Improve Your Editing Process with Preferred Readers
by Beth K. Vogt
When I reach a deadline and finish a manuscript, I do two things:
- I hit SEND and submit my the newly-completed novel to my editor
- I contact my Preferred Readers and let them know they’ll be getting their copies within the next few days
I’ve been working with Preferred Readers since my debut novel, Wish You Were Here, released in 2012. Back then I had one Preferred Reader. Now I have three.
What is a Preferred Reader?
My Preferred Readers are three women who read through my manuscript and then meet with me to give me feedback on my plot, my characters, as well as telling me which scenes worked for them and which didn’t.
Why Work with Preferred Readers?
My group’s feedback is invaluable. They are my target readers: the kind of women I hope will pick up my novels, pass them on to their friends, or even to their teen daughters. Their insights let me know if I’m tapping into readers’ emotions, or if I’m confusing readers. Do they like my hero and heroine? Is my pacing working or is the story dragging? Did they like that challenging scene I wrestled with?
How Do You Run a Preferred Readers Group?
- Limit the size of your group. Having three Preferred Readers is ideal. When we meet, we discuss each chapter, keeping to “big picture” comments. Each person has a say. Even with a small group our meetings often last six hours and include a meal – and we talk while we eat.
- Select different personalities. One of my Preferred Readers (PR) is a detail person, as well as a certified emotional intelligence (EQ) coach. Another PR is a writing buddy, and she brings that skill set to the group. My third PR is specifically a target group reader, as well as a former teacher and a homeschooling mom. The last time we met, she had her teen daughter read through the manuscript too.
- Equip your group. I print out the manuscripts, which allows my PRs to mark up the pages as they read. NOTE: If you do this at someplace like Kinkos, this can be pricy. I spent $90 for printing and hole-punching. But if you do it at home, it’s your paper and ink, which you have to replace. I also provide individual binders and include dividers to mark each chapter, which makes it easier to go back and forth during discussions.
- Tell your Preferred Readers what kind of feedback you want. Be specific. I recommend staying with general comments and not getting bogged down with grammar, punctuation, and spelling – although they can go ahead and mark that too. Let them know you want both positive feedback and constructive criticism – no writer wants to hear only negative input. Consider starting with overall feedback about the book, like a character or a plot point, before going chapter by chapter.
- Appreciate your Preferred Readers. I always work with them to set a convenient time to meet and discuss the manuscript. We’ve met at restaurants for a working breakfast or dinner – my treat. Last time, we met at my house because it was quieter, and I ordered Thai food from a local restaurant for lunch. I also include my PRs on my influencer list so they receive a copy of each book when it’s released.
Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author who said she’d never write fiction, the wife of an Air Force physician who said she’d never marry anyone in the military and a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, and their youngest daughter.
For more information about Beth, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.