Are you interested in getting beta readers to read your unpublished work but don’t know where to start? Learn everything in this beta reader guide.
The popularity of self-publishing has skyrocketed recently, and for good reason. You get to keep all the money you make, choose exactly how much to sell your book for, and there’s no deadlines to stress about.
Before the internet, authors could only dream about this luxury.
However, when self-publishing your book, you're responsible for everything. There's no publisher to guide and help you on your journey. You'll have to edit, proofread, and design your novel.
But you don't have to do this alone.
Introducing beta readers.
They're like angels that help you find errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies in your book.
Without them, you're left trusting your gut instinct and releasing your book on the market without any feedback or constructive criticism.
So how do you find beta readers to read your novel? Well, in this post, you’ll learn:
- Where to find beta readers.
- How you'll know if you're ready for beta readers.
- How to prevent beta readers from plagiarizing your work.
Let's dive in!
- What Is A Beta Reader?
- Who Uses Beta Readers?
- How Do You Know If You're Ready For Beta Readers?
- How Do You Find Beta Readers?
- How Do I Choose Beta Readers?
- Should I Let Family And Friends Beta Read My Work?
- 9 Important Questions To Ask Beta Readers
- Should I Pay My Beta Readers?
- What If Beta Readers Try To Plagiarize My Work?
- Final Word On Finding Beta Readers
- FAQs On Finding Beta Readers
What Is A Beta Reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads your unreleased work and gives essential feedback on what you did wrong and how to improve. Beta readers aren't professional editors, so they can't replace them.
You'll still need a professional editor to read through your work.
However, they'll give you feedback from the point of view of your target audience. This allows you to see if your book is boring, unrealistic, or has plot holes.
If you ever gave a piece of writing work to a family member or friend to read, then you've used beta readers.
Who Uses Beta Readers?
If you're a writer who wants to get their work read by thousands or even millions of people, then you'll need a beta reader.
Even famous authors like Margaret Atwood and Robert Kiyosaki used beta readers when self-publishing books like Double Persephone and Rich Dad Poor Dad respectively. Rich Dad Poor Dad was one of the first self-published books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list.
You won't be able to please every one of your readers, but you want to satisfy most of them. Especially your target audience.
But if your characters aren't relatable to your readers, then they won't be invested in your story. The problem is, it's almost impossible to know if your characters are relatable since you and your critique partners know more about them than what you're writing down.
That’s why the opinion of your beta readers is invaluable. It gives you a sneak peek into the mind of your target audience.
Every writer can benefit from a beta reader:
- They'll notice inconsistencies in your plot.
- You'll receive important feedback that you won't get from an editor.
- Beta readers can easily spot plot holes you never even thought about.
Inconsistencies are common and expected when writing books. However, it's critical to remove them before publishing. For example, if your main character just sprained their back and is suddenly sprinting in the next scene, it'll come off as implausible.
Beta readers help fix this.
They also provide important feedback that even editors may not give. For example, if you're writing a political thriller and your editor isn't a big fan of this genre, they might miss predictable plot twists and events.
However, if your beta reader is a huge fan of political thrillers, they'll be able to predict future events more easily. You can then fine tune your storyline to evoke more suspense and surprise.
Plot holes are also another big turn-off when reading a book. If you want your readers to follow and become emotionally invested in your book, remove plot holes.
Plot holes are difficult to spot as an author since you know more about the storyline than what you're writing. But beta readers can notice this more easily. For example, if your main character's personality changes within a few chapters without any explanation.
Now that you know what beta readers are and who might need them, how do you know if you're ready to send your book to beta readers?
How Do You Know If You're Ready For Beta Readers?
Beta reading is the step before sending your novel to a professional editor. So if you wouldn't send your novel to an editor, don't send it to your beta readers.
Ask yourself: Am I happy with this story?
Did you tell the story you wanted to tell with the theme that's important to you?
It helps to go back to your original outline and look at your intent before writing and if you accomplished it. Maybe you strayed away from your original outline. In this case, you'll want to rewrite until you're happy with your story.
It's also a good idea to have your novel read by a few critique partners before sending it to beta readers.
This is because there'll be a lot of large-scale problems, and you'll go back and forth with beta readers trying to fix problems you could've fixed with a critique group.
