Beta Readers are a crucial part of a writer's writing and publishing journey, but without knowing what they are, it can be difficult to find them. Authors regularly use Beta Readers to help them further improve their writing and get a different perspective than their own.
What is a Beta Reader?
A beta reader is someone who will read your finished manuscript and provide feedback based on their own thoughts, what they liked/disliked or what they feel needs improving. They are incredibly important as they may pick up on aspects or revisions that the writer could have easily missed and they'll give you an understanding from a readers point of view. Beta readers differ from critique partners, who read your manuscript from a writer's point of view, and will pick up on techniques that a reader may not.
Where can I find a Beta Reader?
To start, you should ideally have between 3-10 beta readers, as this will allow you to gain mixed feedback and further improve your writing. Being a beta reader isn't a job title and you shouldn't have to pay a beta reader - they are getting to read the book for free after all. Here are some examples of where you can find beta readers.
Family & Friends - beta readers can be anyone who enjoys reading, this includes your family and friends. It is important to note that these opinions may be biased.
Writing Communities - There are many writing communities and website that allow you to search for beta readers, such as; Facebook's Beta Readers and Critique Partners group, Goodreads Beta Reader Group, My Writers Circle and my DISCORD group chat, which is available to all Patreon members.
Social Media - You can also ask your followers if they'd like to be a beta reader, all you have to do is ask followers who want to do it, to private message you their email address. To make it even more interesting, you can create a form using Google Forms and have them answer questions like, 'Why do you want to be a beta reader?' or, 'Have you read any past books by me?', have them leave their full name and email address for you to be in touch!
Your Mailing List - If you've already started building a mailing list, ask these users if they'd like to be a beta reader fo yours. You can include a section for sign ups in your latest newsletter or create an email campaign focussed around this topic.
Other Authors - There's no reason why other authors can't be your beta readers, you just need to ensure that you've picked people who enjoy reading in their free time. I know plenty of authors who don't get the time to read, and only read their own work, which wouldn't be as helpful as they have nothing to compare your work to, other than their own and they could be writing something that is a completely different genre.
How to approach Beta Readers?
Now that you've decided who you want to be your beta readers, you have to reach out and ask. This can be a daunting task, but there's no need to worry about a thing. An example message you can send to someone would be;
Hey! You may know that I'm writing a (genre) novel and I'm now at the stage where I'm looking for others to read my work and give critical feedback. This is called beta reading, and I'd love you to be a part of it! This would entail you reading the manuscript before its release and providing your feedback so that I can better my work. If this is of interest, please go to (insert sign up link) to register your email address and I'll be back in touch soon. Many thanks!
Treat it as a celebration, it is a milestone after all! If I were hoping to gain beta readers from social media, I would do stories or posts that start along the lines of, 'I'm excited to announce that I'm now in the stage of looking for beta readers!'.
Beta Reader etiquette
Once you've gathered a nice number of email addresses, you're ready to start directly communicating with beta readers.
The first thing you should do is prepare a contract. You may be thinking, 'what?' but this is of the upmost importance. You should never leave it to chance to allow someone to copy your work, and until your book is published/registered, it is quite easy for someone to copy your manuscript, publish it and call it their own. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to stop this from happening, but by creating a contract you're not only scare-mongering them into not copying or sharing your work, but you also have a legal document that you can provide to court if you were to sue, for example.
I've created a downloadable, editable contract that you can use to send to your beta readers, for your convenience. Click here to find it. Once the contracts have been signed and returned, you can then send your novel.
You need to ensure the beta readers have everything they need in one email. This includes:
Thank you letter from the author
PDF, Word and MOBI/EPUB versions of your work
Beta Reader Questionnaire
Once you've received their feedback, be open. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and some may not like what you've written, or may provide changed you do not agree with. Please know that you cannot please everyone and, if you strongly disagree with a certain piece of feedback, then do not change it in your novel as you want your novel to be something you're one hundred percent happy with. I remember once receiving feedback from someone stating that I should only have one or two characters in my entire novel, which is something I didn't agree with and so I kept my characters. Take it with a pinch of salt, but be open to change.
What feedback should I gather?
It is wise to prepare a questionnaire to ensure you're gathering information that you will find useful when editing or re-writing scenes. I've also created a downloadable, editable Beta Reader Questionnaire that you can use. Click here to find it.
If you have any other questions about beta readers, be sure to ask in the DISCORD writing group, in the beta reading channel!