How did I approach beta readers to review my novel?

Earlier this week,  a writer and fellow blogger asked me how did I approach my reviewers. At the same time, I heard on the most recent show of Simon’s Rocking Self Publishing Podcast that probably 20 is a good number of beta readers to have. This got me thinking: How did I actually do it? Over the past several months, I had been so enamored by the novel that it is quite likely that I must have told anybody and everybody who cared to listen. And that probably got a lot of people interested to read Now, Returned to India during the interview.

Coming back to the question: When and where did I approach the reviewers?

In my case, the book reviews took place in two phases. The first phase was from June to September 2013, when I only sent the first one or two chapters to over 30 readers. My starting point was the tried and tested method- largely friends and family. I also approached few readers from my alumni or professional network, but the majority of the reviewers were “cold calls”. It so happened that my wife and I had set up a food stall for nearly a week in September at a fair. While she was getting the orders ready, I pitched the book to the customers or other who were simply curious to know what we had to offer. I had prepared a bunch of leaflets that told the prospective reviewer about the book, and also had a tearaway for people to write their names and contact details. I managed to get more than 30 reviewers this way. It was an interesting experience to say the least! 

Response rate
Beta readers’ feedback

The second phase began in January, when I had substantially re-written the rest of the draft. I contacted a few of my friends & family again, but largely my alumni network and also members of the Return to India Forum, where it all began for me. I also happened to attend a family wedding in January, and unexpectedly discovered a new potential audience of my novel. They reviewed a few sample chapters and gave really encouraging feedback. (More on my target audience in a later post).

I am also including below the profile of the respondents. As you may note, nearly 1 in every 2 persons who I approached has given some feedback or the other. Many of them have gone line by line and sent back the sample chapters in track change mode (I had sent word docs to most of them), others sent long-ish emails with details on what works in the novel and what doesn’t.

For those who did not respond, I understand and  appreciate that they are busy people, and it is perfectly fine!. Or maybe they did not like what they read and are too polite to let me know that.

Profile of Respondents
Profile of Respondents

I would be curious to know what other’s experiences have been with beta readers. Same question again, when and how did they approach them?

-Amar

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Would you wait to finish the manuscript first?

In almost every blog post I have read, conversations I have had, and email exchange with authors, both published and aspiring, there has been one consistent theme: they have all recommended that one should finish the manuscript first before sending it to the publishers (or agents, as the case may be).

While this seems like a logical approach, my question is as follows: at least in India, most publishers expect you to send a book proposal which includes at a minimum a synopsis, sample chapters and author bio. Then, there is a long wait anywhere between two to six months before the publishers respond to you – informing whether your book proposal has been  shortlisted or not. Then you have to send the full manuscript, which will get reviewed again and then finally you will be informed of the decision.

While what I have written above may already be known to most of you, my question is as follows: Why wait to send the sample chapters till the entire manuscript is ready? Why cannot one send the sample chapters as soon as they are completed, and finish the rest of the book while the book proposal is being evaluated?

I would like to know the pro’s and con’s of doing so- I am thinking of trying this approach for my next book.