For those of you who don’t know, beta readers are readers who get to read your book before it goes on sale and provide feedback. Depending on your goals, beta readers can be fans of a particular genre or even a fellow author. The ultimate goal is to get the 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. They don’t provide reviews only feedback. In other words, book reviewers review books, and beta readers read books.
Should You Edit First?
Most 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, what beta reader is going to like a manuscript that’s not edited properly?
Don’t Troll for Beta Readers
A few years ago, 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 republishing nonsense.
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 fear of retribution. They are not stupid or tasteless just because they don’t like your book.
Where to Find Beta Readers
- Absolute Write has a forum called: Beta Readers, Mentors, and Writing Buddies
- On Goodreads, there is a group called: Beta Reader Group
- Even Facebook has several groups for Beta Readers
If you’re not interested in cultivating relationships, then you may have to pay someone. You can find beta readers on Fiverr.com where they charge anywhere from $5 to $350. Also, the Self-Publishing Review charges around $129 for a beta reading.