The Beta Reader Writer's Information: How To Discover Beta Readers (And How To Work With Them)
If you don't know what a beta reader is, go back to the previous post in this series to find out! The previous post also provided answers to burning questions about whether to pay beta readers, what type of beta readers you want to find, and more.
Now we're going to look at how to find beta readers and, perhaps more importantly, how to work with beta readers.
There will be another post in this series about beta readers. Stay tuned!
How to find beta readers
In my previous beta reader post, I discussed the types of people you want to use for you as a beta version. In short, they have to be reliable, honest and read your genre. Now that you know who to ask, the question is where to find these people.
Where to find beta readers
It may seem like a monumental task to find a group of people who are willing to volunteer to read your manuscript and give you good feedback. Fortunately, it's actually not. Most people are more than willing to help you a little. You can find beta readers almost anywhere. Here's a list to get you started:
Write communities are probably the best places to look for beta readers. The people in these groups are writers (duh!) And will get everything you need from them. They are also more likely to know what they are talking about when it comes to identifying action holes and characterization problems. You could also finish your own manuscript and search for your own beta readers. This exchange of stories is what writing communities are all about!
You don't have a writing community? We would be delighted if you would join our, The Write Practice Pro.
Local writing groups are another great place to buy betas for the same reasons as above.
Your mailing list is another place to go to find some beta readers. If you don't have an author page yet, you need one! It's great to ask people on your website's mailing list because they are already interested enough in your work to subscribe (also known as a member of your target audience). Then why not create beta versions for you?
Remember here that you don't want to give your book to ALL subscribers. Who else will you sell it to when it is released? Choose a couple and move on.
You don't have an author website yet? Here's how to create yours.
Acquaintances are a great way to go. These people know you, but you don't know them well enough to not give you honest feedback. (Friends and family love you too much to give you an honest opinion.) You can ask some people at work or ask for help on social media.
Remember that when looking for beta readers, you need to make sure you collect honestly Reader. People who have only read a book since high school will not be helpful.
How to ask people to read beta for you
Now that you know where to look, how do you go about asking?
It is difficult to ask for help, especially for introverted writers. It is particularly difficult to ask for free help.
The great thing, as I mentioned earlier, is that most people are more than willing to help you. Everyone I've ever asked took the opportunity. I had strangers on the Internet, other writers, and random people from my husband's work (whom I never met) who agreed to read Beta for me.
It's really amazing how excited people are reading Beta. It is usually an honor for them to be asked and curious about what it is like to write and publish a book. So ask away!
People will be excited and excited to read beta for you. Ask away!
A tip for questions on social media: Start your post by actually asking for a favor. Don't write a really long post explaining everything about your book. Don't act like it's a big burden on people. Don't act like your book is "probably just okay" and apologize. Just ask! Here is a sample post:
Hey, can I ask you to do me a favor? I'm looking for beta readers for my latest book and would love it if you could help me! If you are interested, send me an email or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's it! Just like cake. (And much easier than writing a book!)
5 steps to work with beta readers
What's the next step after you've got a group of beta readers waiting for your book? What should you do with these eager readers?
Learn how to give your beta readers the best experience and ensure you get the most useful feedback.
1. Prepare your manuscript
To edit. Your manuscript shouldn't be full of crazy typing mistakes and notes you've made yourself. It should be as clean as possible.
You don't want your betas to go through nonsense to do you a favor. Correct as much as possible before sending it to betas.
2. Specify what you want
Beta readers need instructions. There is a good chance that many of your dream teams have not read anything in beta yet. They are most likely not 100% sure what to do.
Remember beta readers are not professional editors. You are not looking for typing errors. (They'll most likely point them out when they catch them, but that's not their main purpose.)
Beta readers are available as test readers for your book. They are to be read as a reader would. Do you know how to read a terrible / fantastic book and then talk to everyone who listens about the topics / great writing? This is basically what you expect from your betas.
They want their honest opinion as a reader. But you also want to concentrate on your work. Therefore, you need a list of questions that concern you.
I would like to encourage Betas to make general comments at the end, but also to ask them some questions that they can focus on. With my last book, I wanted to know a few important things:
- Did my main character make decisions?
- Was the end satisfactory?
- Was my supporting character redeemable?
- Did my world rules make sense?
Don't overwhelm betas with pages and pages with questions, but give them a certain focus. This should be fun for them and should not seem like homework. If you don't fill out every question, that's fine!
3. Send the manuscript to your betas
Your beta readers may have a preferred way to get your manuscript (some may want a hard copy), and that's fine if you want to ask them how to read it. Some advice: if you only have two or three betas, it may make sense to have them selected. If you have something like me, that's not reasonable.
In my opinion, the digital route is the only way for beta readers. It's easiest for everyone and you don't have to try to read someone else's handwriting.
Google Docs and MS Word are my first choice. It is easy to add comments in both programs and most users have access to them. Remember that you need to make it as easy as possible for your beta readers.
The last time I used Google Docs. Everyone added their own doc with their name to the title. I only allowed commenting (VERY IMPORTANT) and not editing in the sharing settings. You don't want your beta readers to edit your manuscript directly! You will never find out what they have changed and it is more difficult to compare versions.
When everyone was finished, I put the documents together in an MS Word file so that I could see all the comments at the same time.
There are also software programs specifically designed to help authors share their manuscripts with beta readers and get feedback in the most useful and least headache-inducing way. BetaBooks is one such program. If you're looking for a technical solution designed with beta reading in mind, it may be worth trying.
If not, Google Docs and MS Word work fine.
4. Enter deadlines
This is crazy important. If you don't give your betas a deadline, you will never get them to finish your book. (Well, maybe a few.) They will wait for this feedback forever and will be frustrated with them. More importantly, your book publication is delayed!
I recommend a relatively short period of maybe a few weeks. I gave my three for my last novel. If you give them several months, they'll probably forget about them. If you give them a few days, they won't because it's crazy. The average person can complete a book in three weeks.
Make sure they know the deadline, but also tell them it's okay if they don't get all of your books by then. Regardless of whether you are finished, continue to the next level after this period! (DO NOT use beta readers as an excuse to stop your work.)
Things come up. If your beta readers cannot finish your book on time, never attack them for it. Have no grudges. Don't shout at them. Don't even remind them of their commitment.
Remember, they did you a favor first. Be understanding and respectful of your time and your life.
It is a favor
The most important thing to remember about this entire beta reading process is that your beta readers are doing you a favor. Make it as easy as possible with every step!
Would you like to learn more about beta readers? Check out my previous post.
In my next post, I'm going to talk about what to do with all the great feedback you will get from your beta readers!
Who would you ask to read beta for you? Any other ideas on where to find beta readers? Let me know in the comments.
Write to this prompt for fifteen minutes:
Someone publishes the strangest request for a favor you have ever seen on social media. What is it and will you do it
If you are, post your work in the comments and give feedback to your co-authors!
Sarah Gribble is the best-selling author of dozens of short stories that examine uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She is currently boiling out more ways to freak you out and work on a novel.
Follow her @sarahstypos or sign up for free in her email list at https://sarah-gribble.com.