The entire process might look something like this:
- Write your first draft.
- Proofread and self-edit.
- Send it to a critique partner.
- Edit your book again.
- Send your novel to the first round of beta readers.
- Edit your book using feedback from beta readers.
- Send it to a professional editor or proofreader.
- Another round of self-edits and proofreading.
- Send it to the final round of beta readers.
As you can imagine, it takes a while to publish a book. There's a lot of hard work involved.
How Do You Find Beta Readers?
Finding qualified beta readers might seem like a challenge. However, it's a simple process that'll only take a few minutes of your time. There are thousands of people on the internet willing to read your work. You just need to connect with them.
There are 2 steps to finding qualified beta readers that'll give you the best feedback:
- Figure out what you're looking for in a beta reader.
- If you have a large social media following, reach out to your fans. If you’re a new writer, consider joining writing groups and reaching out to friends and family.
Know What You're Looking For
When you announce that you're looking for beta readers, include basic information like:
- The genre of your book
- Word count
This is important since you want relevant beta readers. For example, if you're writing a romance novel and your beta readers are fans of action-packed books, then they'll probably drop out of your beta reading process.
Also, always include how many words your novel contains. Beta reading a 65,000-word story is easier than reading a 200,000-word novel.
Adding a synopsis gives your potential beta readers a summary of your book so they can decide if they're interested or not.
You'll also need to tell them what you're looking for. If you want your beta readers to completely ignore typos and only focus on the characters and plot, then let them know beforehand.
It's a good idea to clearly lay out the entire editing process with your beat readers. Let them know how you'd like them to communicate. Whether it's email, video chat, phone call, or social media platform.
Some people might not be okay with some methods of communication, and you need to make your beta readers feel comfortable with openly communicating with you.
To save yourself some time, ask a list of questions before sending someone your book or novel. Good questions to ask include:
- What's your favorite genre?
- Have you ever beta read before?
- What's your turnaround time?
- Is your schedule open for the next few weeks?
- How old are you?
- Are you an author or blogger yourself?
It's essential to know as much as possible about your beta readers since you're going to become vulnerable with them.
Now that you know what you're looking for in a good beta reader, where do you find them?
Reach Out On Social Media Platforms
The internet is a powerful tool. It allows you to communicate with strangers that live on the other side of the world.
This makes it the perfect place to find beta readers.
Post a message on several writing communities saying that you need beta readers. Effective social platforms include:
Remember to include the information mentioned above, like your book's genre, word count, synopsis, and how you'd like to communicate.
Next, link them to a specific site or page to fill out if they're interested. Here you can ask questions that'll help decide if they're a good fit.
Several Goodreads and Facebook groups are specifically centered around finding beta readers. So if you’re a new writer who doesn't have a large social media following, make sure you dig deep on these writing groups.
Now that you know how to find beta readers, how do you pick who to work with?
How Do I Choose Beta Readers?
As a rule of thumb, you'll need about 20 beta readers per round since it’s a big enough number to start noticing patterns. Storytelling is subjective, so one reader might think your novel is boring while another reader might love it.
This is why you can't take one beta reader's opinion to heart.
But if you notice a pattern, for example, 10 beta readers tell you that your book starts getting boring after chapter 20, then you should fix that.
When choosing beta readers, use their answers to your questions as a guideline. Are they part of your target audience? If you're writing a romance novel and your beta readers are into mystery and action, then they'll probably find your book boring.
But it doesn't mean it is.
This is why it's crucial for you to send your book to readers who’re interested in your genre. But when you’re sending unpublished work to beta readers or even your published novel to fans, how do you know they won’t distribute it? Why wouldn’t they? Your book is awesome!
Introducing Book Funnel.
They protect your book by ensuring your readers only download it once and can’t distribute it. It’s far safer than sending a PDF file and hoping they don’t redistribute your work.
But let’s say you're writing a political thriller and have a secondary romance storyline, it'll be helpful to have a beta reader who mainly reads romance novels to check if your plot isn't cheesy.
Also, remember that it's normal to lose about 50% of your beta readers during the editing process. Beta reading is a long and tiresome process. Some people won't have time to read a 300+ page novel, answer questions, and provide feedback.
