Lately I've gotten a few emails from people who are very interested in becoming test readers. Sadly, I had to turn them all down and it's not because they were unqualified.
Typically the interested parties are well educated (engineers, teachers, other writers and more), but sadly, I still can't take them on. I wish I could, but there are a lot of reasons why I just can't include them.
So everyone understands why, I thought I would enlighten people on how I put a test group together.
The first thing I do is watch for people who I've met personally and have known for a while. I don't tell anyone that I'm looking for test readers. At least a month before I'm ready I take account of who has read all the books preceding the one I'm finishing and then choose people who don't know each other, aren't prone to posting spoilers on the Internet, are trust worthy, I've known for a while, are educated or well read and I get along with.
When I finish my drafts and my first editorial pass I send copies of secure files out to each test reader. They don't get to know who the other readers are, how many there are or where they are. My editor gets her copy at the same time and she doesn't know any of the test readers either. I have test readers in three countries right now, and the select group are all fantastic people. They'd probably get along famously if they ever got to know each other actually, but sadly, it's a blind reading.
So that's how it works. How are the results from this kind of group? Well, I'm always surprised at what people notice, of their very unique opinions and what they commonly mention. They help me improve as a writer and story teller and with a book as complex and as large as Frontline, they also make good watchdogs, pointing out problems with continuity, characterization and even turning points in the plot.
I'd love to take on more test readers, but as you can see it's hard to find people who fit just right into a blind reading.
The first quarter of Spinward Fringe Frontline has been sent out to the Editor and all the test readers, and I'm eagerly awaiting their comments as I continue to edit the rest of the book. I'll be posting their general impressions as they come in, so check back!