First, let’s start by defining who or what is a beta reader.
A beta reader is usually an unpaid test reader of an unreleased work of literary manuscript, who gives their honest feedback on the story to the author. Although, there are some beta readers that do offer their opinions and are paid for them. Some of these beta readers’ services are pricey and can range from $100 to $1K dollars YIKES!!!
However, if you have extra cash and want to pay for their services, I recommend doing a lot of research on the matter. For example, if it costs more money to get a beta reader than to get your book edited or getting a book cover designer then I suggest you move on to another beta or save your hard earn cash for the services that you will really need. I did use a paid beta reader to compare to my free beta reader and they pretty much said the same thing and also the level of service that was provided by the paid beta was superb. She had detailed comments for every chapter and the turnaround time was about 2 weeks. I can say that she was highly reliable, and it was a professional service.
Also, beta readers are normal everyday people that enjoy reading and gives their opinion based on a reader standpoint and not on an author’s or an editor’s critical eye critique.
Where can I find a beta reader?
I found all my beta readers on Facebook. I searched beta readers and a few pages came up most of which are invitation only but if you request to be invited an administrator will contact you. Either there is a preliminary questionnaire that pops up when you request to be invited or the page administrator will review your request and determine if you are the right fit for the group.
You can also do a Google search for free beta readers or paid beta readers and a few will pop up. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr are also good places to find beta readers.
If you are looking for a paid beta reader I suggest that you ask them if they can give you a sample of their work if they have a website then you can view their sample on their site or you can ask if they can read your first chapter and give you feedback on that.
You can also find paid beta readers through Upwork where you can post for jobs in whatever area you need to hire a “professional” who specializes in that service. Again, do your research and hire only those that provide you with examples of their work.
Are beta readers beneficial?
Yes, yes, and yes!! They will provide you with honest feedback on anything that is inconsistent in your manuscript, grammar issues (although not many do this), vague explanations, pacing, character developments, plot, world-building, what worked or didn’t work, and many other things that you as the author may overlook because it is your book. They will give you insights based on a reader’s perspective.
**Having a beta reader will not guarantee a five-star rating from everyone who reads your book, however, they betas are readers who enjoy your genre and that’s the insights that you want.**
How many beta readers do you need?
As many as you can handle. I found that there are many people who will volunteer to read your story and then either forget or a situation arises that they have to quit reading or simply they found that your book and they were not a good match. This is why I prefer to give betas a few chapters at a time as opposed to giving them the entire manuscript unless they ask for the entire manuscript. If you do provide with a few chapters then it is best to provide them with a deadline when you will want the feedback by. It is also a good idea to have a questionnaire on what kind of questions you would want them to answer as they are reading. Below are a few good questions taken from James Scott Bell’s book How to Write Pulp Fiction.
Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
Could you relate to the main character? Nonfiction: did you understand the authors reason for writing the book? Did you feel her/his pain or excitement?
Did the setting interest you and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you? Nonfiction: Did the topic seem exciting if you had no prior knowledge of it?
Was there a point at which you felt the story lagged or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly? Nonfiction: where did the book get boring? What parts could be cut out?
Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why? Nonfiction: did any of the research seem far-fetched?
Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details? Nonfiction: were any details repeated or redundant?
Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable? Nonfiction: could some of the stories and ideas be more punchy? If so, how so?
Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names of characters too similar? Nonfiction: was there too much information, research, or not enough? Was the information helpful or did it drag?
Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest? Nonfiction: was the narrative interesting and did it move along? Why or why not?
Was the ending satisfying? Believable? Nonfiction: did the book provide helpful next steps?
Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?
Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?
You can also use these questions when you’re doing your own edits. Also, another tip is to have your manuscript polished before giving it to a beta reader. It doesn’t have to be edited by a professional, but you should at least read it through and correct anything that you missed or overlooked while writing. I made the mistake of not reading it and found a lot of mistakes and the beta reader was not too thrilled with the simplest mistakes that could’ve been avoided had I read it before and edited before pushing it to be beta read.
That’s all I have for you today.
Tell me about your beta reader journey and where you found yours in the comments.
And as always happy writing!!