Should I Let Family And Friends Beta Read My Work?
Most writers give their work to family and friends to read for the first time. But before you do this, there are a few critical questions you must ask yourself.
Will They Be Honest With Me?
Honesty is king when it comes to beta reader feedback. Yeah, it feels nice to hear that your novel is perfect and there's nothing you can do to make it better. But this type of feedback is useless.
It won't allow you to understand what you did wrong and how to improve.
You want someone that'll give you honest feedback. The truth hurts, but it'll make your story the best it can possibly be.
If you feel like your family and friends won't give you honest criticism because they don't want to hurt your feelings, then consider looking for beta readers online.
However, if your family and friends can take your feelings out of the equation and focus on bettering your story, they might be a good fit.
Do They Understand My Mission With This Novel?
There's a reason why you wrote this story. It matters to you. As a writer, you want to convey a specific message with your story and your readers to feel a certain way.
Your family or friends must understand the message you're trying to tell your readers.
Are They Part Of My Target Audience?
If your family member or friend is a big fan of action-packed books, but your novel is about two strangers who fall in love, then they might tell you the story is boring. However, that doesn't make it true.
Your beta readers must be a fan of the genre you're writing in.
However, if they're experienced writers or readers, they might read the book objectively and from a professional standpoint.
Now that we understand how to choose beta readers, let's cover 9 essential questions to ask.
9 Important Questions To Ask Beta Readers
You'll need in-depth feedback from your beta readers after reading your book. Unless they're a professional editor, then they won't know how to respond. They might tell you your story is excellent, and although this is nice to hear, it isn't helpful.
That's why it's important to prompt them with open-ended questions.
- What did you think of the story as a whole?
- How did the characters develop throughout the story?
- At what point did you feel like, “Oh, now the story has really begun”?
- What was your favorite part of the novel, and why?
- Were there parts of the story that you found yourself skimming?
- What was the most suspenseful moment in the book?
- Who were your favorite characters, and why?
- Were there any moments you wish were longer?
As the writer of your novel, you know the answers to most of these questions. You know how the characters developed and which chapter is most suspenseful. But it's good to know if your reader knows.
It's also crucial to understand when your beta reader is experiencing suspense or boredom so you can optimize your story to be the best it can possibly be.
Should I Pay My Beta Readers?
I never even knew paid beta readers were a thing, but thousands of people offer beta reading services on Facebook for a few hundred dollars.
This begs the question, should you pay your beta readers? Well, there are pros and cons to this.
Paid beta readers provide more in-depth feedback and will respond quicker than unpaid beta readers. This is helpful if you're on a tight schedule and want helpful information.
However, the cons outweigh the pros. Beta reading services can get expensive. If you're hiring 20 beta readers for 2 rounds of edits and paying them $100 each, then this works out to $4000.
You shouldn't go with paid beta readers because there are lots of great beta readers on Facebook and Goodreads that are more than willing to beta read for free.
It’s a good gesture to send an autographed free copy of your book to your beta readers as a token of appreciation.
What If Beta Readers Try To Plagiarize My Work?
This is one of the biggest reasons why many authors are afraid of beta readers. However, copyrights protect you as long as you can prove you sent them your manuscript before they “wrote” it.
It’s essential to not delete your emails, so you always have proof in the worst-case scenario.
However, most beta readers are honest and aren't looking to plagiarize someone else's work.
Final Word On Finding Beta Readers
Beta readers are an important step in the self-publishing process. They'll catch plot holes and inconsistencies in your story before it hits the shelves. This allows you to fine-tune your story until it grabs the reader's attention from cover to cover.
FAQs On Finding Beta Readers
How Many Beta Readers Should I Have?
Start off with 20 beta readers per round of edits. 20 is a large enough number to notice patterns in the feedback your beta readers are giving you.
For example, if one reader thinks your chapter 5 is stagnated, it might be their subjective opinion. But if 15 readers tell you the same thing, then you'll need to make some edits.
What Are The Benefits Of Having Beta Readers
Beta readers provide essential feedback that allows you to fine-tune your story before it hits the shelves. It also gives you an insider view of how your target audience will react to your story.