When I published my first book, I made the horrible mistake of not getting any beta readers. Instead I focused on editing and reviews which nearly drove me mad. I honestly think a beta reader would have put me at ease a little bit, but you know, hindsight is always 20/20.
Depending on your goals, beta readers can be fans of a particular genre, or even a fellow author. The ultimate goal is to get feedback you can use to strengthen your work. “It’s cool” or “I liked it” won’t cut it for most authors. The typical beta reader goes over a story to check for consistency in style, glaring grammar mistakes and even plot holes. In short, they critique books before they’re published.
Should you Edit First, then Find a Beat Reader?
Many authors edit before giving a beta reader their book but there are those who use beta readers as an editing filter so they don’t have to pay so much on editing later on. I don’t like that kind of thinking, I mean, who’s going to like a manuscript that’s not complete?
Don’t Troll for Beta Readers
Keep in mind, a beta reader is not a reviewer and authors shouldn’t confuse the two. In fact, I found this blog post called, “When I Bought Your Book I Didn’t Sign Up to be Your Beta Reader.” It’s an interesting take on authors responding to reviews and even changing books according to those reviews. Beta readers can help you avoid this publish and republish nonsense.
*Rant* And while we’re at it, I don’t think authors should hit up reviewers on Amazon. Those people are often just regular ol’ readers who might get a little freaked out by a complete stranger asking them for a favor. But you didn’t ask me all that, so I’ll digress…
What to Look for in a Beta Reader
Some authors are looking for a writing partner while others are looking for a mentor, and some just want to see what the average Joe Shmoe thinks. Again, it all comes down to your goals. Whoever you choose, make sure to do your research. Make sure that person has actually done some beta reading in the past. This way you won’t waste time on those who are just looking for a freebie and avoid the flakes who never critique anything.
Different Types of Arrangements
- Writers who offer an exchange, they’ll read yours if you read theirs. These are most popular with indie authors.
- Paid beta readers who offer their time and opinion for a price. The quality varies depending on the service as well as the beta reader.
- Regular readers who will offer an honest opinion on your work though they are rarely skilled at offering an in-depth critique.
- Writing groups usually made up of aspiring or rookie authors often critique manuscripts but beware, not all groups are created equal. Some consist of writers from various genres and may not have any clue about what your target reader likes.
Be Mentally Prepared to Hear Their Opinion
Some authors have described their experiences with beta readers as either pointless or nightmarish. Remember as an author, it is your responsibility to allow readers to hate your work without retribution. They are not stupid or tasteless because they don’t like your book.
Where to Find Beta Readers
- Absolute Write has a forum called: Beta Readers, Mentors and Writing Buddies
- LinkedIn has a group called: Beta Readers: A Subgroup of Let’s Talk About Writing
- On Goodreads there is a group called: Beta Reader Group
- World Literary Café has a beta reader forum but you must be a member.
- On Tumblr there is a blog called Find Your Beta Reader
- Even Facebook has several groups for Beta Readers
If you’re not interested in cultivating relationships, then you may have to pay someone. There’s a new site called, GetBetaReaders.com where you pay someone to go over your work. However, they’re still in beta, imagine the irony! :)