 - June 12, 2020, 09:36 AM


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For beta readers who aren't really writers/editors, I would probably be interested in their reactions as the book unfolds. Are they laughing in the right places? What do they predict when they come to foreshadowing I have planted? Are their theories in the right direction? How much do they believe in the love line? (Or is it just too cringey?) Etc. I'd want to know if the message I am trying to send is getting through.

The thing you do with this feedback is revise. You do not say in your query that the book has had beta readers or critiquers. It should be a given that someone other than yourself and your mom have read the book and that this isn't a first draft. The actual quality of the writing, in other words, is what carries weight for an agent or editor--not the approval of some unknown person.
#7 - June 14, 2020, 06:51 AM

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It looks like you've gotten two great answers to the question already.

Just keep in mind that this is an art or craft and not a science. Any reader response is subjective and not necessarily predictive of anything. This is why a book can be rejected by everyone and go on to break sales records or be loved by an editor and go on to tank.
#8 - June 14, 2020, 06:53 PM
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